Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Awkwardness of George W. Bush

Awkwardness in politicians is usually a liability but sometimes it can be an odd sort of asset. The awkwardness of former Senator Bob Dole (when he wasn't flaming his opponent or pushing for bad legislation) made him seem more human. Early in his career, Richard Nixon parleyed his awkwardness into national votes. But Nixon's awkwardness increasingly became a burden over time. It became apparent that his awkwardness was part of his flawed makeup and a sad inability to understand or connect to millions of Americans.

The G8 conference was a spectacular example of Bush's awkwardness among his international peers but enough has been said on that. Dan Froomkin of White House Briefing has a post on Bush's speech at the NAACP convention; it makes for painful reading:
One of Bush's many attempts at humor that fell flat may have cut too close to the truth: "I'm an admirer of Bruce Gordon, and we've got a good working relationship," he said. Then he said, laughing: "I don't know if that helps you or hurts you."

Clearly aware of the lackluster response to the stock phrases that typically get rousing applause from friendly audiences, Bush pointed out that he had asked NAACP chairman Julian Bond, a fiery and profoundly anti-Bush orator, for "a few pointers on how to give a speech." But, Bush acknowledged, "It doesn't look like they're taking."

One of Bush's biggest applause lines, this one unintentional, came when he said: "I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party."

Bush's growing examples of awkwardness remind us that our nation is adrift and will remain adrift until Bush is held accountable and forced to make policy and staff changes or until he leaves office. Two more years of a do-nothing president and do-nothing Republican Congress that refuses to light a fire under Bush is a high price to pay if voters don't go to the polls this November.

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