Skip to comments.Intellectually Curious George
Posted on 08/23/2006 4:46:58 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher
``'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).''
-- ``Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll
Bush-bashing for sport has never lacked fans in the blogosphere, but questioning the president's intelligence lately has gone mainstream.
Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC's ``Scarborough Country,'' recently tossed his beanie into the ring, running a 10-minute segment titled: ``Is Bush an 'Idiot'?''
Scarborough wasn't calling Bush an idiot, mind you. He was just quoting that renowned American intellectual, Linda Ronstadt. Recently, Ronstadt had commented on the president's performance while attending an international summit of heads of state.
No wait, my mistake, she made those comments to reporters and audiences while touring in Canada. But never mind. When Ronstadt talks, people listen. Citing other leading American intellectuals -- The Dixie Chicks, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Joan Baez -- Ronstadt said:
I'm embarrassed George Bush is from the United States. ... He's an idiot. He's enormously incompetent on both the domestic and international scenes.
Scarborough said he felt compelled to explore whether the president is sufficiently intellectually curious, not just because of Ronstadt, but because there have been no shark attacks all summer. No, sorry again, I said that. What Scarborough said was that even conservatives had been making comments similar to Ronstadt's, as reported last week in The Washington Post.
To debate the topic, Scarborough rounded up two intellectually curious commentators -- John Fund of The Wall Street Journal and Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC senior political analyst. He also provided a video collection of Bushisms in which the president repeatedly trips over his own tongue and otherwise appears to be playing himself on ``Saturday Night Live."
Fund said that Bush is not dumb, just inarticulate, while O'Donnell suggested that Bush is out of his league. They both may be right, but I'd like to submit an alternative explanation for Bush's linguistic deficit.
This theory occurred to me not long ago at an off-the-record luncheon with Bush and a hundred or so of his supporters. I was the guest of a guest, and welcomed the opportunity to observe the president in his natural habitat.
What I witnessed was revealing. Not only was the man fluent in the English language and intellectually agile, he was knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects raised during a 90-minute Q&A. Someone apparently had been slipping intellectual-curiosity tablets into Bush's cola.
Toward the end, one of the guests said, ``Mr. President, I think if Americans could hear you speak the way you have today, you'd have a 95 percent approval rating.''
I think that's almost true. Not 95 percent, obviously, but he'd surely have a higher than 30 percent approval rating were he better able to explain what he's thinking. Bush does know; he just can't seem to say.
The question is why?
My theory dovetails with something one of his most acerbic critics, columnist Molly Ivins, once wrote: ``George W. Bush sounds like English is his second language.'' That's because it's true. ``Washington English'' (BEG ITAL)is(END ITAL) a second language for Bush; ``Texas English'' is his first.
When he tries to speak Washington English, which is the way Bush thinks presidents are supposed to speak -- over-enunciating and sprinkling his comments with awkward aphorisms -- he fumbles. He forgets what he's saying because the thoughts and words are not his own.
This is also when his annoying sibilance kicks in. The ``terroristsssssss," he says when ``terrorists" would do. My guess is he over-enunciates to cover his prairie accent, but the effect is, well, sssssstrange.
Tapes of Bush as governor of Texas reveal none of the malapropisms for which he is now infamous. That's because in Texas, he speaks his native tongue -- dropping syllables and esses without fear of criticism or embarrassment. That kind of freedom seems to liberate the man's mind and his mouth.
Anyone who speaks before cameras knows the taste of humility and can relate to the agony of being George Bush.
Even, perhaps, Joe Scarborough, who wrapped up his idiot segment, saying: ``And that is a big question, whether George W. Bush has the intellectual curiousness -- if that's a word -- to continue leading this country over the next couple of years."
My dictionary confirms that ``curiousness" is a word (just barely), though Joe's expression suggested it wasn't the one he meant to use. No worries. Sometimes in the excitement of a moment, even the curiouser and curiouser quite forget how to speak good English.
That's a double barf alert. Who wrote that again? Molly Idiot?
Know what I'm saying.
Uh, it's a pro-Bush article.
I could never become a polished public figure who speaks with a silver tongue. Heck, I can't talk to my mother-in-law without getting tongue tied.
I have always known that the President is constantly trying to say things "just right", because words have powerful meanings. Because of this, I would listen harder, not expect him to just rattle off anything. He is worth listening to, no matter how many simple errors he might make.
It's the concepts and issues that he speaks of that are of the utmost importance. Not to mention, who could live through the past six years with Gore and Kerry droning on!? They have nothing inspiring to say.
His impromptu speech at Ground Zero, his speech in the National Cathedral, his speech after the Space Shuttle tragedy, his speeches in Iraq on two surprise visits... all of these WILL be remembered as highlights in his term, not because sound bites are illuminting. But because his IDEAS are everlasting, not the small slips of the tongue.
Strange that writers continue to use President Bush's "approval rating" at its lowest point rather than at its highest point. Approval ratings flucuate all the time. Why is it more pertinent to cite the lowest blip of an unnamed poll?
Good one, Molly.
EVERY Republican is painted as stupid; that's the only hammer in their toolbox. Dan Quayle? Ronald Reagan? Yep, that's how those REPUBLICANS win the elections...it can't be because the people democratically choose not to vote for Democrats...can it?
Hey, that is dead on. He's back in the mid-40's, but every celeb or talking head I hear babbles about it being in the 30's. Lying bastards.
My grandmother always said, "puh-day-da" for potato. Everyone always knew what she meant, and of course she could spell it right. :)
Kathleen Parker and it's not a barfer unless you are a Bush-hater.
I have always suspected that Bush "plays dumb" so that he will be "misunderestimated," makng it easier to surprise everyone when he pulls a rabbit out of his hat.
But I also think this is a misguided strategy, and one which has done him a lot of self-inflicted damage which cannot be undone.
A good leader is of necessity a good communicator, IMHO. And a good communicator, Bush ain't.
If he is playing dumb, I wish he would knock it off.
What the talking (air)heads forget-at their own peril-is that Mr. Bush says what he means, and means what he says. Who cares what they think? Are they President?
It's particulalry amusing to see Hollywood stars bash the President's public speaking. They might need six or seven tries to complete a scene and they're working from a script.
The media presented nonstop and unedited coverage of the events surrounding the hours and days immediately following 9/11. Many Americans got their first unscripted, unedited view of their brand-spanking-new President. They liked what they saw. His approval ratings soared.
I can hear you. The rest of the world can hear you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
The media works very hard to edit Bush so that he appears inarticualte. Meanwhile, they portray folks like Kerry as brilliant intellectual spokesmen. Why hasn't anyone noticed that these DEMwits wax on and on and never actually say anything?
With a straight face Scarborough insisted people in Bush's administration told him they think the President is an idiot.