reede, juuli 21, 2006

Yo, Blair!

By now I am sure you have all heard of the "shit" heard 'round the world. First let me put that very American saying "heard 'round the world" in context for you. When British troops fired on America militiamen on Lexington Green in Massachusetts in April 1775, begining the conflict that would lead to American independence, it was called the "shot heard round the world" in colonial media. But that is a fitting way to juxtapose the office of American president as conceived by our heroic "Founding Fathers" and the the office as occupied by its current tenant, one buttered-roll slurping George Walker Bush.

When Bush ran for office in 2000, most of us on the left (or middle) side of things denounced him for what we saw him as - a dumb college frat boy with an influential daddy (Bush I), military industrial complex backers (Cheney), and friends who claim to speak for God (DeLay). But Bush supporters - not unlike Clinton supporters in the early 1990s who looked the other way at his sexual indiscretions - swore their leader was fit for office. To him they ascribed great character traits - especially after 9/11. Sure he wasn't the most eloquent leader, but neither was Disney's version of Davey Crockett or Forrest Gump. And that's what they saw in him - a guy who was plainspoken but spoke from his gut. A guy who wasn't brilliant, but still would do good.

As the audiotape from the G-8 summit clearly shows, Bush speaks from his gut alright. Perhaps too much from his gut. When the word "yo" first appeared in American dialogue (roughly around the time hip hop emerged as a commercial artform) it was a hip hop slang word. It was used outside of that of course, but it is not a word my grandmother would use. Rather, it's the kind of word your high school English teacher would take you to task for uttering.

So the transcript of Bush's dialogue with Tony Blair at the summit in St. Petersburg is truly interesting. Because Bush not only said the dreaded 's' word, but because of his whole demeanor - starting with the word 'yo'

Bush: Yo, Blair. What are you doing? Are you leaving?

Blair: No, not yet. On this trade thing…

Bush: Yeah, I told that to (inaudible). If you want me to. I just want some movement. Yesterday I didn't see much movement. The desire to move.

Bush heard swearing about Syria

Blair: It may be that it’s impossible.

Bush: I'll be glad to say. Who's introducing me?

Blair: Angela

Bush:
Well tell her to call on it. Well, tell her to put me on the spot.

Thanks for the sweater; it was awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself.

Blair:
Oh, absolutely!

What about Kofi Annan? I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens.

I think the thing that is really difficult is you can’t stop this unless you get this international presence agreed. Now, I know what you guys have talked about but it's the same thing.

The next remarks are i naudible, but the conversation turns to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Blair: . . . see how reliable that is. But you need that done quickly.

Bush: Yeah, she's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.

Blair: Right. Well, that's, that's, that's all that matters. If you -- see, it'll take some time to get out there. But at least it gives people a --

Bush: A process, I agree. I told her your offer too.

It's unclear what offer he means, but apparently Blair offered to make some sort of public statement.

Blair: Well, it's only if it's -- I mean, you know, if she's gotta -- or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Obviously, if she goes out, she's got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk.

Bush: See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.


I don't know, but the the "shit" thing seems the least of what makes reading this transcript funny over and over again. Earlier in the dialogue, there's this gem.

Bush: It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China.


Russia's big. And so is China. Wow. Apparently people are already printing up "Yo, Blair" t-shirts and making a fortune. But personally, I'd prefer a shirt that just said "Russia's big and so is China." That one was my personal favorite. I used to hate Bush, but now I don't hate him anymore. I don't even feel sorry for him. I am just sort of - puzzled by him. He is our president. He sits in the same office as James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and JFK once did. It's sort of like listening to a heady Jefferson Airplane record from 1968 where they are singing "up against the wall, motherfucker" and then hearing Starship sing "We Built This City" 16 years later. What the hell happened? Is that was has happened to the US? Are we past our peak? Are we in the middle of, for lack of better terms, a midlife crises/sophomore slump?

And you Estonians are worried about whether your next president will be the septegenarian from Saaremaa with the impeccably combed white hair (Rüütel), the bachelorette astrophysicist (Ergma), or the europarliamentarian with the bow tie (Ilves). Maybe we can take some of your presidential rejects and use them here in Washington.

11 kommentaari:

Eppppp ütles ...

We should start selling "Russia's big and so is China" shirts in CafePress!

Pekka ütles ...

I trust that there has never been anybody like Dubya in the White House before. This fumbling, speech/thought impaired clown is the leader of the free world! How did it happen and why?

There is a lot of debating whether he is a plain village idiot or cracy like a fox? My wild quess is that he is on odd days an idiot and on even ones a fox. Nah, I think I got it now; he's a crazy, neo-nazi idiot, hell bent to tarnish the American reputation and take us all for a ride that we will never be able to forget...or forgive.

helsinkian ütles ...

pekka: "I trust that there has never been anybody like Dubya in the White House before."

Although I don't agree with your judgement on President Bush, I don't think he is that atypical of what many American Presidents have been like. Read more stuff on the early Republican Presidents (not Abe Lincoln) such as President Grant, President McKinley or about the whole period somewhere between those two called The Gilded Age.

President Wilson (who was an academic intellectual, no less) got much of the same criticism for his activist foreign policy for many of the same reasons, and people certainly questioned his judgment and sanity.

If you wonder how George W. Bush became President, read about the deal made in the smoke-filled back room about choosing Warren Harding as the Republican candidate despite everyone agreeing on his lack of character (but the GOP bigwigs thought they could push Harding around).

Read some of the meticulously researched stuff on the character of President Johnson and some of his language ("Yo, Blair!" is nothing - LBJ was the true Texan President). Maybe you can even listen to some of President Nixon's conversation from the Watergate tapes (don't read Nixon's post-presidency books, they are great and he wrote them on his own) and then you see Bush is a relatively nice speaker when the cameras are off.

By the way, I think many of the above-mentioned Presidents rate worse than GWB.

Giustino ütles ...

I can't rate our presidents. I have to say that I am disenchanted with the office of the presidency. Bush has been my least favorite president that I have experienced personally. Being that I've been around since the Carter years, that's not saying much.

So many countries separate their ceremonial heads of state and their genuine heads of state - like Italy, the UK, Estonia.

But Bush is supposed to be equal parts president and prime minister. And I think that's why I like NONE of our presidents. In fact, when hard pressed, it's hard for me to find a few I genuinely like.

I dilike this concept of the great American leader that combines the best of national intellect, the best of national soul, the best of national etiquette. It seems farfetched and unrealistic to expect such characteristics out of one human being.

On occasion I am caught thinking that Harry Truman was a great US president. But then I think otherwise.

Pekka K ütles ...

Helsinkian, I just have to go by what is happening to judge Dubya. Granted that, I may have left leaning ideology but, so far at least, I have been able and willing to see other points of view and change my opinions when needed. This president's performance has left me no such possibility.

If we judge him based on what good he has done to the world in general and to the U.S. in particular, I have to say that his achievements are just about as mythical as his neo-con policies. If I am not mistaken, his appeal has been that he could bring security to all of us. Not a single action he has taken so far, in my mind, has gone to bolster it and exact opposite could be claimed. He has uncanny ability to make unfriendly nations to hate him and friendly nations to take a worried second look and even dislike him. The whole area of South America has strong anti-Bush feelings, although this could be considered refreshing as not being the same old anti-American one. This man has become to symbolize exclusively things that most people in most regions can't stand.

My knowledge of history, as far as the American presidents are concerned, is woefully weak. I know that the chap like Wilson, after the WW I, decended from being a hero to a bum, but I have hard time in believing that it was as furiously felt as this one.

Before I close my rant, I would like to suggest that; his brand of ideology is starting to look more like fascism. This might sound like a huge over statement on my part, but if you look into the details of his policies, it is becoming unescapable that that's excatly what it is. Hyphenate it with words like neo, pseudo, or what ever, it still comes down to fascism. The man himself fits also the defenitions of psychopath or sociopath. Take your pick!

Giustino ütles ...

Before I close my rant, I would like to suggest that; his brand of ideology is starting to look more like fascism.

Oh, I agree, and in a quite sober manner. Bush's policies, when placed on a slippery slope, could lead to Mussolini-style fascism.

That's basically a fusion of the most powerful corporations with government power. And can it be honestly argued that that hasn't happened to a great extent under this adminsitration? Where the energy industry writes legislation? and the vice president's former company gets no-bid contracts for reconstruction in a war that the vice president was among the greatest advocates for? not to mention the use of hired mercenaries to augment the US forces in Iraq?

It's unsettling because it makes us question where private ends and public begins. And the citizens are left asking what control they actually have. Because it is only businessmen that control their businesses NOT voting citizens. But if the men controlling the state AND its most powerful industries act as one, well, then Houston, we have a problem...

helsinkian ütles ...

giustino: I absolutely agree with you that the job description of US president is inhumane. No one can fill those shoes. Already the US affairs bit is too much for one person not to speak of the world affairs bit.

My point was not to prove that all US presidents have been mediocrities who have allowed all sorts of scandals to happen, just that history remembers the great presidents and forgets the mediocre ones. There have probably been more mediocre presidents than great ones. In case of Wilson, who in some senses was a truly great president, history books usually tend to omit his faults.

pekka: South Americans hate Bush? The George W. Bush presidency has been the greatest period of calm and democratic development in South America. Those people are suspicious of the US because of everything that all the previous presidents combined have screwed up in South and Central America, which is not a pretty history. Yes, Bush has interfered with the affairs of Venezuela. That the CIA was unsuccessful there is a result of how little trust Bush has put in the CIA and their tradition of dealing with Latin American affairs.

The US problem with Latin America is usually attributed to the Cold War but this is just part of the truth. If you check out the record of the Taft and Wilson administrations in the Western Hemisphere, you can see that the US policy in Latin America showed a pattern of misguided interference and bungling before the Soviet Union even existed.

I think South American historians will not rate George W. Bush among the worst US presidents. He is a president who wants be the good guy for the Hispanic voters and they care about US policies toward Latin America. Mexico is a country he knew even before he became president. Bush is also almost unique among US presidents in that he understands Spanish and even speaks a tex-mex variant of that language. He's no John Kerry when it comes to linguistic skills but compared to the average US president before him, his Spanish skills are a huge asset. I know that the language requirements for US presidents are not as important as for presidents of a small country but Spanish skills are of great use in both domestic and foreign policy.

You guys certainly raised the topic of which US president was great and that's a great question. One of the US presidents that is greatly appreciated here in Europe is FDR. Interestingly enough, many of his perceived faults are exactly the same as those of George W. Bush (the fascism comparisons, compare the internment of Japanese Americans to Gitmo, accusations of being dictatorial, being disliked and demonized by the minority party, FDRs warm relationship to the Soviets vs. GWBs warm relationship to the Saudis). Still, considering what type of politics dominated the thirties and what beacon of hope FDR represented then to the free world, I'd say FDR is the greatest because of the moment in history he ruled. It's not because FDR is such a good president compared to other US presidents but given the circumstances I have a hard time of thinking anyone else would have done any better at that point in time. That was when the US presidency mattered the most to the world and may we never experience such a moment (the outbreak of WWII) again.

Giustino ütles ...

FDR went out in a puff of smoke, gulping down painkillers and shaking Stalin's bloody hand at Yalta.

It's the gents that finished the mess of the 1940s I believe are worthy of praise. Hence, the weakness for Harry the Trume, he who bombing the babies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and began the Cold War.

Actually, believe it or not, Eisenhower similarly strikes me as a good president, as well. He made some good calls at tough times. I am particularly glad he managed to shut Joe McCarthy's operation down. Not perfect, but not George W Bush either.

I'm not fond of ideologues. And Bush is an ideologue. I'd rather have practical leaders that get jobs done.

helsinkian ütles ...

Eisenhower was never a very strong Republican, he chose between the two parties and decided to go for the GOP. It was somewhat similar with Colin Powell, who has been a very visible GOP moderate but who chose not to run for President.

George W. Bush inherited Republicanism from his father. But is he an ideologue?

He has no ideological opposition against spending, which some see as a truly Republican position (especially the 1994 crowd). He is no anti-immigrant, even if many ideologues push for such positions these days.

Arguably he is an ideologue on the gay marriage issue but it could just a gamble if knows his position won't win but it will prevent the true ideologues from leaving the party.

In foreign policy he may be an ideologue and in that case it is an idealism he to some extent shares with President Wilson. But both Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush entered office giving the picture they'll do nothing of the like and had no such ideological ambitions in the pre-presidency period. When Wilson invaded Haiti in 1915, rather than ideology he was speaking of American interests. FDR, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, got the job of writing the constitution that the Wilson Administration imposed on Haiti. When US troops left Haiti 19 years later, the usual perception was that the ambition to create a stable and democratic Haiti hadn't worked. FDR himself completed the withdrawal that President Hoover had started.

We'll see in some years what will happen to Iraq, but the way the Wilson Administration handled the invasion of Haiti, they never took the wishes of the Haitian people into account. There is much more hope that the Iraqi Constitution will work and there are other people, including Iraqis, who have an interest in it that it will work than a US administration official at the level of Assistant Secretary.

Giustino ütles ...

No, Bush is an ideologue. And yes, most ideologues are hypocrites.

Bush will spend as much as he wants, but he'll still see himself as starving the beast.

I mean, the whole Iraq adventure was framed and built on ideological whimsy.

That's the difference between Bush and his father. His father wasn't an ideologue, yet was very Wilsonian in his own right (Panama? Somalia? Kuwait?). But he never took out Saddam, even when he had the chance.

Why? Because that takes a lot more than fact. That takes "belief" and "faith" and "gut" and all that wishywashy crap you can't nail to the table. That means being responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths just because your gut says it must be done.

Some people like the idea that their president hears the whispers of God and makes decisions based on them. But I don't. And most Americans don't. It scares the crap out of me.

Pekka K ütles ...

My bitterness knows no limits. I am smoking mad and frustrated and I curse the modern life till I die.

I just managed write the longest comment ever and I think it made even some sense. My flash of brilliance will stay unknown to you, though, for I managed to loose it. PERKELE, this is not going to be good even after a bottle of Kossu!