Monday, March 21, 2005

Speaking of Slithering Snakes

Via Needlenose, the Wall Street Journal notes that Bush's fake Texas accent, is, in a word, fake:

Last month, addressing European leaders in Brussels, Mr. Bush spoke precisely, with only traces of his twang. He paid homage to the Continent's political legacy, such as the Magna Carta, and flawlessly pronounced the name of Albert Camus.

Linguists and longtime watchers of Mr. Bush say it is evidence of a subtle but unmistakable change the 43rd president has undergone in speaking style. He is enunciating more clearly and dotting his remarks with more literary references. Gone is much of the verbal swagger, which produced such memorable first-term phrases as "bring 'em on" (said of Iraqi insurgents) and "dead or alive" (said of catching Osama bin Laden). Some linguists even say they detect a dialing-down of Mr. Bush's Texas accent, at least in his formal speeches.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University, says that Mr. Bush now also pauses more, making his speech seem more "considered."

The Texas strut and drawl may have worked well to win votes and given Mr. Bush a regular-Joe appeal in his first four years when he still faced re-election. Now that he is trying to sell an ambitious second-term agenda -- overhauling Social Security and the tax system, in addition to helping bring democracy to the Middle East -- his remarks are often more conciliatory and appear to be targeted more at congressional critics and European leaders. Playing to that crowd means Mr. Bush portrays himself a bit less as a Texas Ranger and more as an Ivy League-educated chief executive -- which of course he is.

Mr. Bush may also be weighing his legacy factor. When presidents are mindful of the history books, their style sometimes is different from when they're trying to win elections.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to his style when the rug is pulled out from under his sorry ass.

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