Spoken and Folksy? Bushit!
December 11, 2002
By Patrick Ennis
the ridicule to which then-Vice President Al Gore was subjected
in the spring of 2000, as his presidential election was heating
up, over his tall tales of summers of back-breaking labor
on his family's Carthage, Tenn. farm as a boy?
Anyone familiar with Gore family history knew that the family
did indeed own a farm in Tennessee, and young Al did spend
a modicum of time there each summer - although his family
actually lived in a hotel suite in Washington, D.C. where
Albert Gore Sr. was a U.S. Senator and he and his wife were
on the A-list of the capital's social circuit.
Anyone not already familiar with Gore family history soon
was, as the selectively vigilant media had a field day with
this stretch of the truth. It became one the examples, along
with the internet invention misspeak and the Love Story inspiration
gaffe, frequently cited by Bush supporters as evidence of
Gore's "inability to tell the truth."
But while the "farmboy Al" schtick was eventually
exposed for the specious attempt at common man populism it
was, it's easy to see in retrospect why the campaign thought
it might work. Vladimir Lenin once said "A lie told often
enough becomes truth." American politics is a testimonial
to the accuracy of this, although the number of times the
lie (or in this case, a gross exaggeration) can be told is
directly dependent on the bank account of those doing the
telling. In other words, the more dollars you have, the more
you can dictate what truth is. Want proof? Just look at the
Bush campaign, then and now, since it never really ended.
Polls showed in 2000 that George W. Bush was the man Americans
would most like to have a beer with, never mind that we are
repeatedly told that Bush doesn't drink beer (a revelation
which would get you dirty looks and unkind comments in rural
Tennessee or Arkansas). He was and is commonly described as
"folksy", and "plain spoken". He speaks
with a discernible Texas twang, wears cowboy boots, and sometimes
even a ten-gallon hat, as he did at last week's tree lighting
ceremony at the White House. He vacations at his ranch in
rural Crawford, Texas.
Thus, he achieves the populist appeal that his Democratic
rival had sought with his tales of busting his hump on the
family farm. Why did Texas Rancher George ring so much more
truthfully than Farmboy Al? After all, there is nary a sole
in the electorate, generally uninformed as it is, that doesn't
know that Texas Rancher George, he with whom they'd like to
have a beer and talk about baseball, comes from a wealthy
family originating in New England, via Andover, Yale, and
Harvard Business School (but not Vietnam).
Ironically, the same people who promoted this down-to-earth
persona also managed to label Gore as an elitist, even though
he wasn't the one who claimed not to drink beer. Does anyone
seriously believe that the boys at Andover really say things
like "That dog won't hunt," or that Miller Lite
was ever a beverage of choice at Kennebunkport? Whether or
not Al Gore literally shoveled manure as a lad, it seems the
President still figuratively does.
Bush has the support of legions of poorly educated, beer-swilling,
shotgun-toting, pickup-driving good ole' boys who have been
duped, through the magic of sophisticated and expensive marketing,
into believing he's one of them. They are oblivious to the
fact that they would never be allowed to spend a night at
the White House, as so many of Bush's wealthy campaign contributors
have, not only because they can't afford the right size donation,
but also because the Bush's are afraid they'd get drunk, pee
in the Rose Garden, and steal the silverware and dishes after
breakfast. They might leave a ring in the bathtub. How gauche!
You see, this is why the Bush campaign in 2000 had to line
up more in campaign contributions than any presidential campaign
in history, the result of a massive and sophisticated fundraising
effort that has never really stopped. The lie of Texas Rancher
George had to be told many, many, many times, across a wide
and diverse country that includes the world's most expensive
media markets, before it could become truth.
But let's give them some credit. They did what it took, and
got the job done. And because they did, we now have neither
the peace nor the prosperity bequeathed to Bush by his predecessor.
The War on Terror parallels the war on American's civil liberties,
and with control of the Senate now shifting to the Republicans,
depriving Democrats of their last remaining hold on power
and influence over the national legislative agenda, Team Bush
is gearing up to wage the wars against the environment and
And the good ole' boys in their pickups far from the White
House are just as happy as a flea on a warm dog in November.
Patrick Ennis: Articulating the views of the liberal Midwestern
working class because somebody has to, and nobody else is.