For the past five years the Republicans have come up with a great and subtle way to underline the theme of a speech for the casual viewer. They put it in bold letters on the flat or banner behind the speaker. It’s a trick that’s been pointed out many times, yet Bush and his ilk continue to ride it for all it’s worth. Which is apparently quite a bit.
The most recent example is Bush's speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis to reenergize America on the Iraq war. Despite the fact that the speech contained an almost aggressive lack of any new ideas, every AP wire picture of the President had the word "VICTORY" behind him. I told you. It's very subtle:
And for those of you who still don't get it let me explain how this highly scientific and nuanced bit of subliminal branding works. You see, some people hear a speech and they hear Bush say a lot of different things. And they think "Man, I don't know. This guy doesn't have the most reliable track record. And weren't all the reasons for this war pretty bogus?" Then this person, caught in a moment of doubt, looks up and sees the President with the word "VICTORY" behind him and doesn't so much as think, but more "brightens" -- and then says to herself or himself, but probably himself, "Ah screw it, VICTORY!" The person then gets up and puts on a CD of Bob Seeger's "Like a Rock" and beats the shit out of his liberal neighbor.
It's a fantastic idea. And it works. Look how well Bush, you, and the country are doing. I love this approach so much I want it carried into the Theater. I want to see a production of Hamlet where the whole back set is the giant word "INDECISION!" Or maybe a production of Long Day's Journey Into Night where a flat reads "THAT'S FAMILY FOR YOU!"
Now I know what you Republicans (or should I say, you, the Republican) are thinking: Wait! The Democrats do it too! Which is true. As we know, every lame, heavy-handed tactic the Republicans come up with the Democrats copy six months later and not as well. The Democrats are kind of like Canadian TV that way. Kerry, while searching for a theme for his campaign, would often have "I'm different but not that different" behind him while he spoke. Or "Bush is incompetent but not too incompetent because I respect the choices you make, America -- and you chose Bush. Though for the life of me I think you fucked up... er, um... I mean, were misled." Like I said, not as good.
Bush's most famous example of letting the theme become the set dressing was his landing on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln with "Mission Accomplished" on a huge banner behind him:
Later he blamed the sailors for putting the banner up and claimed neither he nor his people knew that the banner would be there. In defense of the President, this does happen sometimes. Just the other day I went to argue a traffic ticket in court and without me knowing it the Judge had put a giant "Adam McKay is Innocent" banner behind me. After finding me guilty (Long story but, real quick, it involved misreading the directions on an inhaler and an untimely gift of a motorcycle) he apologized for putting the banner up.
Dick Cheney usually has some word behind him when he speaks. It's usually something like "Truth and Integrity" or "Stay the Course." If they really wanted to aid Cheney with his speeches, the people who make the Theme flats should put one behind him that reads "I Do Not Have a Spider That Lives in My Ass" or "I Am Not Sustained by Pure Liquid Evil." Do that, and they might see a bump in Cheney's, oh I don't know, -6% percent approval rating.
Let's face it, even Republicans know this guy is a mangled vampire. But they have to back him because he plays for the home team and most Republicans look at politics not as setting a course for our nation but as Us vs Them. It's kind of like when Dennis Rodman played for the Bulls in the early nineties and did a book signing in the middle of the Loop in a bridal gown and eye shadow. The very working class mid-western town of Chicago was like, "Um...he's a character!" Then, after he left, the whole city let out a collective shudder.
My other favorite not so subtle speech trick that Bush does is to play to only the safest and most partisan crowds. The speech today was in front of naval cadets. I think it's literally against the law for them to heckle or boo a commanding officer, which technically (huge emphasis on "technically”) Bush is. In the past he's given speeches to soldiers, cadets, recently sworn-in soldiers, returning soldiers, veteran soldiers, people who play military role-playing games, and school children. Wow. I get the feeling that when Bush was playing Mario Brothers in his Houston condo in the late eighties he never went past the EASY setting.
But as the country continues to flounder under Bush's leadership we can eventually expect a boo or two from some brave soldier who realizes that this spoiled brat draft dodger is looting the country for his corporate owners and started this war because he did none of his homework and hates to be challenged. Then Bush will have to give his next big speech to an even less challenging audience like a bunch of newborn infants or a giant pile of GI Joe actions figures. Better yet, Bush could start giving speeches to projected film clips of the cadet crowd from the end of Scent of a Woman that applauded Pacino. The sad thing is that if he actually did that you'd have 35% of the country thinking it was a bold move by Bush and that at least he stood by his decision.
This whole Bush reign reminds me of when I was in college and a buddy and I put the song "Radar Love" on a dormant jukebox twenty times in a row at a local pizza place just to see what would happen. At first everyone was like "Hey! I love this song!" But by the fifteenth time they had summoned the owner who was reaching behind the machine trying to pull the plug. Thank God nowadays the jukeboxes have safeguards against songs being played over and over again to the point of losing all meaning and truth.