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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Is Bush A Moron Episode 14: Campaign Mode

This week’s episode of IBAM covers four recent events. Three of these amounted to campaign appearances, although they weren’t billed as such. The fourth was an interview that Bush did with a correspondent for an Arabic TV network (and no, it wasn’t Al Jazeera).

The three campaign appearances were on Feb 13 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, DC; on Feb 16 at Nuair Manufacturing in Tampa, Florida; and remarks on the economy at an event held Feb 19 in the Presidential Hall of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in DC. The interview was posted on the Whitehouse website on Feb 18, although the transcript indicates that it took place on January 29. It was conducted by Mouafac Harb of the “Middle East Television Network”. The METN is the propoganda network created by the U.S. State Department and broadcasts Arabic programming by satellite from the ancient middle-eastern city of Springfield, VA.

The scores are mediocre as usual. It’s also notable just how poorly Bush did during the interview, where almost a fifth of his statements (17%) had some sort of grammatical error.

language usage index scores
Sample Reading Ease Grade Level BRI-2
Archbishop Carroll HS (2/13/04) 72.7% 6.3 .072
NuAir Manuf. (2/16/04) 70.7% 6.6 .069
Eisenhower Bldg (2/19/04) 68.7% 6.9 .085
Arabic TV (2/18/04) 66.2% 7.5 .172
Average 69.6% 6.8 .099
Below is a list of representative speech errors by Bush from these four appearances. And believe me, I’ve dropped a lot of them out:
I think it's very important for us to work, not only in D.C., but around the country for…[missing “that”; “but also…”]

A society that doesn't want to leave any child behind is a society which says,…[“…a society that…”]

…why is Catherine making a unbelievably tough call to drive hours to another state, or out of this district to a state. [“an unbelievably tough call…”]

You know, when I was looking for a Secretary of Education, I wasn't interested in finding a theorist, somebody who talked about the philosophy of the education, or talking about somebody -- trying to find somebody who has actually done it. [broken/mangled sentence]

So I think we need to raise the bar everywhere [“… think that we need…”]

Then I think you've got measure. [What???]

And when you find a child that needs help. [“…who needs help”]

…a parent has got the ability to take extra money [“…has the ability…”]

But the other thing about local control of schools, is the more power there is at the local level, the more parents have an opportunity to change things. […is that the more power there is…”]

I know you got an advertising campaign getting ready to go. [“I know that you have…”]

They also take on a lot of students that are the so-called hard to educate, [“…students who are…”]

There's some other things we need to do here in this country. [“there is” vs “there are”]

There's some powerful interests in Washington that don't want to see this happen. [ditto]

There's a couple of things she said. [ditto]

There's a lot of fantastic community college systems here in Florida and around the country. [ditto]

But as the economy changes, as these new machines come into be, people need to learn how to use them.[??? “as these new machines come into be”?]

The American way is understanding people come here to put food on the table for their children. [verb use (“…is to understand”); missing “that” (“…is to understand that…”)]

The fact that you're willing to get in there and race those kind of cars on those steep banks says a lot about you, though -- positive, I might add. [“those kinds”]

But the fact that there's more money in your pockets have made this economy strong. [“…has made this economy strong”]

But there has been some pretty interesting points that have come out of it. [“have been…”]

And then, of course, there's the individual stories about hard-working, decent Americans worried about their families and what they do with the more money in their pocket. [“there are the individual stories…”; “the more money in their pocket”???]

The strength of this country is the fact we've got people who are willing to volunteer to serve a neighbor in need. [missing “that”]

It means our workers become the best in the world, [missing “that”]

One, the workers here, it means that there's reliable jobs. [“there is” vs “there are”]

And that's why so much talk with the economists are about -- are people investing, because that investment cycle will lead to the increase of employment.[“…talk with the economists is about…”]

And so Sam -- Sam is a person who -- Sam has got him a small business [mangled sentence; “Sam has a small business”]

And therefore we need a work system that is -- promotes legal activity, not illegal activity. [mangled sentence]

But we've also got to make sure -- but personal responsibility being responsible for your families, also an important part of making sure people get educated here. [mangled sentence]

It means they've got more money to make decisions, whether it's to save or go on a vacation to Texas, or to have a quality of life issue at home [just think about this one for a bit…]

There needs to be serious consequences for people who are -- don't tell the truth. [need/needs; mangled sentence]

Unreliable supplies of energy creates uncertainty for price. [“…supplies of energy create…”]

There's some special interests here in Washington… [“there is” vs “there are”]

And these tax relief will be -- will expire on an irregular basis. [“this tax relief…”; mangled sentence]

The tax burden will go up by $2,000 if they doesn't make the tax cuts permanent. [??? “…if they doesn’t”??]

Let me walk you through, right quick, of what these families and small business owners and large business and CEOs have dealt with, [“let me walk you through…of what these families…”??]

When you turn on your TV screen in the summer of 2002 and it says, "America's March To War," that's not very conducive for investment [“conducive to investment”]

Some estimates say up to -- and if you're interested in job creation, why not focus on the job creators? [mangled sentence]

I'm going to talk a little bit about in regards to one of our guests, but -- -- the death tax is a bad tax, bad tax. [mangled sentence]

There are very powerful interests here in Washington that prevent the kinds of laws to pass that will help control costs. [just, wow…]

But one thing's for certain, is we need to make the tax cuts permanent

That's $28 billion going into the U.S. Treasury out of your pockets -- be reducing demand by that amount, be taking capital out of small business coffers if that happens. [be speaking poor English…]

It made life easier by being -- that money, to help pay for the preschool tuition, it took pressure off of their bill paying. [mangled sentence]

I believe there needs to be a Palestinian state… [missing “that”]

…so long as there's groups of terrorists willing to murder… [“there is” vs “there are”]

And I fully understand there needs to be a firm commitment to fight off terror in order for that to happen. [missing “that”]

I mean, gosh, there's a lot of countries that are very much involved in Iraq. [“there is” vs “there are”]

Pakistan is another country which is evolving… [“country that is evolving”]

My views are one that speaks to freedom. [? Number agreement? “…views speak to freedom”]

I believe people can self-govern around the world. [missing “that”; “I believe that people around the world can self-govern”]

See, one of the interesting things in the Oval Office -- I love to bring people into the Oval Office -- right around the corner from here -- and say, this is where I office, but I want you to know the office is always bigger than the person.[Jesus. mangled sentence; missing “that”; “this is where I office”???]

King Abdullah of Jordan, the King of Morocco, I mean, there's a series of places -- Qatar, Oman -- I mean, places that are developing -- Bahrain -- they're all developing the habits of free societies. [mangled sentence]

One, I do believe they understand the need to reform. [“…believe that they understand”]

But I also know they agree that we need to continue to work together to fight terror. [“know that they agree”]

There's a -- the murderous ambitions of a few are trying to derail the hopes of many. [mangled sentence]

And it's -- I have visions of a university system that really leads the Middle East in education and on the forefront of science and engineering -- because I know the Iraqi-Americans who are here, very bright, capable, honorable people who have come to our country, realized the benefits of freedom, taken advantage of some fantastic opportunities and made great citizens. [mangled; missing “that”; not a sentence]

These are people that are willing to kill people… [people who are willing…”]

They kill innocent women and children and not care about it. [Tonto, Tarzan and Frankenstein…]

More Muslims have died at the hands of killers than -- I say more Muslims -- a lot of Muslims have died -- I don't know the exact count -- at Istanbul. [just read it…]

posted by gunther at 1:38 PM Link

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Is Sullivan A Moron, Episode 1

Just saw this at

I wonder if the Bush administration even thought about how mean-spirited this was going to appear. And how nakedly political. Some journalists are reporting that White House sources are telling them that they do not expect this to pass but they need to fire up their base. They'd go this far for purely political reasons? I guess I really was naive.
Yes, I guess you were.

posted by gunther at 3:28 PM Link

Let’s Go Nuclear

Well we can’t say we didn’t see this coming. Republicans have no issues to run on – the economy is sluggish, and the new jobs just aren’t there; the budget deficit has exploded; Iraq continues to be a mess; the prewar excuses for invasion are now widely seen to be just that; and Osama Bin Laden’s trail is as cold as Spot’s corpse.

So what do you do when you have no issues to run on? You use a hot button issue like gay marriage to whip up a frenzy. It motivates your conservative base, scares a good number of moderates into considering voting for you, and lobs a couple of hand grenades into the Democratic camp. Accordingly, Bush today officially proposed the passage of a constitutional amendment that would “preserve the sanctity of marriage” by defining it to legally be only between a man and a woman.

It really is a smart, if sleazy, political tactic. Democrats are going to be forced to either support or hedge their response to this proposal. If they come out for it, or don’t come out sufficiently strongly against it, a good number of their supporters might stay home, or vote for someone like Nader. If they oppose it, they risk offending the vast hordes of middle America who might feel comfortable watching neutered gay men on TV shows like “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, but who draw the line at letting them marry one another.

In an earlier post on this topic, I suggested that if Republicans went down this road there was a way to fight their efforts and force them to drop it as an issue. The logic was that if they could be convinced that the political price for this strategy was too high, then it would simply fade away and they’d start to base their campaign on other issue, like national security and taxes. A lot of the rationale I had at the time has now gone out the window because of subsequent event. At the time, I assumed that the goal was to prevent the issue from being brought up in the first place, and I thought there might be a reasonable chance of doing that.

Since my original post, of course, events have more or less forced things upon us. First we had the Massachusetts ruling, and for the last couple of weeks we’ve had gay marriages occurring in San Francisco. Over the weekend it seemed that Chicago and New Mexico might soon start following suit. So the issue is out there, front and center. It’s not like we can make it go away. Thus, it’s entirely expected that there’d be pressure for politicians to do something to stop the process. When Bush now proposes a constitutional amendment, he can claim to be bowing to pressure, because, frankly, a lot of conservatives are in an uproar.

Let’s revisit what I stated in my original post:

The question thus becomes how best to counter such tactics. The thing to keep in mind is that tactics like this aren’t used by Republicans because they are necessarily driven by an antipathy towards gays. Many of them might be, but that is not the primary motivation. Rather, it is simply politics. Republicans believe that this is a winning issue for them, and they’ll dangle the proposition of a constitutional amendment against gays in front of the more rapid zealots, and stoke the fires of fear in socially conservative moderates. But more likely than not, this issue will be immediately dropped after the election. It’s a way to win, not a crusade.

What I propose is a variation of the Barney Frank rule. Recall that back in 1987, Republican’s under Newt Gingrich initiated an infamous whisper campaign implying that Tom Foley was gay. Things got so out of hand that the openly gay Frank threatened to retaliate by publicly naming a number of closeted House Republican members. The rumors quickly stopped. The Frank rule says basically that “outing” of a closeted individual is acceptable only when the person in question is using a position of power and influence to engage in gay-bashing as a matter of politics or policy.

Using gay-marriage as a wedge issue in order to win an election certainly qualifies as such an instance in my opinion.
Accordingly, I’m amending my proposed strategy, and proposing the following. All those who oppose the proposed constitutional amendment, and Republican effort to gain votes by gay-bashing, should immediately begin to expose closeted Republican elected and nonelected party officials, as well as their staff, whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so. Why do this?

1. It’s already proven that it will work, as was shown by Barney Franks in 1987. As long as Republicans feel there is no cost for them in pushing this issue they will do so. When a few of them start getting exposed as secretly gay, the rest of them will start worrying about the possible damage to the party (as well as, possibly, themselves). It’s ugly but it will work.

2. It brings up hypocrisy as an issue. Why are so many Republicans who may actually be gay, supporting this gay-bashing strategy? Why aren’t they speaking out against it? Notice that this also applies to non-gay Republicans who may have gay colleagues or staffers. The public doesn’t like politicians or political parties that have the taint of hypocrisy about them, and this is a way of sticking it to Republicans.

[As an aside, any “liberal” who uses the Frank Rule in this manner isn’t open to the charge of hypocrisy. The assumption is that the amendment is being pushed for political purposes. Exposing supporters of the amendment as gay, and hypocritical, is perfectly legitimate. It really only becomes an issue if you start bringing third parties into it, since under the Frank Rule, they have no political power.]

3. It puts pressure on log cabin Republicans. There are, of course, a number of Republicans who are openly gay. They can, of course, choose to decry the exposure of closeted colleagues as unfair. But they need to be asked (repeatedly); why are you still in a party that is pushing such a discriminatory piece of legislation? Demand that they publicly announce their position. Challenge them, and ask them if they will refuse to support Bush (or any other politician) who supports such an amendment. Criticism of them must be loud, public and repeated.

4. Why bring in a politician’s or party leader’s staff? What can justify exposing someone who doesn’t hold elective office, or isn’t in a position of power? Let’s be honest. I think that a case can be made that a politician’s staff is as guilty he or she is when their boss takes a position that is sleazy but politically useful. These are not indentured servants. They are free to leave any time they wish. They continue to work for certain individuals because (a) they agree with them politically, and (b) they think it will further their careers. If Congressman Joe Blow is going to come out publicly in support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, then why shouldn’t their staff have to face the consequences of their boss’s actions? I repeat; this is about gay bashing in order to obtain political power. If staffer X is gay, but is willing to accept that his boss and colleagues push legislation that discriminates against gays, what he’s really saying is that he doesn’t care what happens to other gays and lesbians. His career is more important. He’s already chosen what side he’s on, and that makes him fair game.

It is very clear that the movement to push a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is nothing more than the open use of gay-bashing in order to win votes. If liberals, progressives and supporters of gay rights are serious about fighting against this bigotry, then they are going to have to try something other than appealing to people’s better nature. The Democratic party, and candidates, of course, will want nothing to do with this strategy (although I wonder what Barney Frank is thinking right now). So it will probably be left to the fringe media and the internet to get the ball rolling. May be a few highly recognizable names being outed could have an impact, as long as it was done with an explicit explanation of why it was occurring. Exposure and embarrassment shouldn’t be the point. In other words, the issue shouldn’t be “Governor Y is gay!”, but, “Why is Governor Y opposed to marriage rights for gays when he himself is gay?” (note: the use of the term “Governor” is completely gratuitous and is meant to suggest nothing about politicians in certain large southern states).

It’s all about framing. The fact that someone may be a closeted gay is not the issue. The fact that someone may be a closeted gay who publicly supports an amendment that is discriminatory towards gays isan issue.

posted by gunther at 11:44 AM Link

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Normal Noonan

There are others who may be far better at this than myself, but today I decided to take a stab at Peggy Noonan. Her latest offering in the Wall Street Journal is titled “Broken Glass Democrats Can their anger overcome Bush's normality?” It brings hagiography to a whole new level.

Noonan opens

…A lot had happened since I'd last spent time with him, in July, for an interview for Ladies Home Journal, and I was eager to get a sense of how he's feeling, thinking and looking as the election gears up. Also I've been tough on him lately and wondered how he treats people under such circumstances.
That’s it; never mind about what he has to say about Iraq, the economy, what he intends to do during the election campaign. Let’s cut to the most important issue. What does he think about me?
The president bounded into the Roosevelt Room at 10:30 on a weekday morning with a flurry of aides behind him. He looked tanned, rested and perhaps preoccupied.
Perhaps preoccupied, perhaps drugged…
He made a point to make and maintain eye contact with each of us, now this one and now that, as he talked. He shared thoughts, observations and stories in a way that seemed both free-associative and thematically linked.
“In a way that seemed both free-associative and thematically linked?” I believe that I know what that means, since I’ve had to endure reading enough examples of this type of speech on his part, while working on the IBAM project. Is that kind of like, “totally unrelated thoughts that have a patina of lucidity if you don’t examine them too closely?” Or, “mindless blather that is meant to convince the listener that Bush knows what he’s talking about?” Like when you haven’t studied for the exam but are trying to con the teacher into believing that you understand the material.
What the president's associates and allies had been telling me seemed completely true. His spirits were high, and at points he seemed loaded for bear. He has rock confidence that his actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have been right and have helped the world. He suggested that you've got to stand your ground when it's the high ground. He made it clear he intends to.

He wound it all up, took no questions, and left with the flurry.
More macho posturing; no surprise there, or that Noonan swooned over it. But then we return once again to the point of the article; what did he think of me?
How did he treat me? I'd like to say he was cool because that would suggest he's been reading my columns and they've had a huge impact. In fact he was friendly as ever.
That’s probably because even if he has read your column, which is unlikely, he doesn’t have a clue who the fuck you are, Peggy.
There are several ways to interpret this. I choose to believe he is hiding his pain.
Kind of like when the really cool hunk in high school ignored you and pretended that he didn’t know you, it wasn’t because he really didn’t know you, it was because he cared about you too much and he was too shy to say so. Inside he was really hurting. because whatever explains his behavior, it has to have something to do with what he thought of you.
…Mr. Bush's poll numbers are down, but the blue states are blue and the red states are red. And no one knows what will change that.

…This year the Democrats do seem hungrier than usual, in part because of the continuing wound of the 2000 election… They feel a heightened passion. …Have you seen them out there? Teddy Kennedy revitalized and refocused, as if this is his last great campaign; the entertainment-industrial complex in full battle cry; television producers energized by the battle, political wives making passionate speeches, young voters entering the process, whether for Howard Dean or someone else.
Yes, the street are literally full of celebrities, entertainment moguls, and television producers crying out for justice.
This is rise of the Broken Glass Democrats. Remember Broken Glass Republicans in 2000? They'd crawl over broken glass to help their guy and get the change they wanted. I think we are seeing the beginning of that with the Democrats.

I was asked this week why the president seems so attractive to the heartland, to what used to be called Middle America. A big question. I found my mind going to this word: normal.
Why do so many people in Middle America admire Bush? To quote Charles Shultz, “Have you ruled out stupidity?” The rest of the column is just amazing.
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics.
I’m glad that he can speak at least one language. Too bad it’s not English.
You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?"
He’ll run out and help, but only after he first disappears for a few hours to an undisclosed safe location, returning after the flames have been extinguished to shake his head at the sight of the damage, “tsk tsking” for all to hear. He’ll then, after much prompting, agree that an inquiry into what caused the fire would be a good idea, but look at his watch and say, “I’d like to stick around and help with the investigation, but I’ve got a lot of stuff to do tonight…good luck, though!”, before running off to the country club for cocktails.
He's not an intellectual.
News Flash!!!
Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.
I don’t even know where to begin with this drivel. “Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world?” What the hell does that even mean? Fight the fire, yes. But after it’s out, it’s somehow wrong to ask, why did the fire start in the first place? How were the escapes maintained? Could we have done something to prevent it? What can we do in the future so that something like this won’t happen? I agree that Bush isn’t interested in the answers to these types of questions, but an attitude like his is one sure way to ensure that there’ll be plenty of fires to fight in the future.

But of course, what Noonan is really saying is that, when faced with a crisis or threat, there’ll be those who prefer to study the situation, to gather more facts and analyze them before deciding on a course of action. And there are those, like Bush, who act first. But let’s imagine that instead of a fire, there was the sense that a burglary or house invasion was occurring at little Sally’s house. Should good neighbor Bush wait to find out what the facts are, or instead burst in, guns blazing, shooting at anything that might be a threat? If it turned out that what sounded like a violent struggle was merely the sound of a loud TV, it’ll be no consolation to Sally that heroic neighbor Bush has gunned down her parents by mistake. There are times when action is called for and there are times when a “normal” person will think before acting. To put it in terms even Noon would understand, “Look before you leap” is not a recipe for intellectual paralysis.

So as far as Noonan’s statement that “Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy; Americans love the guy who ain't that guy” goes, I think that everyone would like the guy who “ain’t that guy”. But it’s a false choice that Noonan provides.
Someone said to me: But how can you call him normal when he came from such privilege? Indeed he did. But there's nothing lemonade-on-the-porch-overlooking-the-links-at-the-country-club about Mr. Bush. He isn't smooth. He actually has some of the roughness and the resentments of the self-made man. I think the reason for this is Texas. He grew up in a white T-shirt and jeans playing ball in the street with the other kids in the subdivision. Barbara Bush wasn't exactly fancy. They lived like everyone else. She spoke to me once with great nostalgia of her early days in Texas, when she and her husband and young George slept in the same bed in an apartment in Midland.
Cue the violins. Excuse me while I gag…
A prostitute lived in the complex.
Insert gratuitous Neil Bush joke here…
George W. Bush didn't grow up at Greenwich Country Day with a car and a driver dropping him off, as his father had. Until he went off to boarding school, he thought he was like everyone else. That's a gift, to think you're just like everyone else in America. It can be the making of you.
After he went to boarding school, of course, it was a 25 year blur of booze, drugs and hookers, interrupted briefly by some actual work when he had to get out of being sent to Vietnam. Years later, he would reluctantly use his family connections to jump start careers in business and politics, sobbing to himself each night as he slept about the simpler life that he had left behind, a sort of latter day Charles Foster Kane. Oh to be normal again!

posted by gunther at 12:11 PM Link

Friday, February 13, 2004

William Campenni on CSPAN

I just caught the repeat of the William Campenni interview on CSPAN. It was brief (less than 30 minutes), and here are the highlights:

He confirmed that he overlapped with Bush only during 1970-71 (exact dates unclear)

Campeni had been based in Pittsburgh; he served in Houston temporarily at Ellington AFB, and returned to Pittsburgh afterwards. This accounts for the article cited by some yesterday describing his story about a hijacking incident in 1972, which said that he was based in Pittsburgh at the time.

Exactly when he left Houston is unclear; it was sometime in 1971. He was definitely gone by 1972

Campenni said that he was not put up to it (the letter) or contacted by anyone in the administration, but says he wrote the letter on his own

He continued to defend the reserves; repeating much of what was contained in his letter (e.g., the reserves could be called up at any time)

He specifically drew comparisons between the reserves then (circa Vietnam) and now; seemed offended that others would try to make a political issue out of this. He said something to the effect of, “will someone like Terry McAullife in 30 years try make political points about someone who had served stateside in the reserves during the current war on terror?” He still tries to push the argument that there is no distinction between how the reserves operated then and now, and rejects the idea that people got into the reserves to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

Continued to say that it was Johnson and McNamara’s fault that the reserves didn’t get called up

My overall impression: This is someone who has practically nothing to add in terms of being a reliable witness to what Bush did or didn’t do during this time period. He’s certainly not in a position to comment on anything that occurred in 1972 or thereafter (and probably for a good portion of 1971 as well). He seems to be a career officer in the Air National Guard (30 years), who is more concerned with correcting what he sees as a set of mistaken beliefs about the nature of the reserves and how they operated then and now. He may or may not have an overblown view of the importance of the ANG; I don’t know enough to make a judgement one way or the other. But I think that correcting the facts about Bush is less important to him than correcting the facts about the ANG.

posted by gunther at 10:13 PM Link

Is Bush A Moron: Triskaidekaphobia Friday

Today being Friday the 13th, I thought it appropriate to take advantage of the date and post the thirteenth episode of IBAM. Following up on yesterday’s posing, today’s covers an appearance Bush made earlier this week at a factory in Springfield, Missouri (SRC Automotive, 2/9/04). The numbers were: Grade Level = 6.7, Reading Ease = 70.4%, and Grammar = .071 (21 errors, 297 sentences).

[As a public service, I’m also including this link to a site that provides treatment for anyone suffering from Triskaidekaphobia]

Here are the errors:

People are owning their own home. [verb use; “People own their own homes”]

One of the most important things our society must do is to train people for jobs which exist. [missing “that” (“…things that our society must do…”); incorrect verb form (“…is train people…”); “that” vs “which” (…”jobs that exist”)]

It's tough times when the country is in a recession. [number agreement; “It is a tough time” or “They/these are tough times”]

See, when you're a CEO of a corporation, you have a responsibility -- Jack knows that and I suspect he might talk about -- at least when he talks, you'll hear he recognizes that. [missing “that”; “…I suspect that he might…”, “…you’ll hear that he recognizes…”]

…and now they know there will be a consequence in America for not telling the truth. [missing “that”]

And then, of course, as you know, I made the tough decision to secure America by -- after having gone to the United Nations and after having worked to give Mr. Saddam Hussein a chance to disarm himself. [broken/mangled sentence]

War is not conducive to -- for investment. [ditto]

Small businesses are feeling pretty good about their future, because there's incentives for them to invest. [“there is” vs “there are”]

Anyway, I do want to talk to you real quick that -- this is one of the real challenges we face -- a couple of challenges. [broken/mangled sentence]

I believe we need to have tort reform… [missing “that”]

I know we need tort reform particularly when it comes to health care. [ditto]

We've expanded them in the Medicare law, but I want people to understand they're available now. [ditto]

I believe we need to make the tax cuts permanent. [ditto]

--. See, one of the things that's fabulous about this country is people can start their own business. [ditto]

That means that it was the tax relief passed by Congress encouraged him to invest. [ditto]

And I hope that the state of Missouri uses the community college system here in a way that says, let's devise curriculum based upon the needs of the employers, [missing article; “devise a curriculum”]

And the best way to do it is to trust the local people to put a curriculum in place to train people for jobs which actually exist. [“which” vs “that”]

Mr. Mayor, this is a good way to recruit business, by the way, is if you've got a good worker training program so that the employers know that they can find somebody who can do the job. [?? poor structure]

See, one of the things she's saying… [missing “that”]

See, tax relief can be used to spend, and that's good, because it increases consumer demand, but tax relief also is being saved by a lot of our families, and that savings are really important in a society that rests upon the flow of capital. Savings actually is capital to be invested so people can find work. [“those savings are really important…”; “Savings…are capital…”]

It's got good folks here, good, honest, down-to-earth, hardworking people that really represent the backbone of America. [“hardworking people who really represent…”]
I’ve also reproduced a couple of things he said that aren’t errors, but Bushisms. Not real classics, but weird all the same:
Before I begin to talk a little bit about the economy, and then of course have our panelists talk about what they think, and some of the decision-making they made.

Except when you're marching to war, it's not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it's the opposite of optimistic when you're thinking you're going to war. [Might the word be, “pessimistic”?]

posted by gunther at 1:54 PM Link

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Is Bush A Moron, Episode 12: Bush Visits Pennsylvania

Bush today spoke at a high school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The topic was “education and the changing job market”. It was not a speech, and was typical of the kind of forum he’s used to discuss issues – make a few points, bring up some commonly used catch phrases and issues, and parade a few citizens to bolster the arguments your trying to make. Previously, I’ve ignored these appearances because I assumed that since they were so scripted there would be no reason to expect sub-par performance on Bush’s part. But after looking at how he did today in Harrisburg, I may need to start paying closer attention to these types of things.

Overall performance; Grade Level = 7.3, Reading Ease = 68.2%, BRI-2 Grammar = .114 (35 errors, 306 sentences). Examples of his errors are below:

It's a high school that's willing to raise the bar, …, willing to use curriculum that actually works. [“use a curriculum”]

But the truth of the matter is the strength of this country is the heart and souls of the American people, [missing “that”; “…truth of the matter is that the strength…”]

Remember, this country has been through a recession, an attack by an enemy which clearly hates what we stand for. [which/that]

The first idea is to make sure there's certainty in the tax code. [missing “that”; “make sure that there’s certainty”]

There's too many junk lawsuits which are running up the cost of doing business. [number agreement; “there is” vs “there are”]

We need to get less regulations on people who are trying to create jobs. [“fewer regulations”]

You see, when you have blackouts or brownouts, and you're trying to employ people, it's awful hard to have -- to do so. [mangled/broken sentence]

In other words, there's a lot of things we can do. [“there is” vs “there are”]

I know the entrepreneurial spirit; I know the fact we've got the best workers in the world. [missing “that”]

And as we overcome the recession and war and emergency, we'd better make sure we've got a work force that is prepared for the higher-paying jobs of the 21st century. [missing “that”]

We've got to make sure that math and sciences are -- we've got to focus on math and science. [mangled/broken sentence]

And another interesting part of our society which oftentimes gets overlooked is the fabulous community college system in America. [“which” vs “that”]

You've got a great community college here in -- Community colleges are available and affordable. [mangled/broken sentence]

…, to prepare folks for the jobs which actually exist. [“which” vs “that”]

So what you're about to hear is educational excellence here in Harrisburg exists; [missing “that”; “what you’re about to hear is that educational excellence…”]

And by that I mean, is that it's important to have local control of schools so that good superintendents and good principals are able to be -- adjust according to the circumstances. [broken/mangled sentence]

What's changed is we're finally asking the question, are we getting any results for our money. [missing “that”; “What’s changed is that we’re finally asking…”]

There's been a -- because we haven't focused that intensely on measurement. [broken/mangled sentence]

There's some kids who are just being shuffled through. [“there is” vs “there are”]

If you don't know whether a child can read and write and add and subtract, it's likely that child will be just shuffled through. [missing “that”; “…it’s likely that that child…”]

I believe every child can learn, [missing “that”; “believe that every child…”]

And so what we're talking about really here is the basics of job training, aren't we? [“…what we’re really talking about here is…”; “is the basics” vs “are the basics”]

Would you share with us your story? [? technically correct, but unusual]

That's one of the bottlenecks, to make sure more advanced placement -- AP means raising the bar, is what it means. [missing “that”; mangled/broken sentence]

But you've got to able to have some -- got a skill set that makes you employable. [broken/mangled sentence]

There's jobs in this part of the world that may require a different skill set than you have. [“There are jobs…”]

Cari, first of all, understands her most important responsibility is to love her child with all her heart… [missing “that”] At home, we're going to be a society which understands the issues facing our fellow citizens, [“that” vs “which”]

I want to highlight a couple of passages that illustrate Bush’s inconsistent use of grammar. In the same setting, he can make a number of a particular type of error, and then say something in which he does not make the same error. For example, consider the term “curriculum”. You can say “the curriculum”, “a curriculum”, or “the curricula”. You can’t, as Bush does in the following cases, simply drop the article:
And what the measurement system allows you to do is, one, analyze curriculum –

…and, by the way, using curriculum that actually works, not curriculum that sounds good, not curriculum that may be based upon some interesting theory, but curriculum that actually makes a difference, so that when we measure we can see clearly that children are learning to read.
Yet, later on in the same appearance today Bush said the following:
And one of the reasons you measure, by the way, is to test whether or not the curriculum is working. And if the curriculum is not working, you need superintendents and principals and teachers bold enough to say, it's not working. And so you then you pick what you think will work, and then you've got to train teachers to teach curriculum.
What’s striking about this is that almost within the same breath, Bush correctly says “the curriculum”, but then also uses the term incorrectly.

[Kudos to Bush on one count at least. At one point in the appearance he spoke the sentence, “For those of you looking for work out there, take advantage of the opportunities available to embetter yourself”. Yes, “embetter” is actually a real word, albeit one that is rarely used. So his vocabulary may be broader than suspected. Either that, or even his mistakes sometimes take the form of actual English. After all, even a monkey at a typewriter could eventually produce Shakespeare.]

posted by gunther at 3:34 PM Link

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Who Is William Campenni?

The folks at Free Republic are drooling over a letter to the editor printed in the Washington Times that is supportive of George Bush’s National Guard service record of 30 years ago. It’s from a Col. William Campenni (ret.), who now lives in Virginia. The letter staes that “George Bush and I were lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), Texas Air National Guard (ANG) from 1970 to 1971". The letter goes on to state the names of two superior officers (Maj. William Harris and Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, both deceased) that they had in common at the time, and further states that “while we were not part of the same social circle outside the base, we were in the same fraternity of fighter pilots…”.

It’s doubtful what the value of this letter is, partly since Campenni more or less admits that he didn’t know Bush very well, and in any event the period in which he says that they served together seems to be prior to the one covering the events now in dispute.

What does seem clear is that Campenni is in no position to say what Bush was doing by late 1972, since according to an article posted on Free Republic just this past December, Campenni was stationed with a different unit of the ANG operating out of Pittsburgh by November of ‘72. So, not much new is added by way of explaining where Bush was and what he was doing.

Campenni’s sudden defense of Bush is rather interesting, since this letter is not his first on this topic. He wrote a letter to the Observer, a Virginia based publication, back in May of 2003, in which he defended Bush’s ANG service. Curiously, that letter includes a number of passages that are identical to some included in the letter just published in the Times.

posted by gunther at 4:36 PM Link

Monday, February 09, 2004

Is Bush A Moron, Episode 11: “Meet The Press Interview, 2/8/04

The reviews of Bush’s MTP interview on Sunday are in, and they aren’t pretty. Even conservatives were not impressed; Liberal Oasis and Calpundit both summarize the consensus with selected quotes from a number of sources, e.g.:

…stammering and unsteady.

"If he loses this year, this will be the day he lost it."

…bobbled his answers

…pretty dismal performance

The tongue-tied blather…

…tired, unsure and often bumbling

Evan Andrew Sullvan (!) cites an email from an anonymous conservative reader saying the following:
”It was the single worst performance by an elected official on that show that I've ever seen. The President was inarticulate in the extreme; he avoided answering almost every semi-difficult question, repeatedly asking permission to "step back" as a way to provide a canned statement about how he's had to make tough decisions during times of war (i.e., don't second guess any decision I made regarding Iraq); and he often seemed to fail to grasp the meaning of various questions, pausing awkwardly for long periods of time before giving non-responsive answers.”
I can’t put it any more succinctly than Josh Marshall:
”Most of his responses were disjointed collections of slogans and administration talking points, with a number of disingenuous or outright dishonest points tossed in.”
The Daily Howler was not impressed with Tim Russert’s performance, however.
What happened to that frightening bulldog—the one the press has talked up for years? You saw it—that bulldog turned to a puddy-tat, coughed a hairball and died. What became of Bulldog Tim? That “dog” didn’t bark, hunt or slobber.

Irrelevant “answers” went without follow-up. Blatant misstatements by Bush went unchallenged. Bush was allowed to give long, windy speeches—speeches so long and so slow that it sometimes seemed that Russert must have left the building.
I’ve looked the transcript over and I have to say that it wasn’t a particularly shining day for either of them. Pundits are shocked that Bush was inarticulate? Excuse me, but is this news? . The man is reasonably good at reading from a teleprompter, or delivering prepared speeches, but can’t do the job in an unscripted setting. This is something that I’ve tried to document on this site, simply by looking objectively at Bush’s actual performance during such unscripted speaking sessions. It’s just that there are so few opportunities to observe how bad he is, that people have a higher impression of his command of issues than he deserves. Keeping him away from the press has been a long standing policy. That’s why the decision to go on MTP was so surprising; no matter how much preparation went into it, there was absolutely no way that he was going to appear to be anything other than foolish.

Okay, let’s run the numbers for Bush. The table below summarizes the figures for Bush’s MTP performance. There were 371 sentences in the sample. One somewhat surprising statistic is the Readability Index score of 69.3%, which is a little lower than Bush typically gets [Remember, lower scores on this measure indicate simpler speech; it’s equivalent to the percentage of adult speakers who’d be able to understand it]. But as I believe I’ve alluded to previously, this can be a misleading indicator. The calculation of the Flesch Reading Ease Index takes into account average sentence length. And long sentences don’t need to be grammatical or particularly well constructed. Indeed, one characteristic of Bush-speak is that he uses either very short, simple sentences (which would result in a high Readability Index score), or he strings together a number of related thoughts or statements into a single, jumbled, ungrammatical sentence. This latter behavior would lead to a lot of grammar errors (BRI-2 Index), but might actually result in a relatively low Readability Index. As can be seen, the BRI-2 index shows that more than a tenth of Bush’s sentences had a grammatical error.
language useage index scores
Sample Reading Ease Grade Level BRI-2
MTP (2/8/04) 69.3% 7.7 .134
Here is a list of selected quotes illustrating the grammatical errors that Bush made during the MTP interview. Read em and weep…
There is a lot of investigations going on about the intelligence service, [number agreement; “There is”/”There are”]

It was kind of lessons learned.[What? Not a sentence]

The Congress has got the capacity to look at the intelligence gathering without giving away state secrets, and I look forward to all the investigations and looks. [What?!? “…all the investigations and looks”? ]

There is going to be ample time for the American people to assess whether or not I made a good calls,…[number agreement; “a good call”/”a good calls”]

…and I look forward to that debate, and I look forward to talking to the American people about why I made the decisions I made. [missing “that”; “decisions that I made”]

I wish it wasn't. [missing “that”; “I wish that it wasn’t”]

Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. [missing “that”; “I wish that it wasn;t true…”]

I will be glad to share with them knowledge. [“…share knowledge with them”]

…and I want that intelligence service to be strong, viable, competent, confident, and provide good product to the President so I can make judgment calls. .[missing “that”; “so that I can make…”]

Listen, we got some five let me let me, again, just give you a sense of where I am on the intelligence systems of America. [mangled sentence]

Sitting behind this desk making a very difficult decision of war and peace, and I based my decision on the best intelligence possible, intelligence that had been gathered over the years, intelligence that not only our analysts thought was valid but analysts from other countries thought were valid. [not a sentence; “was” vs “were”]

First of all, I strongly believe the CIA is ably led by George Tenet. .[missing “that”; “strongly believe that…”; also a split infinitive]

We've got people working hard in intelligence gathering around the world to get as good an information as possible. [number agreement]

We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairmen Kean and Hamilton. [“with” vs “to”]

As you know, we made an agreement on what's called "Presidential Daily Briefs," and they could see the information the CIA provided me that is unique, by the way, to have provided what's called the PDB, because – [missing “that” (“…the information that the CIA provided…”; mangled sentence]

Now, let me which is—this is a vital question [mangled sentence]

And when David Kay goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to where the weapons went. [“there is” vs “there are”]

And I made the decision to go to the United Nations, by the way, quoting a lot of their data in other words, this is unaccounted for stockpiles that you thought he had because I don't think America can stand by and hope for the best from a madman, [mangled sentence]

It's too late in this new kind of war, and so that's why I made the decision I made. .[missing “that”; “decisions that I made”]

And the worst nightmare scenario for any president is to realize that these kind of terrorist networks had the capacity to arm up with some of these deadly weapons, and then strike us. [number agreement; “these kind”/”these kinds”]

I'm dealing with a world in which we have gotten struck by terrorists with airplanes, and we get intelligence saying that there is, you know, we want to harm America. [mangled sentence]

Let me take a step back for a second and there is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron clad absolutely solid [not a sentence/mangled sentence]

Well, Tim, I and my team took the intelligence that was available to us and we analyzed it,… [“My team and I”]

His brother was one of the people that was assassinated early on in this past year [subject-verb agreement; “…one of the people that were assassinated”]

In other words, the worlds of the U.N. Security Council said we're unanimous and you're a danger. [“worlds”?]

In my judgment, when the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences. [number agreement; “…there aren’t serious consequences”]

He obviously was concerned, but he I said, you know, I'm a Methodist, what are my chances of success in your country and your vision? [mangled sentence]

I call it a vital role because there is a lot of roles being played by different players, but the U.N. will play and this role is a very important role. [number agreement; “there are a lot of roles…”; mangled sentence]

And the reason why I felt like we needed to use force in Iraq and not in North Korea, because we had run the diplomatic string in Iraq. [not a sentence]

And the reason I'm not surprised is because there are people in that part of the world who recognize what a free Iraq will mean in the war on terror. [missing that; “the reason that I’m not surprised…”]

There is no question in my mind that people that I have seen at least are thrilled with the activities we've taken. [“people whom I have seen”]

And my only point to you is these people are committed to a pluralistic society. [missing “that”; “my only point to you is that these people…”]

I believe that and I believe this country must continue to lead. [missing “that”; …I believe that this country…”]

Every person that is willing to sacrifice for this country deserves our praise, and yes. [“Every person who is willing…”]

It's historic times. [number agreement; “It is a historic time” or “These are historic times”]

In other words, the evidence we have uncovered thus far says we had no choice.[missing “that”; “…says that we had no choice”]

If we still have them, but I you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records. [mangled sentence]

Military doesn't work that way. [“The military doesn’t work that way.”]

We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. [?? “…it is lessons that any president must learn…”; number agreement]

And what those numbers show is the fact we have been through a lot. [missing “that”; “…the fact that we have…”]

So, you show that the numbers kind of I'm not suggesting the chart only shows the bad numbers, but how about the fact that we are now increasing jobs or the fact that unemployment is now down to 5.6 percent? [mangled sentence]

And I look forward to debate on the economy because I think one of those things that's very important is that the entrepreneurial spirit of this country be strong and the small business sector be strong. [subject-verb agreement; “…one of those things that are” (vs “that is)]]

I have shown the American people I can lead. I have shown the American people I can sit here in the Oval Office when times are tough and be steady and make good decisions, and I look forward to articulating what I want to do the next four years if I'm fortunate enough to be their president. [missing “that”; “…that I can lead…”, “…that I can sit here…”]

Just FYI, John Edwards appeared on Fox this weekend and was interviewed by Chris Wallace. His numbers:.
language useage index scores
Sample Reading Ease Grade Level BRI-2
Edwards (Fox Interview)TD> 66.0% 8.3 .034

Previous Editions of IBAM can be found at these links:

IBAM 1: Introduction

IBAM: brief note

IBAM 2: 2000 Presidential Debates

IBAM 3: Interview with Brit Hume

IBAM 4: Dem debate


IBAM 6: Dem debate

BAM 7: Press conference, Dem debate



IBAM 10: Bush Likes Ribs

posted by gunther at 4:53 PM Link

Friday, February 06, 2004

George Bush, Terrorist

For dumping mercury in a school.

Who knew?

posted by gunther at 3:58 PM Link

Monday, February 02, 2004

Wardrobe Malfunctions, Thousands Die

We may never know who he or she is, but the PR person who wrote the statement of apology for Justin Timberlake following yesterday’s Superbowl halftime show deserves to receive some type of special recognition. The statement released by Timberlake attributed the exposure of one of Janet Jackson’s breasts to an unexplained “wardrobe malfunction”, a phrase that will surely go down in history as one of the greatest examples of weasel-speak ever written, released, faxed or spoken.

I missed most of the Superbowl yesterday, having previously agreed to go see the play “Proof”. My luck with Superbowl watching has never been particularly good over the years. When I have watched the entire game it’s usually been a blowout, so two weeks ago when I was asked if I’d like to attend the play, I thought nothing of it. Little did I know that by doing so, I’d miss one of the better games ever, and most importantly the first step in the decline of American civilization as we know it. Otherwise known as the infamous breast exposure of Janet Jackson.

When I first read that “wardrobe malfunctions” were being blamed for the incident, all I could think about was that it night have been inspired by Houston’s association with NASA. Yesterday being the anniversary of the last shuttle disaster, perhaps unavoidable. Is clothing apparel really as complicated as the space shuttle? Does it require teams of scientists and engineers in order to operate smoothly? Perhaps hydraulic devices need to be used to make sure that Janet Jackson’s breasts don’t collapse under their own weight, brought down by gravity and exploding the thin layers of leather enclosing them. The words “wardrobe malfunction” seem to suggest some sort of complex human behavior; I’m sure that machines are involved, although I can’t say exactly how.

Well, at least now we know who the mystery guest was for the halftime show.

My guess is that there are at least three people who are pleased with the publicity that the yawn inducing “accident” has generated. The first is obviously Jackson herself, who has a new album coming out (if you’ll pardon the expression) next month. What a fortunate set of circumstances! Everyone is talking about her, and this might just help with sales of her new album!! FYI, here is the outfit that she was originally set to wear during the halftime show.

The second is Justin Timberlake, who managed to squelch all of those “Justin Timberlake is gay” rumors for at least another month.

The third is Kid Rock, who had a “wardrobe malfunction” of his own, offending a lot of people who have nothing better to worry about. Today, everyone is talking about Janet Jackson’s breast, and absolutely no one is complaining about pancho desecration.

posted by gunther at 4:51 PM Link