Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Misunderestimatin' Blues

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Was George W. Bush truly misunderestimated by the American public, or was he in fact a tool of the neo-conservatives with the intellectual capacity of a geranium? That’s a question that most third-graders could answer, excluding, of course, those born and raised in the Bible Belt who are struggling with their own educational and intellectual issues.

Our former President will be primarily remembered for the Bush Doctrine (the “right” to start any war we damn well please – no provocation necessary), the dismantling of the United States Constitution (lock them up and we’ll come up with charges later, maybe) ignoring the Geneva Convention on the Rights of Prisoners (extraordinary rendition, anyone?), and his almost criminal mangling of the English language.

The Bush years were good ones for funeral directors, grave diggers, and the orphanages of Iraq. There are the thousands of American spouses, children, parents, grieving friends, and other loved ones who will forever have a hole in their hearts due to Bush's unresolved issues with his father. The Bush Presidency was also a Godsend to the companies that make a living raping the environment, building weapons, and manufacturing artificial limbs.

But through it all, most of the public was reluctant to point out that the emperor had no clothes – that George W. Bush, in fact, was an intellectual lightweight. (Intellectual lightweight is a tactful way of saying “stupid” for those of you with degrees from fundamentalist religious “universities.”) Now, however, the data are in and the truth can be told.

Mark Nicholas, a blogger with The Huffington Post, did some definitive research comparing the speaking (and thinking-on-your-feet) abilities of George W. Bush compared to those of Barack Obama. He began by retrieving transcripts of the first press conference held by each President. (Obama’s was last night, and Bush held his first press conference on February 22, 2001.) Mr. Nicholas copied each of those transcripts into separate Word documents, and then deleted their introductory (scripted) remarks and the questions asked by the reporters – leaving only the answers and off-the-cuff remarks given by each President. He then ran the remaining material of each document through Word’s readability tool.

And the results?

Bush was communicating on a seventh grade level, and Obama was speaking to us on a tenth grade level. Is anyone surprised?

The downside is, of course, that President Obama was speaking over the heads of many Americans and the entire Republican membership of Congress – a big part of his intended audience. While I personally enjoy watching Helen Thomas spar with our Commander-in-Chief, it is likely that many quickly flipped the channel and caught reruns of Monk, Law and Order, or NCIS.

In an effort to stimulate the economy and communicate more effectively with the “silent majority,” or “moral majority,” or whatever the hell the know-nothings are calling themselves nowadays, I respectfully suggest that our government employ a squad of starving artists and turn all of the President’s future pronouncements into comic books, graphic novels, cartoons, or video games so that all of America has equal access to his ideas.

Our President is an intelligent and honorable person who is trying to reach out to our better selves. He is light years ahead of his predecessor in terms of basic humanity, and at least three grade levels in speaking ability. It would be the country’s loss if we allow the Republican noise machine to limit his ability to change our national priorities and salvage the Bush shipwreck of an economy.

We did misunderestimate George W. Bush. In eight years he managed to launch two unwinnable wars in the Middle East, cause a budget surplus to evaporate and be replaced by trillions of dollars of debt, subvert the Constitution of the United States of America, destroy our reputation around the globe, and turn himself into a laughingstock. Who would have thought that somebody with the communication skills of a seventh grader could create that much havoc?

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