Oprah Winfrey has declined an offer from the Bush administration to visit Afghanistan to celebrate the readmission of girls to the schools. (As they have the great good fortune not to be living in Saudi Arabia, we can assume that the girls will be allowed to escape if the school building burns down). The trip was also to include prominent woman's rights activists Condoleeza Rice, Karen Hughes and Mrs. Bush. It has been postponed indefinitely upon the receipt of Oprah's regrets. She's terribly busy, she says, and can't take the time.
Now, I bow to no one in my endless cynicism, but it does seem to me that in that situation, if you don't want to make a thoroughly overt admission that your plan was to dangle a publicity carrot and gain the perceived support of popular female Oprah before the coveted XX demographic goes to the polls for the midterm elections, you would want to either
1) say Darn it, it's a shame Oprah can't make it, but Mrs Bush and Mesdames Hughes and Rice care so darn much about women that they're going to take the time to go and give the US government's support to the improved status of women in the muslim world. Let's put a little moral pressure on our Friends in the middle east to start conforming to rudimentary UN civil rights guidelines, shall we? About damn time.
2) You know, we were hoping to draw some attention to the problems of women in muslim countries by bringing celebrity attention magnet Oprah to Afghanistan, but unfortunately she wasn't able to make it. While we would like to go ahead with our plans, the press outlets who cover Mrs. Bush aren't interested in current events, the press outlets who cover Condi Rice aren't interested in human rights, and anyone who's heard of Karen Hughes doesn't like her. After mature reflection, we have decided that we're going to cancel the trip, because it won't have the impact we were hoping for.
Instead, the public relations arm of the White House came up with
3) We have to cancel because of security concerns.
The mind reels.
Possible thought processes leading to this decision:
1) Attention seeking terrorists are much less likely to strike the party if the little-known Oprah is with them
2) They wouldn't attack Oprah. She's a liberal. There's a whole professional courtesy thing going on.
3) Muslim extremists have a sneaking tendresse for Oprah's brand of tell it like it is populist feminism.
4) The taliban really digs rich american women.
WADR: let it drop, guys, please.