A lot of people have been in arms over Bush’s candid conversation with Tony Blair on Sunday; Bush was discussing the current Middle Eastern problem, and swore whilst suggesting a simplistic plan to solve the issues.
One of my colleagues, who happens to be studying his Arabic in Damascus this summer, took a different tact than most bloggers who’re talking about this, and instead commented on Bush’s body language during the clip, noting that it’s completely different than what we see in televised conferences; Bush is at ease, commanding, and Blair is very submissive in response. It was the first time he’s seen the charisma so many people say Bush has, and he understands a bit more why people who’ve met the guy tend to like him. (Of course, one could point out that most people who’ve met the guy and liked him are also Republicans, but I do see his point.)
The thing is, said colleague is right: Bush’s body language radiates someone who is comfortable, and is a far cry from the very hesitant, gawky and awkward language he gives when speaking “officially”. I hate to say it, but the guy just might be camera shy. I disagree with basically every single thing he’s done in his presidency, but I will say that I don’t think that our government officials should have to be magnetic movie stars.
But I think that for a lot of us, our first real exposure to a president WAS a movie star – Reagan was composed in front of cameras, so we naturally expect everyone to follow to be the same. In reality, that’s a far cry from what politicians used to be like, and for the most part are. After all, if they were actors, they’d be, well, acting. (And let’s put aside the snide comments about a lot of politics being acting in front of cameras.)
It’s often been said that our best presidents would never have been elected had television been around – after all, who’d elect a guy in a wheelchair?
Realizing this in the last couple of days has actually given me a lot to think about with regards to politicians and what we expect of them, and why. They’re certainly public figures these days, for better or worse, but I think we have to remember that being a public figure doesn’t necessarily mean someone must also be an actor.
That said, I could care less that Bush swore, and spoke like most of us do. Sure, what he said was pretty basic – although I again suspect most of us can be accused of saying simplistic “if we could just get such’n’so to knock it off…” about the Middle East.
Personally, I’m simply glad to find that the President was thinking about the Middle East crisis, as opposed to wanting to keep people asking about pig, as he did at his press meeting last week. “You asked about the Middle East? But I thought you’d want to ask about the pig we’re having for dinner! I’m looking forward to that pig for dinner!”