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Jewish World Review June 28, 2001 / 7 Tamuz, 5761

Jim Wooten

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Europe discovered the real Bush, now it's time for America to do so, too -- CHEVY CHASE, the actor and comedian whose "Saturday Night Live" parodies did to Gerald Ford what commentators are now doing to George W. Bush, explained himself at a student forum at Harvard University in April.

Said Chase: "I did comedy and parody television in the '70s. I was a liberal Democrat, and it was a very heady year. I just wanted to prevent (Ford) from being president." As for Bush, the actor's politics are unchanged.

"He's about as bright as a manatee; stole the election," Chase was reported as saying by the Harvard Crimson student newspaper. "It's atrocious to me how he did it. I believe he was a coke dealer just a few years ago. . . . The man has all the charisma of an egg timer and doesn't come off as the leader of the Free World."

Chase's celebrity babble is dismissible. But the admission that the Ford-the-klutz representation had a political aim --- to get people laughing at Ford and therefore diminish his standing --- is a tactic that liberals in politics and the media and entertainment industries have employed ruthlessly against Bush.

It is not without ramifications, of course. European political and opinion leaders were in near shock to discover that Bush, in the words of the leftist French newspaper Liberation, "is manifestly not the 'superficial buffoon and arrogant Texan' portrayed in the media."

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson felt it necessary to declare to reporters that "those who believe that we are going to meet a clownish, ill-informed person will be proved very wrong." And, of course, they were.

This should be no surprise to anybody.

The Atlanta Journal editorial board, of which I'm a member, spent an hour with Bush talking about education during the campaign. During the course of a campaign season, we interview scores of people running for office, sometimes a hundred or more. After awhile, especially on a popular subject such as education, it's possible to discern within minutes the depth of the well.

We asked questions about education philosophy, about the role of the federal, state and local governments in education. We asked about specific federal programs and about approaches to them.

Bush answered them all, knowledgeably and with a consistency that revealed serious intellectual inquiry into a difficult issue. He is not a dilettante, nor is he a shallow vessel who briefly holds the ideas of others. If he is, then we have misread the hundreds of politicians who preceded him in policy discussions.

But of course, as with Ford, a superb athlete and not the clumsy oaf Chase portrayed, the charge need not have a strong factual basis to become part of the public lore. It's repeated because liberals recognize that the easiest and most effective way to diminish the Bush presidency, and therefore an agenda with which they disagree, is ridicule.

Bush's adversaries in politics, entertainment and the media have been vicious in portraying him without factual basis as the simpleton pawn of Big Oil. Washington correspondent Marilyn Geewax reported last Sunday that, despite the dire warnings of interest groups, the administration has been modest in its efforts to contain regulations.

That surprising? Of course. Every representation by liberal-leaning interest groups has been that the Big Oil pawn is out to destroy the environment for the benefit of his oil-drilling buddies.

What happens is that interest groups and politicians who wish for different election outcomes are allowed to define Bush and his agenda.

The media have a responsibility to identify agendas of activists when we know them, and to explore whether there is substance to the allegations. Bush is not the "superficial buffoon and arrogant Texan."

Europe discovered it. America should be given that chance, too.

Comment on JWR contributor Jim Wooten's column by clicking here.

05/31/01: In New South, Jeffords defection will force voters in next senatorial race to decide which of two starkly different views of government will prevail
04/13/01: High Court grants another building block in the case for faith-based involvement in addressing the nation's social ills
03/29/01: It's tough being an adult in the land of sound bites and transfer payments
03/22/01: End Bar Association's say on nominees to federal bench
02/27/01: Stop punishing those who live responsibly
01/23/01: The language of opposition turns vicious
01/12/01: Practicing what she preaches was Chavez's only offense
12/14/00: Our divided nation --- and those who caused it
12/07/00: Honest labor is for chumps who can't talk and politic their way to wealth


© Jim Wooten