Wednesday, September 17, 2003

WORDS FAIL HIM. AT NRO Jay Nordlinger talks about the great rhetoric of George W. Bush. "When all is said and done," Nordlinger shouts over derisive laughter, "his presidency may be known for its rhetoric (among other things). Then George W. Bush, the tongue-tied embarrassment, will have the last laugh — yet another last laugh. 'Misunderestimated' once more."

That'll show us. So what examples does Nordlinger offer? Here are all of them from the first half of Nordlinger's article (the thing just goes on and on), freed of his rah-rah framings and attaboy interjections:

He may be alive. If he is, we'll get him. If he's not, we got him.

Ozzy Osbourne: Mr. President, you should wear your hair like mine!
Bush: Second term, Ozzy, second term.

I fully understand... there will be times when people feel a sense of normalcy -- and I hope that happens sooner rather than later -- and that September 11th may be a distant memory to some. But not to me...

One of my jobs is to make sure nobody gets complacent. One of my jobs is to remind people of the stark realities that we face. See, every morning I go into that great Oval Office and read threats to our country -- every morning... Some of them are blowhards, but we take every one of them seriously. It's the new reality.

We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities... Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.

I'm encouraging schoolchildren to write letters of friendship to Muslim children in different countries.

I'm going to talk about homeland security, but the best way to secure our homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice, and that is what we're going to do.

In the face of today's new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it.

My attitude is, the best way to secure the homeland is to unleash the mighty United States military and hunt them down and bring them to justice. And the best way to fight evil at home is to love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.

There will be times of swift, dramatic action. There will be times of steady, quiet progress.

This is an unusual kind of war because it sometimes will show up on your TV screens and sometimes it won't. Sometimes there will be moments of high drama, and, of course, good reporters will be going -- all kinds of hyperventilating, about this action or that action. And sometimes you won't see a thing.

Remember, these examples are offered as a defense of Bush's rhetoric. But seen plain, of what do they consist, really? One coherent if otherwise unremarkable attack on moral relativism, a bunch of threats that wouldn't pass muster in a Vin Diesel script conference, a few non-sequiturs (including the strangest application of "Love Thy Neighbor" this side of these guys), one decent joke, and a lot of filler.

While the editors of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations are probably tearing their hair out, I imagine Nordlinger is chuckling, and perhaps collecting a few C-notes from Jonah Goldberg. ("I never thought you'd have the balls to do it, Jay!" "I know. Sometimes I surprise myself.")

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