Democratic Underground

Rah Rah Bush!

Bush Passes the Fundamental Test of Cheerleading

October 1, 2004
By Dennis Hans

In his September 16 speech to the National Guard, Senator John Kerry said that President George W. Bush has "failed the fundamental test of leadership: he failed to tell you the truth."

In one sense, Kerry is correct: In Bush's own address to the National Guard he had painted a rosy picture of Iraq that bore scant resemblance to reality and directly contradicted by the gloomy National Intelligence Estimate delivered to the president in July. Bear in mind, that NIE covered the period before the situation in Iraq took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Telling citizens the truth is indeed a fundamental test of leadership - for a commander-in-chief. But what if Bush fancies himself the cheerleader-in-chief?

Surely Kerry knows that the role of cheerleader-in-chief carries an entirely different set of responsibilities and audience expectations. It is the job of a cheerleader to look at and chant on the bright side ("We're big/We're bad"), even when his team is on the wrong end of a 45-0 score.

Cheerleaders mock and belittle the opposing team, from first minute to last, even when the opposition is steamrolling to victory. The job of the cheerleader is not to accurately reflect, in voice and body language, the debacle unfolding on the playing field.

Kerry may be loathe to acknowledge it, but let there be no doubt that President Bush has passed the fundamental test of cheerleading. Not once or twice, but day in and day out.

When Bush praised the "darn good intelligence" on Iraqi WMD and when he touts the great progress toward democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, he's passing the fundamental test of cheerleading.

When he says with a straight face that his opponent tried to gut the intelligence budget in the 1990s, or now wants to nationalize health care, he's passing the fundamental test of cheerleading.

As a young man, Bush was an outstanding cheerleader at Andover, a preppy and peppy prep school. He's rightly proud of those spirit-building efforts, and it was a stroke of genius to incorporate in his adult political career the "we're great, they're the pits" approach to communication that is the foundation of cheerleading.

My one objection is the president's refusal to alert his audience that he's in cheerleader mode. Fortunately, there's a simple, non-verbal way he can let folks know that nothing he's about to say - not the over-the-top praise for his administration nor below-the-belt denunciations of Kerry - bears the slightest resemblance to reality: dress the part.

Whenever Bush introduces a campaign ad, delivers a speech, or fields softball questions at "Ask President Bush" sessions, he should come bounding out in red sweater, white slacks and blue shoes, and shout out his lines through a stars-and-stripes megaphone.

At live appearances, pom-pom twins Jenna and Barbara can warm up the crowd with a couple of chants before introducing the cheerleader-in-chief:

Kerry, Kerry
Deeply irresponsible
Kerry, Kerry
Way too nuance-able
Boooo, Kerry!

Daddy, Daddy
He's our man
If he can't democratize Iraq
Nobody can
Here's Daddy!

By creating the atmosphere of a pep rally and looking the part, President Bush can make it clear to the audience that they're about to watch a fiction-based show rather than a fact-based speech. Thus, the audience can get into the spirit of the performance and have a blast, cheering and booing as they see fit, but knowing not to base their upcoming vote on a single word that comes out of Bush's megaphone.

Dennis Hans writes serious and humorous stuff for fun and profit. He has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, and prior to the Iraq war he penned the prescient essays "Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit'" and "The Disinformation Age."

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