In 2003, President George W. Bush delivered a State of the Union speech in which he described the US’ campaign against Iraq. It was a little bit of a “Mission Accomplished” moment, as you can see, but the interesting thing about it to me is the color-coding. Bush, a far less intelligent man than Clinton by virtually all accounts, uses higher level words. Why?
Here is a color-coded transcript of part of Bush’s State of the Union address he gave in 2003. Level I words are coded in red (for “home fires,” as in “keep the home fires burning”) and Level II words are coded in cool, intellectual blue. The red words are Germanic in origin. The blue ones are French.
My belief is that Bush, conscious of the fact that virtually no one thinks he is very bright–or has thought so his entire life–is upgrading his rhetoric to French-derived words in an effort to seem smart. It’s sort of like Rick Perry and the glasses–Bush thinks if he uses relatively longer words, or “official” words, he will sound like an intelligent man. This is a common mistake of bureaucrats.
Bush, or his speechwriters used these “long words” to give the impression that he knew what he was talking about, that he was in a position of official power (which of course he was). As we now know, Bush’s words, which were calculated to reassure us of his intelligence and power, have a hollow and ironic ring to them today. It was not a humane war (using depleted plutonium weapons in Fallujah, for example, was anything but humane). The training camps were not destroyed. Iraq had not defied the United Nations Security Council. His fancy words cannot hide, now, that the Iraq war was built on a tissue of official-sounding lies.