George W. Bush and the “Strategery” of Simple

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Naturally, I must start out with a few of my favorite Bushisms:

“As governor of Texas, I have set high standards for our public schools, and I have met those standards.” -CNN, 30 August 2000

“This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating.” -New York Daily News, April 23, 2002

“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” -Reuters, 5 May, 2000

Yes, this man was our two-term 43rd President. This is not a political piece. I am sure we could all write a thesis or two on the grave mistakes and lack of judgment during his presidency. I wanted to get away from all that and introduce the idea that W’s quality (dare I say gift) that propelled him to the presidency and re-election was his capacity to connect with the American people with a simple message.

To quickly recall, in 1994, with no real previous political experience, he beat a popular incumbent governor in the nation’s second most populous state. Six years later, he beat (according to the supreme court) a sitting vice president during a time of peace and prosperity. Many, including myself, would point out that Bush has enjoyed advantages that most people never dream of: inherited wealth, a famous family name, unbelievable connections and multiple second chances. This is the Kennedy model revisited. This is true. But, I do not think being President was his destiny or even goal till he was in his late 30’s. That role was meant for the smart, better looking more articulate “thinker” Jeb Bush.

I think W’s lack of intellectual curiosity and propensity to react as opposed to think ultimately defined and probably doomed his presidency. At the same time however, there is something to these traits that the American people found appealing, relatable and even charming. I think W had a keen ability to propose a clear and easily understandable policy agenda, e.g. “compassionate conservatism.” (Yeah remember that one?) I think Bill Clinton was partly similar, managing to combine the “I’m just a Southern boy” aw-shucks persona with a depth of intellectual curiosity. Clinton was a political and intellectual genius who knew when to turn on and off this switch. He could be having a corn dog and a beer talking about football and then 5 minutes later giving a press conference on Kosovo. W could never do this. He was always the corn dog and beer guy. I always thought it was an act but I find myself more and more convinced that all that awkwardness we witnessed for 8 years as president was juxtaposed with a gift for one-on-one conversation, debating, and campaigning.

President Obama has every leadership quality known to man. He is a brilliant orator. He is pragmatic, knowledgeable, and I think truly a one-of-a-kind politician for our generation. But, can the President have corn dog with you? Do we at Fletcher even know what a corn dog is? Should this matter in American politics?


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