The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

What I’ll Miss about Bush

Posted by thearrow on November 2, 2008

I didn’t think I’d miss one bit of this terrible administration until I read the piece with a similar title in yesterday’s New York Times: It’s a collection of six points of view from people who worked for Bush (two former White House press secretaries) and/or wrote about him or Laura Bush. The piece that resonated most with me is the one about Bush’s second language, English.

Victory Speech

I was listening to George W. Bush speak at a rally in New Hampshire, in January 2000, when he came up with what remains my favorite of his miscues: “I know how hard it is to put food on your family.” This could be an amusing few months, I remember thinking.

The only slow period for Bushisms was right after Sept. 11, when the president’s inadequacies no longer seemed very funny. Then Mr. Bush declared that normality was returning: “I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport.”

The president’s critics see such flubs as proof of his idiocy. His defenders believe that calling attention to them is hostile. But the president’s verbal stumbles have only made me like him better. It’s hard to despise someone who just wants “to make the pie higher” or who says he won’t answer your question, “Neither in French nor in English. Nor in Mexican.”

Maybe the greatest expression of his befuddlement was something he said when asked to respond to an article by the writer Gail Sheehy claiming he was an undiagnosed dyslexic. “The woman who knew that I had dyslexia — I never interviewed her,” he sputtered.

Mr. Bush’s battle with English has enriched our political language. It is no longer possible to say a person or a factor has been underestimated. Thanks to him, that word is now misunderestimated. In trade negotiations, tariffs and barriers have become bariffs and terriers. Kosovo is the land of the Kosovians, Greece the ancient homeland of the Grecians, a Reagan-loving people with no gray hair. There is no strategy, only “strategery,” a term coined by the comedian Will Ferrell and adopted inside the administration.

Most politicians don’t care about language and abuse it through euphemism, vagueness and cliché. Mr. Bush is not so indifferent. When words won’t do what he wants, he tries to wrestle them into submission. His memorable coinages — Hispanically, arbo-treeist — express the frustration we all feel at those moments when language won’t go our way. In the face of defeat, Mr. Bush remains unbowed by grammar. You’ve got to admire that, kind of.

— JACOB WEISBERG, the editor in chief of the Slate Group and the author of “The Bush Tragedy”

I can personally testify that I’m now saying “misunderestimate”; so much more flavorful than its plain parent, “underestimate” :).


6 Responses to “What I’ll Miss about Bush”

  1. Teo said

    Hmmm, I don’t take the same view about Bush’s linguistic deficiencies and I’m certainly NOT going to miss them. About the only good thing I have to say about him is that he seems a genius by comparison to Sarah Palin. I assume you’ve already heard about the phone prank. She’s already being called Sarah the Simpleton on various blogs. I guess Joe the Plumber needed a companion.

  2. thearrow said

    Hahaha! I didn’t know that; pretty funny. Of course, I’m not going to miss Bush and I don’t think Jacob Weisberg is either :). I think everyone is counting the seconds to the moment when they can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Let’s hope tomorrow will bring us the Change We Need 🙂

  3. thearrow said

    This thing with missing Bush for his language struggles is somewhat similar to missing communism because of the great political jokes we had back then. The jokes were good, but not enough reason to miss communism :).

  4. v said

    (oh, i’m looking forward to the moment i can say ‘i miss palin’!)

  5. thearrow said

    Hehe. I’ll miss Tina Fey’s impressions of Palin 🙂 Pure genius.

    BTW, the phone prank Teo is talking about was done by a couple of Montreal radio hosts who managed to get Palin on the phone: the guy talking pretended he was Sarkozy. And SHE BOUGHT IT! I haven’t looked for the stories on the net, so I can’t give you a more official source, but I’m sure you can find it. Also, apparently, when the guys said who they were, she told a staffer that it was someone from a radio station in France. LOL.

  6. v said

    yeah, that hoax made the news here in romania :))

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