The Nucular Option
People dislike Bush for what he did. You guys dislike Obama for who he is. Think about it.- Reader comment
It's true that critics on the left and right have disliked the President on policy issues. But it is not true that liberal Democrats have only been his critics because of "what he did".
"The woman who knew that I had dyslexia - I never interviewed her." - President Bush Orange, Calif., Sept. 15, 2000
Bush has been stereotyped as linguistically and cognitively inept. Because he has mangled sentences and words on occasion, his intelligence has been misunderestimated over these last 8 years. Gail Sheehy, writing for Vanity Fair, was the one who began a myth that Bush is dyslexic. Nancy LaFevers is one of the experts Sheehy cited in her article; yet LaFevers expressly told Sheehy that Bush is not dyslexic.
How about the troublesome word, "nuclear"? So much had been made about his pronunciation of just that one word over the years, that you'd think critics were arguing on a substantive issue of dire, global consequence.
It's been said that Bush's metathesis of the word "nuclear" into "nucular" is not all that uncommon, and hardly unique.
Bush isn't the only American president to lose the "nucular" war. In his "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine in May 2001, William Safire lamented that, besides Bush, at least three other presidents—Eisenhower, Carter, and Clinton—have mangled the word.
In fact, Bush's usage is so common that it appears in at least one dictionary.
These days, Merriam-Webster's sends every reader who fusses about "nucular" a defensive, 400-word response letter. Click here to read it.
Pg 126 of Ronald Kessler's A Matter of Character:
Even though he knew how the word nuclear was normally pronounced, he insisted on pronouncing it NOO-kyoo-ler, a southern rendering which happened to be similar to Jimmy Carter's NOOK-ee-yuh.
"He loves to say NOO-kyoo-ler," Clay Johnson said. "I think he likes the way it sounds, or maybe he's trying to affirm his southern roots. We were going to have a meeting about nuclear energy one time. Before the meeting, I kidded him and said, "Just remember, it's NOO-klee-er. During the meeting, he said NOO-kyoo-ler. Andy Card looked at me and shrugged, meaning: "What can you do?'"
I've heard some pundits who have met the President say they think he gets a kick out of pronouncing it the way he does; suggesting that when it became a bone of contention by liberal elitists in the media, Bush began to deliberately pronounce it that way for the hell of it (radio talk-show host Michael Medved has said that during an invitation to the White House-I think the one in September of 2006- Bush pronounced the word the "correct way").
Ah...what a good memory I have...found it:
And one more thing: twice during his meandering conversation, the President deployed the word "nuclear." Both times, he pronounced it flawlessly --- as "new- clee-ar," not "nuke-cule-ar." Considering the huge press attention on the mis-pronounciation of this single word, nothing shocked me more about meeting the president than hearing him, in private conservation, avoid a mistake for which he's become celebrated in public.
If he can say "nu-clee-ar" in private, why does he still say, "nuke-cule-ar" when he speaks on camera? Could it be possible that there's some mischievous intent here-- that the President deliberately gives his own spin to the word just to provoke pompous pundits into paroxysms of supercilious rage? It seems like a far-fetched explanation, I'll admit, but after seeing the President's infectiously feisty mood this Friday, I wouldn't put it past him.
One of the endearing qualities of President Bush, is that he's able to laugh at himself.
Kessler's A Matter of Character, pg 126-7:
Ironically, the liberals who made fun of Bush's speech patterns and called it dyslexia would be the first to pounce if Bush ridiculed the way others spoke. But Bush, possessed of a self-deprecating sense of humor, thought his gaffes were hilarious. Clay Johnson was in the Oval Office a few days before Bush was to speak at the Radio and Television Correspondents dinner.
"I'm going to give the funniest speech you've ever heard," Bush told "Big Man," as he called Johnson. "They have this tape of ridiculous phrases I used in the campaign. I can't believe that a canddiate for president said those things."
Bush recited some of the examples:
"Africa is a a nation that...."
"Dick Cheney and I do not want this nation to be in a recession. We want anybody who can find work to be able to find work."
"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."
"The woman who knew that I had dyslexia- I never interviewed her."
"I've never seen him laugh that hard," Johnson said.
"At the Radio and Television Correspondents dinner, Bush said, "This is my most famous statement: 'Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning.' Let us analyze that sentence for a moment," he said. "If you're a stickler, you probably think the singular verb 'is' should have been 'are'. But if you read it closely, you'll see I'm using the intransitive plural subjunctive tense. So," Bush said to laughter, "the word 'is' is correct."
A month later, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Bush put on a slide show about growing up in Texas. One slide was of one of his elementary school report cards. Miraculously, he had received As in writing, reading, spelling, arithmetic, music, and art.
"So my advice to you is, don't peak too early," Bush said.
Check out MataHarley's post with a video of Bush's self-roasting at the 2007 White House Correspondents Dinner.
It helps his case that Bush, like Yogi Berra, is in on the joke. This was clear from the first White House correspondents' dinner, in March 2001, when the new president read from the first collection of Bushisms, which he described as like Mao's "little red book," only not in Chinese. "Now ladies and gentlemen," he said, "you have to admit that in my sentences I go where no man has gone before." Of course, he bumbled his speech, claiming that he'd invented the term misunderstanding. He meant to say "misunderestimated."
Being able to laugh at yourself is a rare quality in a leader. It's one thing George W. Bush can do that Bill Clinton couldn't.
The "Bushisms" shouldn't be a big source of consternation and embarrassment to Bush supporters. You'll feel far better if you just smile and laugh along with them and our president when he makes an honest-to-funny gaffe.
Never misunderestimate the power of having a sense of humor.
Cross-posted at Flopping Aces
Labels: George Bush