Bush Passes The Fundamental Test Of Cheerleading
In his September 16 speech to the National Guard
, Senator John Kerry said that President George W. Bush has ''failed the fundamental test of leadership: he failed to
tell you the truth.''
In one sense, Kerry is correct: In Bush’s own address to the National Guard he had painted a rosy picture of Iraq that
bore scant resemblance to reality and directly contradicted by the gloomy National Intelligence Estimate delivered to
the president in July. Bear in mind, that NIE covered the period before the situation in Iraq took a dramatic turn for
Telling citizens the truth is indeed a fundamental test of leadership — for a commander-in-chief. But what if Bush
fancies himself the “cheerleader-in-chief”?
Surely Kerry knows that the role of cheerleader-in-chief carries an entirely different set of responsibilities and
audience expectations. It is the job of a cheerleader to look at and chant on the bright side (“We’re big/We’re bad”),
even when his team is on the wrong end of a 45-0 score. Cheerleaders mock and belittle the opposing team, from first
minute to last, even when the opposition is steamrolling to victory. The job of the cheerleader is NOT to accurately
reflect, in voice and body language, the debacle unfolding on the playing field.
Kerry may be loathe to acknowledge it, but let there be no doubt that President Bush has “passed the fundamental test of
cheerleading.” Not once or twice, but day in and day out. When Bush praised the “darn good intelligence” on Iraqi WMD
and when he touts the great progress toward democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, he’s passing the fundamental test of
cheerleading. When he says with a straight face that his opponent tried to gut the intelligence budget in the 1990s, or
now wants to nationalize health care, he’s passing the fundamental test of cheerleading.
As a young man, Bush was an outstanding cheerleader at Andover, a preppy and peppy prep school. He’s rightly proud of
those spirit-building efforts, and it was a stroke of genius to incorporate in his adult political career the “we’re
great, they’re the pits” approach to communication that is the foundation of cheerleading.
My one objection is the president’s refusal to alert his audience that he’s in cheerleader mode. Fortunately, there’s a
simple, non-verbal way he can let folks know that nothing he’s about to say — not the over-the-top praise for his
administration nor below-the-belt denunciations of Kerry — bears the slightest resemblance to reality: dress the part.
Whenever Bush introduces a campaign ad, delivers a speech, or fields softball questions at “Ask President Bush”
sessions, he should come bounding out in red sweater, white slacks and blue shoes, and shout out his lines through a
At live appearances, pom-pom twins Jenna and Barbara can warm up the crowd with a couple of chants before introducing
Way too nuance-able
He’s our man
If he can’t democratize Iraq
By creating the atmosphere of a pep rally and looking the part, President Bush can make it clear to the audience that
they’re about to watch a fiction-based show rather than a fact-based speech. Thus, the audience can get into the spirit
of the performance and have a blast, cheering and booing as they see fit, but knowing not to base their upcoming vote on
a single word that comes out of Bush’s megaphone.
©2004 by Dennis Hans
Bio: Dennis Hans (HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu) writes serious and humorous stuff for fun and profit. He has taught courses
in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, and prior to the
Iraq war he penned the prescient essays “Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His ‘Techniques of Deceit’” ( http://www.democraticunderground.com/articles/03/02/12_lying.html
) and “The Disinformation Age” ( http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0303/S00011.htm