Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bush Tragedy

A month ago we commented on the fascinating use of language in the American Presidential primary season. Recently language has again become the centre of everyone's attention, following Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech on race in response to the language of his pastor Jeremiah Wright (see the YouTube video and the full text here), and then this week Hillary Clinton's 'misspeaking' of her Tuzla visit (see Steven Poole here on 'misspeak' in his Unspeak blog).

Just published on this side of the Atlantic is Jacob Weisberg's lethal filleting of the current President in his new study The Bush Tragedy: the unmaking of a President. Weisberg, editor of, is also the editor of several books of 'Bushisms'. This, too, is a study of language as used by the extended Bush/Walker clan, and how the psycho-dramas within this powerful political family have shaped our world. Weisberg uses Shakespeare's story of Henry IV and Prince Hal throughout as a parallel, and writes:-

As a guide for political reporters, Shakespeare remains underrated. Political science and a lot of political journalism explain the behaviour of politicians mostly in terms of interest and ideology. Shakespeare reminds us that their motives tend to be more complicated than that, and that however much they may try to obscure them, politicians do in fact have inner lives. If sometimes used to turn rascals into cartooons - think LBJ as Macbeth or Nixon as Richard III - Shakespearean analogies can also remind us to look harder at family, national myth, at character. When we are confronted with a political breakdown, Shakespeare advises us to look deeper and judge less.

There's an interview with Weisberg here, on National Public Radio, together with an extract from the first chapter.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For more on the analogy between President Bush and Shakespeare's "Henry V," see: