his now legendary April
13 press conference, President George W. Bush was asked why he
and Vice President Dick Cheney were “insisting on appearing together before
the 911 commission.”
the 911 commission wants to ask us questions,” Bush said. “That’s
why we’re meeting and I look forward to meeting with them and
answering their questions.”
question was,” the reporter repeated, “why you’re
appearing together, rather than separately, which was their
it’s a good chance for both of us to answer questions that
the 911 commission is looking forward to asking us,” Bush mechanically
replied, “and I’m looking forward to answering them.”
to respond to a question about his need to be chaperoned to a commission
hearing, our president repeated the expression “looking forward” three
times. Was this a result of his limited vocabulary or was it something
more insidious? One person who would know is Emmy award-winning TV
news correspondent and Texan, James Moore, author of Bush’s
War for Reelection and co-author of Bush’s
Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.
known Bush for a long time, all the way back to 1978.
He’s a guy of average intelligence — maybe
just slightly less than average. He has no facility for
communication,” Moore tells me in an interview on Weekly
Signals — a KUCI radio show I co-host with
wonder, will Bush’s less-than-average style be on display before
the 911 commission? Since the question and answer session is unscripted,
the answer is a painfully obvious "yes." In fact, I’ve
already joined an office pool wagering how many times Cheney will
correct the president or lift him off the grammatical floor after
he slips and falls at the session. Unfortunately, we may never know
the count. The White House negotiated
a closed-door 911 Commission session for the President and VP.
slow wit, however, doesn’t explain the president's repetitions.
So, Moore tells me about a conversation he had with Bush.
recall we were running around Town Lake, one day here in Austin,
and we were talking about the sixties,” Moore says. “I
was commenting on how important that period was and what a difficult
time it was for me personally and politically. I rambled on for five
minutes and at the end of the conversation the only thing then-governor
Bush had to offer was, 'Days of rage. Days of rage.'”
of rage. Days of rage. Looking forward. Looking forward. What accounts
for the reiterations? Is Bush a grammatical obsessive compulsive?
A tape loop dummy? A robot?
a conversation with George Bush is liking talking to a headline writer
at a newspaper,” Moore says. “You get a very terse and
brief response to everything — unless perhaps, in Bush’s
case it’s baseball: something that he knows a little about.”
Sosa aside, how does the ex-Texas
Ranger baseball team managing partner and current president
keep his fan base happy with truncated chants?
the perfect guy for someone like Karl Rove,” Moore explains. “George
W. Bush is a bit of a cipher. Rove can give him a message and the
president can deliver it over and over and over without it making
his head hurt. Bush doesn’t think in an extraneous complicated
all starting to make sense. Bush is using the skills he learned at Andover
High, the elite east coast high school where he earned the rank
of head cheerleader. Block that kick. Block that kick. Days of
rage. Days of rage.
you took a more intelligent politician someone like John McCain or
Al Gore and asked them to say the same thing 20 different times at
twenty different locations in the course of a day, it would make
them nuts," Moore says. "They would find ways to vary the
message. That’s not a problem with George Bush. He is the perfect
vehicle for saying the same thing over and over until the public
believes it. This is precisely what happened with 911. Rove got him
to say Saddam, Saddam, Saddam over and over again after 911 to the
point that 71% of the public believed that Saddam Hussein and Osama
bin Laden were in concert with each other. In fact, the only person
in the world the Osama hates as much as Bush is probably Saddam."
majority of people still believe the Saddam and Osama are co-conspirators.
Speaking of Osama, how will the president respond when he’s
asked what steps his administration took in the summer of 2001 to
guard against a bin Laden terrorist attack after numerous warnings
from intelligence sources? What phrase will Karl Rove plant in the
president's head to cheerlead at the 911 Commission?
did everything we could?”
“911 changed the world?”
"Freedom loving people?"
"I was on vacation?"
"Dick knows the answer?”
what if our president doesn’t have a cheer for the question?
Will he lie to the 911 commission?
lies on a daily basis,” Moore says. “I think he believes
that the whole deception leading to the war in Iraq is acceptable
because it was for what he thinks was a ‘good’ purpose.”
all been deceived on a grand scale and we’re still being deceived,” Moore
says. “Unfortunately, I think the majority of the American
population is still falling for it. I think we'll be paying for decades
to come. We’re creating legions of new terrorists whose anger
at the United States of America is being inherited.”
of the most troubling aspects of the Presidency of George W. Bush
is that each time we show no willingness or rational that even considers
the Arab perspective, we get closer and closer to some idiot in the
Arab world saying, ‘I give up. I quit. I’m going to pull
the trigger on this stolen nuke I’ve got. It’s time to
go to hell with America.’ That’s the kind of thing that
we’ll be facing someday.”
we’ve got the Bush and Cheney Show — Edgar Bergen and
Charlie McCarthy (or Mortimer
Snerd?), Prince Bush and Prime Minister Cheney, Martin and Lewis,
Penn and Teller — starring a puppet President, who doesn’t
read his Presidential Daily Briefs, but has them orally
summarized for him. Given that the man needs a synopsis of a
synopsis, is it any wonder that he has a brain incapable of producing
coherent answers to impromptu questions.
wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time,
so I can plan for it,” Bush said to the press on April
13. "I’m sure something will pop into my head here in
the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying
to come up with an answer. But it hadn’t yet.”
it hadn’t. And it may never had.
thought it was an abomination,” Moore says about the press
conference. ”I was embarrassed for the president. I was embarrassed
for our country. I think the president has to be able to answer simple
White House knows he can’t. That's why Cheney is holding the
president's hand and pulling the strings on April 29. Bush might
escape a plunge in polls this time, but with a few more embarrassing
public cheers and a stolen nuke or two, those days of rage will reappear
in his life. It’s something he can look forward to.
— Nathan Callahan,
April 22, 2004