The Bush Language

President Bush has provided thousands of hours of material for comedians around the world to make fun of his pronunciation. A quick search on produces no less than a couple dozen books making fun of the “Bushisms.” The dearth of press conferences by the President has drawn criticisms. According to the Democratic National Committee, Bush held only 15 press conferences in his first four years in office. Instead, the Bush White House has focused on well-planned speeches and other public appearances.
This tool of rhetoric has worked quite well for Bush. The message control in the White House is notorious, and works to create a single message about any topic. The Bush Administration has institutionalized message control. The message is not just mainstreamed throughout the White, but also throughout the executive branch. For example, in January of 2003 Bush established, through executive order, the Office of Global Communications. The mission of this office is to:
Advise the President, the heads of appropriate offices within the Executive Office of the President, and the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) on utilization of the most effective means for the United States Government to ensure consistency in messages that will promote the interests of the United States abroad, prevent misunderstanding, build support for and among coalition partners of the United States, and inform international audiences.

This is but one example of the message control employed at the White House. It works not only to control the message, but also to bypass the public diplomacy and public affairs networks of the Department of State.
When the President speaks, he wields great power with his language, albeit with help from his speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson. His work has produced some very powerful language at key times. One of those is the January 2004 State of the Union Address:
America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom.

Bush uses this language on not only special occasions. He does not often quote scripture. Nonetheless, he often makes inferences that may not sound so religious, but ring home for his religious base.
Many phrases and “sayings” employed by the president have biblical or hymnal roots. They are appealing and comforting. Martin Luther King, Jr. mastered this in his speeches and writings. All Presidents borrow language from their predecessors. Michael Gerson, President Bush’s speechwriter, noted in an interview that sometimes there just is not time for historical reflection, such as on September 20 or 2001, when Bush declared war on Afghanistan. “It was just not a case where I could go back and look at what Woodrow Wilson had said when he declared war.” Many times though, when Gerson does not craft his words, Bush falls back on his language of choice – his faith based conscious.
When Bush is speaking or when Gerson is crafting, two audiences are kept in mind. The two groups hear the same words in two very different ways. Those who are fluent in the bible, and bible-speak, connect very quickly with the President and his underlying message. This was critical in the months following September 11, and the President has continued to use this language in discussing the war on terror (including Iraq).
A primary example of this religious speak being exploited to send slightly subtle messages is a reference then Governor Bush made to a Methodist Hymn. In a memorandum to his staff members (Appendix A), he referred to a painting and its inspirational hymn, “A Charge to Keep I Have” (Appendix B). To some this is an interesting quote referring to art, a hymn and a painting, but to others it is an explicit reminder of the ultimate source of authority in the Bush Administrations, then in Texas and now in Washington.

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