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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2702

The Debatable Legacy of the Accidental Author of Bushism

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…..

If opinion polls are to believe, George Bush Jr will go down in history as the President with the lowest approval ratings among the American voters, next week. However, for those of us, who don’t have a particular grudge against this amiably down-to-earth American, he seems to be the funniest President ever, to have held the high office. His use of the English language and the relatively large collection of corresponding facial gestures, which no previous American president seemed to have, certainly create an irreplaceable vacuum in the fiercely bi-partisan politics in the USA in particular, and the free world in general.

There are a few books in the market with the title – Bushism – and I bought one, five year ago. In it, I found a repertoire of partial speeches made by President Bush which led to the amplified popularization of the term by his critics – serious Bushism.

George Bush Jr accidentally launched the spectre of this colloquial phenomenon in front of a global audience, in the run up to the presidential election in 2000. He was caught unaware while whispering to Dick Cheny, the vice presidential hopeful at the time, a certain phrase referring to a journalist of the New York Times, after the latter being spotted in the audience: Bush was caught on microphone saying that Adam Clymer was a major league a***hole. It rattled off a hurricane of complaints at that time among journalists, but not the voting American public. He was elected not once, but twice – a thinly wrapped reward for profanity.

Without stopping at that, the Yale and Harvard educated president went on to say that all America’s imports came from abroad! Referring to a budget, he said he knew that the budgets clearly had a lot of numbers in them, raising the eyebrows of those who were waiting for some encouraging news of economical significance – something of an oracle, said the cynics!! Yet, the American public still trusted him by voting him to the high office twice in the hope that he would spearhead the eternal national ambition of carrying forward the American dream for generations to come.

If Bush’s speech without script has been damaging both to himself and the nation, the speech written for him by professionals have been even more damaging. For instance, the famous axis of evil speech - a clear reference to North Korea, Iran and Iraq - was full of sound bites to impress the intended audience in the short run, but in the long run, it punctured the holes in the consistency of American foreign policy.

Americans were forced by rapidly changing global political landscape to be engaged in talking to the members of the ‘despised’ community – identified in the particular speech - that tantamount to a policy ‘U’ turn. However, the speech writer at that time, David Frum, a Canadian Jew, became an instant star for coining the reverberating sound bite, unfortunately at the expense of nation’s ambition to appear as a global statesman with its soul on the yardstick of fair play.

There is no doubt that President Bush’s obsession with dealing with Sadaam Hussain did a lasting damage to his legacy. He failed to convince the world that his action was prompted by an irresistible urge to promote the democracy in the Middle East while pulling down the curtain of rigid tribalism. His justification for going to war did not douse the flame of regional hegemony of dominant players; nor did it bring about any significant change in attitudes among the population of the Middle East in a meaningful way to try something new in governing them. On the contrary, it implicitly contributed to the growth of racial and tribal rivalries that could only be kept under control by the brute force of no-nonsense dictatorship.

The use of mother tongue was not the only thing that put the leader of the free world into trouble. In fact, it fails into insignificance when other aspects of his innocent conduct are splashed across both broadsheet and tabloids.

President Bush is no short of critics even for his facial expressions. Newspapers used to pick on some of his famous gestures, analyze them with surgical precision to peep into the world of president’s thinking at the time he was making them, but to no avail.

For instance, he was caught winking at the Head of State of Britain, Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth something the latter didn’t find very amusing.

They may be the reflex actions in compensating the obvious handicap in mastering the English language in front of cameramen and journalists who were there to catch them at the first available opportunity.

The Green Lobby is also a formidable enemy of the President Bush, for his failure to embrace their findings as gospel truth. On this occasion, President Bush acted instinctively without going with the popular flow to appease certain sections of the scientific community who were hell bent on making a mountain out of a molehill. He invited the worldwide-wrath for sticking to his guns; history will prove he was right at least on that occasion, when the euphoria of global warming ultimately cools down and so-called carbon footprint takes the dimensions of a mythical dwarf.

As usual, he showed his green credentials by throwing one phrase from his repertoire at the Green Lobby: ”I know human being and fish can co-exist,” declared the president triumphantly. Only does the president know whether he mocked the concept or it was just another slip of tongue.

The dynasty of Bush may be inextricably linked with right wing American politics, especially when the nation is about to have its first president of African origin. However, we must not forget that it was under their administration the black Americans reached the real echelons of power.

Colin Powell became the first black Joint Chief of Staff of the US forces under George Bush Sr. He then went on to become the first black Secretary of State under his son, George Bush Jr. Condolessa Rice became the first black National Security Adviser and then became the Secretary of State in a republican administration under George Bush Jr. I am sure the dynasty can feel proud of playing their role in paving the way for the talented black Americans to reach the levers of power of the most powerful nation on the earth while trampling on the remnants of the age-old prejudice.

President Bush’s contribution towards the development of Africa is without a match, as far as the generosity of previous presidents of America is concerned, which goes unnoticed in the busy press, which is obsessed with other burning issues that are even hotter than burning fossil fuels. Even the big-hearted Clinton’s contribution is said to be significantly less than that of President Bush in this regard.

His ascent to the high office from the position of the governor of Texas, his home state, was somewhat meteoric and something came out of the blue. Up until then, George W Bush was his own man: amiable, warm, down-to-earth, approachable and full of common touch amplified by very strong instincts. Unfortunately, as more and more neo-conservatives started orbiting him, he lost the uniqueness of personal appeal and his enemies succeeded in portraying him as the global enemy number one, before an audience that was in tune with all the tentacles of political correctness.

Despite some of his obvious failings, President Bush must be given credit for being a down-to-earth statesman, wherever he was allowed to visit in peace. Unlike most of contemporary politicians, he could mingle with people of all walks of life with ease and it came very natural to him regardless of the social status of the individuals concerned. He had the gift of appearing as one of them in any given such situation.

President Bush acted with dignity when a shoe was thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist in the presence of Iraqi President Nour al Maliki: President Bush took a dive and avoided the shoe twice while the Iraqi president acted as if nothing serious happened in his very presence.

I am sure, if the events took place the other way round – the shoe being thrown at the Iraqi president- President Bush may have come forward to rescue his friend both from the physical harm and then humiliation in that order, completely ignoring both the protocol and obvious dangers. President Bush’s body language implies that he is a man of that calibre. He did not harbour any ill thoughts against his tormentor, as he publicly said afterwards.

His election to the high office twice indicates that he was in possession of leadership qualities that we fail to spot through the microscope of modern politics. His obvious failure to handle the English language and lack of brilliant intellect did not deter voters in backing him. It means President Bush is carrying something latent inside his persona into his retirement at his ranch in Texas or newly-bought home in Posh Texan suburb that we collectively failed to recognize.

President Bush may earn his natural trait back in the company of Laura and his twin daughters. I am sure his dogs - Barney, Miss Beazeley - and the pussycat with the appropriate nickname, Willie, will punctuate the boredom that natural rises in the absence of limelight that the president reluctantly got used to, while occupying the most famous residence in Washington DC. Constant presence of three quadrupeds will remind him of the fact that there are still creatures on this planet whose loyalty can be taken for granted even if the power is not within someone’s grasp any more.

Let’s hope he will shed some light on the leadership quality that he certainly possessed – the very thing the world failed to acknowledge - when writing his own book at his leisure - something an army of political scientists so miserably failed to identify despite many attempts and use of all the tools at their disposal. His natural habitat – the ranch in Texas – will find him enough solitude for the challenging task ahead.

- Asian Tribune -

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