July 18, 2006

The President and the open microphone.

Yesterday, I considered writing a little post about President Bush's remarks that were caught on a microphone that wasn't supposed to be on, but I couldn't think up anything interesting to say about it. (The key quote is: "See, the irony is what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.") Frankly, I don't care if the President says "shit" in private conversations unless it upsets the person he's talking to.

Then, I saw the brutal treatment of President Bush that Jon Stewart did last night on "The Daily Show," and I reconsidered. The funny thing is that what bothered me intensely was the way President Bush was chewing with his mouth open right before he said it, which Stewart imitated mercilessly. But that's got nothing to do with a microphone left on. He knew he was on camera. I really don't get it! He eats like that at an official affair? That's only marginally acceptable at a backyard barbecue with your drunken friends.

Anyway, reading the NYT this morning, I was surprised at how mellow its article was. They don't find the actual "shit" quote fit to print. They just say:
Using a vulgarity, Mr. Bush said at one point that Syria should get Hezbollah to stop its attacks on Israel, describing American policy in the kind of unfettered language that he acknowledged only weeks ago sometimes gets him in trouble when he uses it publicly.
But Jim Rutenberg's article doesn't concentrate on that one quote, but on the general tone of the President's "chit-chat."
“No, I’m just going to make it up,” Mr. Bush said in one aside, presumably to an aide, apparently referring to remarks he would be making to the other leaders. “I’m not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.”
I'm sure they do. They've got Bush in their presence to lecture.
...Mr. Blair walks by, and the president yells out, “Yeah, Blair, what are you doing? Leaving?” It is the beginning of a conversation contrasting Mr. Blair’s soft-spoken style to Mr. Bush’s more forceful one, with Mr. Bush often interrupting him.

After Mr. Blair raises the issues of global trade talks, Mr. Bush abruptly changes the subject to a recent gift from the prime minister for Mr. Bush’s 60th birthday. “Thanks for the sweater, awfully thoughtful of you,” Mr. Bush says, then jokes, “I know you picked it out yourself.”

Mr. Blair, laughing, says, “Oh, absolutely, absolutely.”

Mr. Bush again abruptly changes the subject to the most serious matter of the meetings here, the Middle East. “What about Kofi?” he says, referring to Mr. Annan. “That seems odd.”...

“I don’t like the sequence of it,” Mr. Bush said. “His attitude is basically, cease fire and everything else happens.”
Does it hurt to hear that?

ADDED: And then there's "einer Blitz-Massage."


Internet Ronin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Goesh said...

I think it is hilarious and I don't believe for a second that Bush didn't know the mic was on. He conveyed his gut feelings in a way he normally couldn't do and registered his disgust with Syria - a good slap to the face of Assad, and smacking the lips is not unusual in many parts of the world. What a dilemma for Syrain intelligence analysts to decipher, showing good lip-smacking manners and saying "shit" at the same time - no wonder ther bast**** repeatedly underestimate us. He needs to do a Clinton and say shit doesn't really mean fecal matter, it is just a common expression that really means, "all I am saying is give peace a chance and I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony"

Internet Ronin said...

If Barbara Bush sees the video, what are the odds she mentions something about him chewing with his mouth open when next they talk? Mothers tend to have strong opinions on faux pas like this.

BTW, maybe it is just me, but I thought Bush said "Yo! Blair!" not "Yeah, Blair." I thought that was interesting.

TWM said...

I would imagine it is easy to forget that the cameras are always there, when they are, in fact, always there. I love that he isn't fake and says what he means. Unpolished, yes, but I for one don't care.

Al Maviva said...

Occasionally, things like that need to be said. You can talk peace and shuttle diplomacy and road maps all you want, but when the people you are up against kidnap Israelis to send them to Iran - presumably because the power cords aren't long enough to bring the torture chambers' power drills from Tehran to the Bekaa Valley - you are up against people who simply don't recognize our niceties and fluffy language except as an invitation to do us violence.

The advisors to Bashar Assad are being quoted in the middle eastern papers as being really excited. They believe that this is the opportunity that Hezbollah and Syria needed to crush Israel and kill all the Jews there, which isn't the end goal but it's a good start on the Jewish problem. They consider us Jews too, it's sort of a synonym among Islamacists, near as I can tell, for "pigs" or "people I really really hate." Love them or hate them, the Israelis are doing us a favor here. My only gripe with Bush's comments is he should have added, "good to see the Israelis stepping in to clean up that dogpile before we're forced to do it. Now pass the f***ing potatoes, willya Tony?"

Abraham said...

Does it hurt to hear that?

No, not really. That's pretty much how most people I know talk among friends. I think Bush is trying to be friendly and casual.

Art said...

Two words: Frat Boy. Think of Bluto munching on that turkey leg.

Needless to say that had a Democrat been in the White House this would be spun as a sure sign of the moral decay rampant under a liberal administration.

Anyone care to fanticize about the media coverage if Bill Clinton had laid his hands on a female head of state?
Hint: If you were watching Fox News your TV set would have burst into flames by now.

Yeah, I know people get tired of complaints about the double standard but Bush is getting off easy if the only person trashing him for this is Jon Stewart.

jau said...

What the heck is the problem? The word 'shit' is not a vulgarity in any way shape or form. It's not diplomatic and it's not smooth, but who among Hezbullah, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel are being decorous?? I agree that Bush almost certainly used this as a way to get his actual opinion out without having to say it carefully. If not, we'd have seen more of this before. Plus, it's not as if quiet pleasant well-coiffed people have had ANY success in the Middle East, or did I miss something?

Jonathan said...

What Jon Stewart thinks doesn't matter. What the leaders of Syria and Iran think does. Weaker words would be interpreted as weakness and invite further aggression, so it was a good thing he was heard saying what he said. Reminds me of Reagan's "we start bombing in five minutes" crack. Such unforced expressions of directness and confidence from our leaders help to deter our enemies.

Troy said...

Art... first, Clinton wouldn't have the balls to grope a head of state. Interns and state secretaries are his bag -- you know, women he can "help". Two words for Bill Clinton -- Frat Boy -- think Otter persuing the obits and then trying to schtupp the sorority girl whose fiance has just died.

The more interesting double standard would be how the press would play a Hillary F-bomb or somesuch. "Ladies" aren't supposed to swear in public, etc. Bush, Bill C., et al. get a pass... would Condi or Hillary?

Brian said...

Ann, How could you? Don't you know that, during a "time of war," pointing out the obvious fact that the current occupant of the White House is a perpetual embarassment to us all constitutes TREASON!!

I know, I know. You may say you aren't drawing attention to anything that isn't already known by our enemies. However, what you elites forget is that those terrorist folks wouldn't be able to remember what a walking embarassment we have representing our country if you and your liberal friends didn't keep reminding them.

And, you can kiss your budding country music career goodbye!!

Troy said...

make that "perusing".

DaveG said...

Anyone care to fanticize about the media coverage if Bill Clinton had laid his hands on a female head of state?

I can't remember ever, having to fanticize about B.J. Clinton laying his hands on any female, given the frequency with which he did just that.

Now, would you care to explain the equivalency of sexual imposition, often allegedly bordering on rape, and the usage of a common expression in an ostensibly private conversation?

Troy said...

Brian... relax -- bad manners is not treason it just means your mom didn't raise you to be polite (as apparently Bush's mom didn't either).

knoxgirl said...

He's trying too hard to foment that Texan "swagger" he's got.

The open-mouth chewing grossed me out, too. sheesh

Brian said...

Troy, are you saying that Ann's criticism does not constitute TREASON?!?!? C'mon Troy. Yer either with us or agin us. (If I used such things, I would insert one of those "dripping with sarcasm" gif files, both here and at the end of my earlier comment).

Elizabeth said...

Mark it on your calendar. This is one on which I agree with Bush: Syria's gotta stop that shit.

Seven Machos said...

This is all very amazing to me. President Bush is caught on a microphone speaking candidly to another important world leader. He says "shit" and implicates Syria as a state that is either weak or attacking Israel. But everyone -- left and right -- wants to talk about Clinton and table manners.


Internet Ronin said...

Seven - Cut down on the caffeine, please! People are talking about what they want to talk about. It isn't really an important thing and no one can honestly say they are surprised by any opinions revealed, or that they were newsworthy.

Is everything you see and do seen as reflecting left or right views?

About the only newsworthy thing was that Blair gave Bush a sweater for his birthday. I wonder what color?

Meade said...

So marked... with respectful pleasure and pleasant respect.

Armando said...

This is a very good post Professor Althouse.

I hope I do not offend you in saying that, given the subject matter, I am pleasantly surprised.

Well done.

Chum said...

Re the Merkle moment. The look on the Chancellor's face...how many woman immediately related to the uncomfortable, wtf look? Those situations are bad enough when they happen at the office or in a professional setting. That she was engaged in conversation at the time is incredible.

Don't know what the big deal is about his word use, the man is thinking he's speaking in private, and his conversation was consistent with his 'public' position.

SteveR said...

He took the words right out of my mouth.

bearbee said...

Agree on the his having no couth while eating. Wonder if his table manners improve in the presence of his wife?

Would the segment have hit the airways if he hadn't said 'shit'?

Tony Blair is a hard act to follow. You can watch his Wednesday's Q&A in the House of Commons. He is quick,agile and humorous. And the boisterous House of Commons is a kick.

Hecla Ma said...

I always thought the "frat boy" moniker was more applicable to Clinton. After all what does a frat boy do? Stays up all night, chewing the fat, chasing the girls, having a cigar, having fun! That's Clinton. Bush is in bed by ten and not into the bullsessions. Another projection from the left.

John said...

"About the only newsworthy thing was that Blair gave Bush a sweater for his birthday. I wonder what color?"

Yeah. I thought Tony bought into the looming global warming disaster about to befall us. Why would GW need a sweater?

tcd said...

Yes, what color and was it soft as a baby's butt cashmere?

the pooka said...

Why would GW need a sweater?

Because he knows W doesn't "buy into it."

(Why can't we have a leader with an ironic sense of humor, too?)

Harkonnendog said...

I was a little disgusted by the way Bush was eating, too. He was being rude. Disappointing.

Anthony said...

Clinton would have gotten a complete pass.

You know, like when he was filmed laughing and joking at Ron Brown's memorial service until he saw the cameras and then quickly switched to looking all somber and contemplative.

I remember a lot of commentary on that. Not.

Casey said...

Shit is not a cuss word in Texas.

Seven Machos said...

Ronin -- Fascinating. "Is everything you see and do seen as reflecting left or right views?" That's exactly my point.

Here is an opportunity to hash out how a sitting president sees the current hot war in Lebanon and Israel, via an apparently unguarded comment to a trusted ally (cf. the "excited utterance" parallel in Evidence Law). However, the conversation immediately swings to whether or not the last president would be chastised or not.

I put it to you, Ronin, isn't this an indictment of our political culture? Aren't we fiddling a bit here instead of focusing on what is important?

John said...

Just got done reading some of the comments from the MetaFilter site and I must say, 'shit' is mild compared to some of the intelligent dissenters who are sooo offended by this action!

charlotte said...

Maybe it would have been more appropriate had Bush said, "Syria and Iran have shat the ME to hell and damnation," and then quoted Trey Parker: "Terrorists your game is through cause now you have to answer too, America [Israel], F*** YEAH!"

Or, not.

Old Dad said...

Ok let's reasonably speculate...

The President was raised by George H.W.Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush, both creme de la creme of old money blue blood northeast culture. They know what the little forks are for.

First born male child, George W. Bush, knows what the little forks are for, who to cuss in front of and when--guaran..god..damned..teed.

Same George was raised from early infancy to adolescence in Midland, Texas. Those boys know how to cuss and fight and chew with their mouths open.

Euro elites are often poorly educated and foul mouthed with hideous manners.

Most human beings adapt their behavior to the circumstance. My guess is that W was not the only "distinguished" political leader who was swearing like a sailor, picking her seat, and trying to interact as normal human beings do.

A thought experiment--and be honest--imagine that you had an open mic at every important business/ professional event of your life--and a camera. You picked your nose, too, and you know it.

Yeah, yeah, he's the President, but I'd give you 5-1 that he was absolutely middle of the road at his table on the boorishness scale.

Think about it. Given the world wide media love of this man, can you seriously think for even a second that we'd not know for certain if he was a social cretin?

Craig Ranapia said...

Anyone care to fanticize about the media coverage if Bill Clinton had laid his hands on a female head of state?

Did I miss the bit where President Bush copped a feel of Angela Merkel's boobs? Seriously, Art, back in 1998 Bill Clinton attended the APEC Summit in Auckland, New Zealand. I don't recall Fox - or anyone else - spontaneously combusting when he "laid his hands" (and kissed on the cheek more than once) his hostess, then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.

Come on, Art, this is a rather lame beat-up which I really wouldn't dignify with attention, no matter the party of the President involved.

Dawn said...

Dad, for what it's worth, yeah, the Bushes came from money (they earned), but as a kid, W lived in a one bedroom apartment with mom and dad, and had to share a common bathroom with the other apartment on their floor. I hardly think they had much use for the 'tiny fork', if they had it.

My source, btw, is the recent biography of Laura Bush.

In my part of Minnesota (the red part), this wasn't even discussed, since everybody I know pretty much agreed with him.

PatCA said...

I guess what surprises me is how pedestrian this whole gathering was! I thought they'd all be sitting around in a state of high anxiety yakking about world problems or something. Looks like a local chamber of commerce luncheon, not the freaking G8! Oh well, at least they gave up on the "native costume" bit.

As for the open mouth, let's be honest, he was about to say something so quickly finished his food and leaned back.

I did like the "F*** yeah" Team America meme, though. I think Israel needs to write that on a few bombs: "stop this S***"!

Candymarl said...

Bush is a moron. He's showing them what by displaying less table manners than a two year old? I have better manners than that. Maybe he should fart loudly in front of the other world leaders. He could fart the Star Spangled Banner. That'll show 'em!
A Vet