|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/10/10 16:51 北京青年报|
On September 30 there occurred the first of three debates between US President George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry. The performance of both speakers took observers by surprise: Kerry spoke firmly and decisively and with a calm dignity that seemed distinctly "presidential", whereas Bush performed disappointingly, without the confidence and humorous warmth that are his hallmarks. The race, which had seemed to be moving in Bush's favor, was blown wide open again as Kerry gained support in the opinion polls conducted in the first few days after the debate.
Today's cartoon by Pat Oliphant gives a good summary of what people object to in the usual Bush and Kerry styles. The senator from Massachusetts tends to speak in complex and often unfinished sentences that leave listeners unsure of what he really thinks. He can sound stiff and, at his worst, pompous and silly. The piling up of conditions and reservations, though a mark of subtlety, makes him seem vacillating and weak. On the one hand this, on the other that... Intelligent perhaps in some contexts, but in the end what policy is he advocating? Oliphant gives us a good sample of Kerry on a bad day, with all his unfortunate verbal habits on show.
President Bush, in contrast, sends a very clear message. He speaks in short, trenchant sentences. Through his speaking style Bush skillfully builds rapport with middle-class and small-town men eager for a tough leader who knows his own mind -- a leader, that is, who represents an ideal vision of themselves. The problem is that sophisticated observers find Bush's speeches simple-minded. He is excellent at communicating feeling but anyone who is looking for evidence that the president has a refined grasp of reality will come away baffled. Does the president actually think in these tough-guy slogans? Or is the cowboy palaver just a political ploy to keep his core supporters happy?
The nauseated heraldic eagle speaks for Oliphant. Is he, the eagle wonders, being too critical or are the candidates the problem? He isn't really sure. Perhaps his queasiness is just a sign that he's coming down with bird flu.
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