Bush: The Hard Work of Love

I’ve been looking for transcripts of the debate tonight (or last night and last month, technically, because we’ve crossed over into Friday and October) because I wanted to make sure the heading on that first debate post was correct. It’s not really a surprise, but the transcripts I’m finding are “sanitized”; they clean up the speakers’ little tics and hems and haws, but also appear to clean up some of Bush’s butchered syntax and frequent subject-verb disagreement and word-slurring. Some of that can’t be rendered well in print and shouldn’t. But for the record, it seems important to represent what they really said, butchery and all, rather than offer a version that cleans up language errors that were an important part of the exchange and how it will be perceived.

I finally found video of Bush, and here’s the “commander in chiefs” line as he said it and how it appears in transcripts:

Video: “That’s not what commander in chiefs does when you’re trying to lead troops.”
Transcript: “Not what a commander in chief does when you’re trying to lead troops.”

But to be honest, Bush was so garbled in his delivery that the “that’s” at the beginning of the sentence was contracted almost to just “s.” and he may have slipped an “a” in front of the commander. But the “chiefs does” is indisputable. I feel sorry for the poor transcribers.

All that said, here was another gem that I missed during the broadcast:

Bush: You know, I think about Missy Johnson. She’s a fantastic lady I met in Charlotte, North Carolina. She and her son Brian, they came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed. He’d been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.

You know, it’s hard work to try to love her as best as I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm’s way.

What did he mean? “It’s hard work to try to love her as best I can”?

‘Not What Commander in Chiefs Does’

Now, I think it’s wrong to assume President Bush is an idiot. I mean, there’s some reason, perhaps invisible to those of us who never get to meet him or see him in action behind the scenes, that he got where he is. I mean, beyond the privileged background and unwavering support of partisan zealots and big corporate interests. But tonight’s “debate,” which is about halfway over as I write, is a great example of why so many people, me included, keep concluding he’s a nitwit. Never mind the baseless conclusions he continues to argue for on Iraq and terrorism and security. The phrase in the post title is just one example of the constant tangle he found himself in when contending with basic spoken English and logical argument during his appearance with Kerry. He seems so ill at ease, so hesitant and uncertain about how to phrase his responses, so dependent on falling back on the charge that Kerry has been inconsistent in his positions. I’d say Kerry got the better of him — just spoke more clearly, thought well on his feet, didn’t lose himself (much) in his dangerous, tortuous prolixity.

Of course, the way things are today spinwise and swing voter-wise, no one will really win this debate when it’s all over.