Tale of Two Bushes
By Scott C. Smith
I'm still fascinated by the very different responses to Bush's
April 13 press conference by liberals and conservatives. Many
a conservative pundit praised Bush; on the Hannity and Colmes
show that aired immediately following the press conference,
Sean Hannity proclaimed, "…I thought the president was articulate,
poised and laid out the case of why this (the war in Iraq)
Let's take a look at that word, articulate. Here's how Webster's
Dictionary defines articulate:
1. Endowed with the power of speech.
2. Composed of distinct, meaningful syllables or words, as
3. Expressing oneself easily in clear and effective language:
an articulate speaker.
I'm sorry, but in the press conference I watched, Bush was
the opposite of articulate. In fact, the following antonyms
are more descriptive of the press conference I viewed: bumbling,
inarticulate, misrepresent, misspeak, mumble.
For instance, in the "misspeak" category, we have Bush calling
Donald Rumsfeld "Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld."
So, how is it that conservatives seemingly watched a completely
different press conference? One answer is that so many conservatives
are so blinded by their slobbering devotion to the president
that they "overlook" those elements of the press conference
that reveal Bush to not be up to snuff in the difficult task
of public speaking. To one reporter that wondered if Bush
thought he had communicated his message clearly to America,
Bush said, "I hope today you've got a sense of my conviction
about what we're doing. If you don't, maybe I need to learn
to communicate better."
Yes! That's it! He does need to learn to communicate better.
I think Bush could make a tape recording of himself snoring
loudly, play it back for conservatives, and have the conservatives
remark about how "articulate and on message" the president
was in his snoring.
I'm a former military journalist (I served my country; Sean
Hannity did not. That's an important distinction). Although
my training was mainly in print journalism, I did take some
classes in broadcast journalism, and let me tell you, one
of the worst things to happen during a television broadcast
is dead air. Dead air is silence. A few seconds of dead air
can cost a television station or network viewers; they'll
simply switch channels. That's why the debate format seen
in shows like The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes is
so popular, especially with television producers: there never
is any dead air. Indeed, it is very common to have the guests,
and the hosts, talking over each other. Someone is always
saying something, and people stay tuned to see what line of
bull will come out of Hannity's mouth next.
Based on that criteria - the ability to speak a seemingly
endless stream of inanity - Hannity is the most successful
broadcaster working today.
Perhaps the most painful moment of the press conference
was when a reporter asked Bush about mistakes Bush thought
he had made (the reporter brought up the story Bush liked
to tell of how his one big mistake in life was trading away
Sammy Sosa when Bush was an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball
team), and what he had learned from them. That question really
stumped Bush. As the gears in his brain slowly started to
turn, the dead air became deafening. Finally, Bush answered,
I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of
time so I could plan for it. Very poised, right Sean?
Bush continued, "John (the reporter), I'm sure historians
will look back and say, gosh, he could've done it better this
way or that. You know, I just - I'm sure something will pop
into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with
all the pressure of trying to come up with answer (sic), but
it hadn't yet." Frankly, if Bush buckles under this kind of
pressure, I don't think he's the right man for the job of
President of the United States.
I think Al Franken's assessment of conservatives holds true
in this circumstance. Franken says conservatives love America
like a child does; so, in the eyes of the child, the parent
can do no wrong. To Bush's supporters, it's easy to ignore
each instance of "uhm" or the periods of dead air during a
press conference. They'll simply see their man delivering
a powerful message to America.
Scott C. Smith is a freelance writer from Beaverton, Oregon.
In addition to his column, which appears regularly at the
Democratic Underground and Smirking Chimp web sites, Scott
writes for his web magazine, What's In Scott's Head.