Rah Rah 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
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
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:
Way too nuance-able
He's our man
If he can't democratize Iraq
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
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