If you caught the finale of the Republican Convention last week, you saw George Bush lay out his agenda with force and clarity. He held forth for almost an hour and when he was done I knew exactly what he had on his mind. The audience ate it up. Bush threw out applause lines with the frequency and perversity of a 4 year old who’s just learned that stepping on the mat at the grocery store swings the door open. “Tax cuts” Applause. “War on Terror.” Applause. “No Child Left Behind.” Applause. “Kerry flip-flopper.” Applause, etc., with every standing ovation punctuated by the president’s sly grin and wink.
There he was, the glorious GOP candidate, swimming in a sea of deliriously happy, nearly uniformly, White people wearing flag splattered clothes, topped with confetti, smothered in balloons. Singing, swaying, dancing, but most of all applauding and chanting they seemed so happy that, you couldn’t help but wonder: What’s wrong with those people? Didn’t they hear what he said in the speech?
Later, when the chirping propagandists, excuse me, I mean the MSNBC news anchors (and I used to think Fox was “fair and balanced”!) lovingly pronounced that Bush was now up 11 points in the polls, I counted my twelve pages of notes from Bush’s speech and realized that the RNC crowd there in the Garden weren’t the only ones who had only noticed Bush’s style of delivery and hadn’t understood his actual words.
So in an effort for public awareness, here is a translation of some of his more interesting phrases, starting with a few easy ones: “plan to make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy” = There goes ANWR. Another easy one: “Activist Judges”— those who act against me. “Some see a certain, swagger. In Texas we call that ‘walking.’” In the rest of the world we call that arrogance. Here’s two that go together: He talked about making America “the best place in the world to do business” so “the American worker can compete with anyone anywhere in the world for jobs” and “having a place for the unborn child”… such as in being child slave labor in the Nike sweatshops. Boy howdy, we sure want those jobs back.
If you’ve read Orwell’s 1984, by now you get the idea. Take his rant against the “current tax code, which is a complicated mess, filled with special interest loopholes.” Applause, etc, and so on. It is worth noting, as the kind folks at Misleader.org have, that over the course of his three years in office, Bush’s re-writing of the tax code has added over three hours to the complexity of filing taxes. And those special interests? Well, they would probably be his friends in the millionaire tax bracket whose businesses rarely pay any tax whatsoever and who personally got an average $78,000 tax cut while the poorer 50% of the population got somewhere between $250 and nothing.
Then there was my favorite when he bragged about the No Child Left Behind law, which he is hoping to expand to leave children even farther behind. Bush proclaimed that his program, “keeps local officials in charge of their schools.” NCLB of course has done this by creating a massive web of restrictive and under-funded federal mandates, so embraced by teachers and state departments of education, that 31 states so far have appealed it and six have offered to give up federal funding if they could leave NCLB behind instead.
To demonstrate his enthusiasm for the program he boasted of a massively poor school in Gainesville, Florida where 90% of the students passed the state exam. Somehow he failed to compare it to the “Houston Miracle” he used to boast about back when now Secretary of Education Rod Paige, the architect of NCLB, was the superintendent of Houston schools. In an amazingly short time a school in the Sharpstown area went from a dropout rate of almost half to 0.3%. And of course the reason this accomplishment was so unbelievable was it wasn’t true. Sharpstown fudged their figures, Paige approved ‘em and everyone gets to enjoy the benefits having him and his boss shaping America’s schools. So far the only thing Bush has demonstrated he’s committed to leaving behind is this scandal.
Of course the most extensive set of translations was needed for his discussion of “Mission Accomplished,” the War on Terror. Bush grinned at his successes in Afghanistan, though he forgot to budget anything to rebuild it after we blew it to shreds and the Taliban and heroin production are both thriving once more. He thundered about how he alone was strong enough to demand that the dictator Hussein disarm and even went to war to force him to disarm despite the fact that he already had. Of course Bush justified still going to war because he “couldn’t trust the words of a madman.” Which in this case I suppose would’ve been Scott Ritter, the American UN weapons inspector who certified Hussein had no weapons. Ritter as you may recall was ridden out of town on a rail before the war even started. Boy, it’s a good thing we didn’t trust that madman, even though he was right.
The president also soothed us with images of an Iraq where folks “no longer have to fear being shot and left in mass graves,” which is a comforting to be sure. Now they only have to fear being bombed and buried in the rubble. He also hoped that Palestinians will learn some lessons from all this and finally make peace with Israel so terrorists will stop “strapping bombs to their chests and killing the innocent.” Perhaps they can learn to kill their innocent like Americans do: by dropping their bombs out of planes.
He concluded by asking us to admire his strength because “sending troops into battle is the hardest decision one can make, even when it’s right.” A clever turn of phrase, because he also gets our sympathy: as hard as it must be when you’re right, imagine what it must be like to be this wrong.
Mikel Weisser teaches social studies and poetry on the West Coast of Arizona. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org