More George W. Bushisms: More of Slate's Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President

More George W. Bushisms: More of Slate's Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President

by Jacob Weisberg

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"Most of you probably didn't know that I have a new book out. Some guy put together a collection of my wit and wisdom -- or, as he calls it, my accidental wit and wisdom. [Laughter] But I'm kind of proud that my words are already in book form."
-- President George W. Bush,
discussing and reading from George W. Bushisms
By now, most


"Most of you probably didn't know that I have a new book out. Some guy put together a collection of my wit and wisdom -- or, as he calls it, my accidental wit and wisdom. [Laughter] But I'm kind of proud that my words are already in book form."
-- President George W. Bush,
discussing and reading from George W. Bushisms
By now, most of you probably do know about George W. Bushisms, the bestselling collection of misstatements made on the campaign trail by our president. Now, in More George W. Bushisms, Jacob Weisberg reveals that the malapropisms didn't stop on Inauguration Day:
"I've coined new words like misunderstanding and Hispanically."
"I haven't had a chance to talk, but I'm confident we'll get a bill that I can live with if we don't."
"Our nation must come together to unite."
"There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead."

These and many other presidential pearls are hilariously on display in More George W. Bushisms.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Follow a man around with a tape recorder long enough and he will say ridiculous things. If he is George W. Bush, to judge by this collection of verbal gaffes, he will say many ridiculous things-some funny ("It's about past seven in the evening here so we're actually in different time lines";) some callow ("This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating"); some mysterious ("We'll be a country where the fabrics are made up of groups and loving centers"); but most just embarrassing ("Of all states that understands local control of schools, Iowa is such a state"). Undoubtedly Bush struggles to "express himself with clarity and coherence," in the words of Garry Trudeau's foreword, but the tacit corollary-that he is a fool and unfit for the presidency-is not demonstrated here. While the characteristic "Bushisms" on display-stammering, misstatements, stubborn disagreements between subject and verb-may hint at the President's rumored dyslexia, mostly they portray a man whose limited rhetorical gifts cannot stand up to the 24/7 media glare. Defensive Bush supporters will find this an endearing proof of his authenticity; his detractors will laugh heartily but should, of course, look elsewhere for a substantive critique. B&w photos. (Nov. 5) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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Introduction: The Year in Bushisms

The predecessor to this volume was published in January 2001, during the brief interval between coronation and inauguration. The book began to sell, George W. Bush was sworn in, and I continued to wonder about one question: How did Bush feel about Bushisms? Was he chuckling along, Reagan-style, or percolating with Nixonian rage?

My puzzlement came to an end a few months later at the White House Correspondents Dinner when the president fulfilled my authorial fantasy by waving Slate's book of George W. Bushisms at 1,500 reporters. "Most of you probably didn't know that I have a new book out," he exclaimed, before launching into a reading. Repeating his line, "I believe the human being and fish can coexist peacefully," the president declared: "Anyone can give you a coherent sentence, but something like this takes you into an entirely new dimension." Bush recited several other classics ("make the pie higher," "more and more of our imports come from overseas"), before commending himself again. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have to admit, in my sentences I go where no man has gone before," he said.

The performance was, as the president likes to say, fabulous! Bill Clinton used to show up at these events and self-deprecate through clenched teeth. But Bush wasn't just rolling with the punches, he was running with them. If our president was an international laughingstock, he was at least a laughing laughingstock. Of course, W. being W., he committed a Bushism or two while discussing Bushisms. "I've coined new words, like, 'misunderstanding' and 'Hispanically,'" he noted. I believe he intended to say "misunderestimate," one of his signatures, but believing that to be an actual word, he was temporarily boggled by his own prepared text. So what do you call it when Bush, attempting a Bushism, stumbles and accidentally uses a word correctly? A reverse Bushism? A Bushismism?

In any case, it was impossible not to reciprocate this display of presidential goodwill. I soon found myself paroling Bushisms that might be excused as mere quirks of West Texas dialect, such as "nucular" for "nuclear," "tireously" for "tirelessly," "explayed" for "displayed," and, in what sounded like a kind of Tex-Mex omelet, "Infitada," for "Intifada." I let Bush's waving to Stevie Wonder at a concert -- a visual Bushism, you had to see it to appreciate it -- pass without comment.

When Bush sent the yen plunging by saying he'd spoken with the Japanese prime minister about "devaluation" (he was supposed to say "deflation"), I let it slide. And when he provoked a diplomatic crisis by accusing North Korea of violating agreements on nuclear weapons (there's only one agreement and no evidence of North Korea breaking it), that passed unmentioned as well. Surely, as one White House spinner proposed, the president was referring to possible future agreements that North Korea might sign and then violate. I found you could explain away a lot of slips once you bought into the notion that, as one aide put it, that's just how the president speaks.

After September 11, I stopped publishing Bushisms in Slate. This decision provoked considerable complaint from readers. Bush had urged the nation to get back to normal. What could be more normal than making fun of W.? Who was I to violate a presidential directive? My feeling, though, was that Bushisms had ceased to be funny. If the commander-in-chief was indeed a few bricks short of a load, we'd all better shut up about it and pray Dick Cheney was ordering the salmon. I figured I'd wait until The Evil One had been finished off, then get back to my collection. But six months on, Osama bin Laden was no longer much discussed, at least in Republican circles. And I had to admit, I was finding the Bushisms that readers and friends continued to send in funny again. So Slate's "Bushism of the Day" feature came back to life.

My job had not gotten any easier during the interim. Under the ever-watchful eyes of Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, the war-president was speaking in public less frequently and less spontaneously. The image team was no longer turning him loose on audiences with five hours sleep and no prepared text. In another blow, the White House Press Office began cleaning up its official transcripts of the president's remarks. I was no longer traveling with the president and depended on the verbatim accuracy of these accounts. If Bush said something about people working hard to put food on their families or removing the federal cuff link, would I even hear about it?

Happily, I still have my sources. Karen has gone home to Texas. And, despite Karl's best efforts, there are still those magical days when the president, without enough sleep or exercise, staggers out onto the White House lawn, searches in vain for a TelePrompTer, squints at the distant horizon, and opens his mouth. "And so, in my State of the -- my State of the Union -- or state -- my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it, speech to the nation -- I asked Americans to give 4,000 years -- 4,000 hours over the next -- the rest of your life -- of service to America. That's what I asked -- 4,000 hours." If I miss one of these moments, a helpful colleague in attendance or an alert Slate reader tuned in to C-Span generally brings it to my attention.

Back to you, Mr. President.

Copyright © 2002 by Jacob Weisberg.

Foreword copyright © 2002 by Garry Trudeau


While a great deal of thought and care has gone into the creation of this little volume, it is altogether fitting that none of it was by its author. That credit falls to the book's editor, Jacob Weisberg, whose unmatched bona fides as a curator of Bush family utterances extend back more than a decade. Weisberg cut his fangs on Bush pere, whose malapropisms he tracked as a lowly editorial assistant on 1992's Bushisms: President George Herbert Walker Bush, In His Own Words. That collection quickly died in the bookstores, but since it was published shortly before Bush senior tanked in the general election, Weisberg -- correctly, in my judgment -- was not held directly responsible. Thus, when George W. Bush suddenly emerged a few years later, making even less sense than his father, Weisberg was uniquely positioned, like an Arabic-speaking CIA agent on September 12. He immediately volunteered his services to Michael Kinsley, his editor at Slate, offering to set up a kind of conservatory for second wave Bushisms. Kinsley, famously supportive of folk art generally and outsider prose in particular, quickly signed off on the archival feature from which this collection -- and its bestselling predecessor -- is drawn.

Weisberg is the first to admit that, in cataloging and documenting Bushisms, he has had many enablers. Since his other duties at Slate precluded his being everywhere the president appeared in public, he has counted heavily on a posse of like-minded aficionados -- editors, reporters, and amateur collectors -- to send in Bushisms from the field not for recognition or monetary gain but out of love for the idiom. For this reason, this book is essentially a connoisseur's collection, created, as many Web-based projects are, out of the shared affection and labor of a few devoted souls -- in this case, the tightly knit Bushism community.

Their work has not always been easy. The White House now scrubs presidential transcripts clean of the more delightful gaffes, and members of self-selecting, partisan audiences cannot be relied on to faithfully report utterances that might alarm the rest of the country. Even if they were so inclined, like eyewitnesses at accidents, they would be unlikely to agree on exactly what happened the moment the president's train of thought flew off the rails. Some things Bush says simply defy reconstruction.

Of course, the president is now more disciplined, winging it far less, staying on TelePrompTer and thus mostly out of trouble. And yet there are moments when Bush cannot help being himself, when he feels so overcome with exuberance, so in "wings-take-dreams" mode, that he will tear his eyes from his text and say things like: "We'll be a country where the fabrics are made up of group and loving centers." Or: "The way I like to put it is this. There's no bigger issue for the president to remind the moms and dads of America, if you happen to have a child, be fortunate to have a child."

That Bush risks going off-book at all is not because he forgets about his peculiar verbal disability. It's because it never occurs to him that it might be important for the Leader of the Free World to express himself with clarity and coherence. Just as the mark of the educated man is a humbling awareness of how little he knows (thus the signature insecurity of professors), the most salient feature of the unschooled is cluelessness, the inability to grasp one's own condition. Bush is plenty smart -- and he's technically educated -- but because of his natural incuriosity about the wider world, Bush has fought a crippling, lifelong battle with ignorance. That he so frequently tells the public he "understands" such-and-such a problem has nothing to do with empathy -- it's about reassurance. Don't worry, he seems to say, I really am on top of things; I only talk this way because I'm real.

Or to quote him directly: "I admit it, I am not one of the great linguists."


Copyright © 2002 by Jacob Weisberg.

Foreword copyright © 2002 by Garry Trudeau

Meet the Author

Jacob Weisberg is the editor of Slate magazine and three previous editions of Bushisms. He lives in New York City.

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