Reality President

Bush's adventures in simple syntactical structures and challenges to logical thinking.

Britain’s Plain English Campaign recently awarded U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld its annual “Foot in the Mouth” Award for these confounding remarks on the U.S. Iraq policy: “Reports that say something hasn’t happened are interesting to me, because as we know, there are known unknowns; there are things we know we know.”

“We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” In recognizing Rumsfeld for the award, the organization observed wryly, “We think we know what he means. But we don’t know if we really know.”

A TV series airing on Fox in December is instructive and indeed symptomatic of both the Bush administration’s politics and contemporary American culture. Two rich girls from California are asked to live on an Arkansas farm and we witness their stupidity (“What does generic mean?”) as much as the subtle humiliation of the farmer family. The show, This Simple Life, is expected to be a ratings hit for Fox.
Some months ago, popular culture was abuzz with the troubles of Jessica Simpson, a young Pop singer (in the Britney mode) on a show called Newlyweds. Her stupidity is the stuff of legend (“Don’t the buffalo wings come from buffalos?) and the show proved a ratings bonanza for MTV. There is a settled wisdom in popular culture. The tone of the culture is set by the character and the persona of the president. Think of films like The Conversation (1974) about Richard Nixon (on lying and spying); Rambo (1986) modeled after Ronald Reagan (one man machismo to end everything against us) and The American President (1995) about Bill Clinton (the president who dates and is virile).

That explains it, doesn’t it!

We have been wondering why these dumb shows are spectacularly successful. Now we know. It has something to do with our president and people like Rumsfeld who he inflicts upon us. Perhaps observing this president is like watching a rich kid trying to make a living in the White House? Or, maybe it is like observing someone mangle the syntax and show how helplessly his mind works?

Slate magazine ( keeps an extensive log of Bushisms, the idiotic pronouncements of this president. By the time we are done with the next election, we are going to get deeper into his adventures in simple syntactical structures and challenges to logical thinking. Try this one: “The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the – the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice.”

For all we know, we are watching a reality show. Maybe the president declared war on Iraq just so his rich friends could watch an awesome fireworks display. We showed up for the party too. Dropping in for a couple of hours in Baghdad to serve thanksgiving dinner to the troops was surely a clever idea. What a turkey!

Perhaps it was equally cute that a simpleton from Texas visiting Washington D.C. was mistaken by the U.S. Supreme Court for president.
Here is a clever idea for the next reality show this presidential election season: Whoever constructs simple, logical statements gets to be president of the country.

Maybe that might work. Or maybe it won’t. Wonder if that is a known unknown or an unknown unknown in Rumsfeld’s book.  

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