Thursday, September 16, 2004

Holy Crap

And the media buys it hook, line and sinker.
 ...for the most part, spending time on the trail with Bush is like being transported to a parallel universe. The only music is Christian rock and country tunes about plain-talking everymen. The only people who ask the president questions are his most feverish supporters, never the press. In this alternate universe, Iraq and Afghanistan are marching effortlessly toward democracy. The economy is, in the words of former Broncos quarterback John Elway, who introduces Bush in Greenwood Village, "the best in the world." John Kerry, whose platform is to the right of Clinton's in 1992, is calling for a massive expansion of government. Meanwhile, Bush's two most radical ideas, the ones that House Republicans privately insist will top the agenda in Washington next year if Bush wins--a shift toward privatizing Social Security that will cost at least a trillion dollars and a move toward a flat tax--are mentioned only in passing, buried in a laundry list of minor proposals. 

And it is all working brilliantly. The key to Bush's success is that, on the stump, he is a master at turning his simple speaking style into a political virtue. Indeed, if you listen to him carefully, much of Bush's case for a second term rests on the idea that he speaks more clearly than John Kerry. "Now, when the American president says something, he better mean it," Bush says at almost every stop. "When the American president says something, he's got to speak in a way that's easy for people to understand and mean what he says." Bush is obsessed with his plainspoken image. If he accidentally uses what he regards as a complicated word, he catches himself and defines it for his audience. "You ask docs what it's like to practice in a litigious society," he tells the crowd in Muskegon. "That means there's a lot of lawsuits. I'm not even a lawyer, and I know the word 'litigious.'" Later, speaking about a health care proposal, he says, "It's commonsensical. In other words, it makes sense to do it this way." 

He delights in reciting long, complicated quotes from John Kerry that allegedly reveal the senator's shifting stances. The crowd-pleasing climax of the Bush stump speech is his mocking of Kerry's now-famous line, "I actually did vote for the eighty-seven billion dollars before I voted against it." This is invariably followed by a head-shaking line about Kerry being out of touch with the locals. ("Now, I know Holland, Michigan, well enough to know not many people talk like that around here." "Now, I've spent some time in Colorado. The people out here don't talk like that.") Bush has been so successful at linking Kerry's convoluted speaking style to charges of flip-floppery that even the most innocuous Kerry statements are now ripped out of context and used to assault Kerry's character. Speaking about an important local issue at one stop, Bush says derisively, "Earlier this year, my opponent said a decision about Great Lakes water diversion would be 'a delicate balancing act.'" Bush pauses and gives the crowd a can-you-believe-it look. "That kind of sounds like him, doesn't it? My position is clear: My administration will never allow the diversion of Great Lakes water." Never mind that Bush and Kerry have the exact same position on the issue--neither favor redirecting water to needy states. 


Blogger BradF said...

Requires registration at New Republic :-(

Can ya give us a hint? Or do I need to register over there?

September 16, 2004 at 11:42 PM  

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