ineffable reality

That little flourish, “we report, you decide,” with which FOX radio announcers conclude their segments is actually an accurate representation of their operation. It would also be applicable to FOX TV, which is really nothing but radio with pictures and a written scroll, just in case the talking heads get boring, but I don’t know that they use it.

“We report; you decide” fits perfectly with the binary model of the world in which instinct-driven people reside. Everything is divided into two parts, which exist as separate entities, not connected but in opposition. One party reports/repeats some/same thing, absent any sense of weight or import or time, and the other party decides, leaving what is to be decided totally unspecified. The phrase employs verbs or action words as if they were nouns (“me man; you woman”), in a state of stasis. Conflict may be implied by the placement of the contestants in opposition, in their respective “corners,” but there is no action. The parties never connect.

Given this context, GWB’s characterization of himself as “the Decider,” takes on a whole new aspect. It is even possible that, having listened to FOX news on the road to some event, he was just repeating, being agreeable with how he’d been addressed and aligning himself with all those other “yous” — deciders who don’t do or actually decide anything, just provide an occasion for a rhetorical flourish.

GWB, the Decider, as a rhetorical flourish! Now, there’s an idea that might well explain a lot. Perhaps if his rhetoric had been more grounded, the significance of George W. Bush might not have dissipated so rapidly or totally. His mother once said the family didn’t think he was smart enough. Perhaps that was because his speech was limited by how much he could memorize at one time. His reports had to be brief, unless he was given a speech he could read. Then, that he read slowly was a help because it made his reading sound as if he were speaking off the cuff.

GWB-combinedWhen I think of George W. Bush two images come to mind. Both involve him reading speeches in circumstances he should have been able to ad lib. One is the 2000 high school graduation in Crawford, Texas, captured by David Modigliani in his 2008 movie, “Crawford,” in which candidate Bush reads his introductory remarks from a binder, and the other is the post-plane crash “impromptu” announcement of the “apparent terrorist attack.” In the latter, the President is intent on the notes of his prepared speech and makes sure not to leave them as he hurries from the lectern, the Decider-in-Chief.

Since the timeline of the visit to the Booker Elementary School does not allow for him having written the announcement himself, whatever “remarks” had been prepared for him earlier were either edited or re-written by someone else.

I suppose it’s to be expected that Governors and Presidents have their pronouncements prepared by speech-writers, people who put words into their mouths. But, that George W. Bush was particularly prone to making gaffes when speaking off the cuff apparently still rankles Republicans and accounts for their insistence that President Obama’s major speeches, for which he employs a teleprompter, rather than binders or paper notes, are no different and someone else is doing his thinking for him.

It seems instinct-driven Republicans exist in an present in which the past is always with them and the future never arrives. That might explain the recent kerfuffle over when President Obama referred to the attack on the building in Benghazi it as a “terrorist act.” That he did it the next day in the rose garden apparently confounded some people, among them the Republican candidate for President, who were still hung up on the questions raised by the fact that George W. Bush “saw” the hand of terrorists before the attacks on the trade center and Pentagon were even over. Perhaps George W. Bush “jumping the gun” was supposed to be (retroactively) demonstrated as normal because Barack Obama did it too. But, by specifying the time when he did it (after more information arrived), Obama (inadvertently) invalidated what was to be proved. Barack Obama is not an instinct-driven man, as the McCain correctly sussed out when an ad declared near the end of the 2008 campaign that Obama’s instincts are “bad.”
That Barack Obama is just like George W. Bush is supposed to prove something, but I’m not sure what that is.

George W. Bush is always on time. His staff apparently made sure of that. But being on time may well be an effort to compensate for his seeming lack of awareness of time as a linear progression or sequence of events. If so, it would explain, for example, why Bush claimed to have seen the crash of the first plane on TV, before it was shown on TV. It would also explain why he continued sitting listening to a reading lesson after the second crash was reported to him. Nobody had told him to move. Then, when they did tell him to leave, he is reported to have resisted because he was hungry and wanted to eat.

Well, the designation of himself as a decider was obviously not a fleeting rhetorical flourish by Bush. Just this April, in an exclusive interview with Parade Magazine, on the occasion of the dedication of the GWB Presidential Library in Dallas, the former President was asked about the biggest adjustment leaving the White House required and he answered:

Not to have this sense of responsibility that you had when you were president and first lady. You know, one day you’re being briefed on world affairs and asked to make decisions, and the next, you’re in Crawford, Texas, you know, and the biggest decision is when do you go mountain bike riding. [laughs]

There it is. “You decide.” Absolutely meaningless.

Editor's Note: This story also published at Hannah Blog.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."