Herewith the nostalgic observations of my colleague Robin Wilton on listening to Bill Clinton on the BBC: “This morning I heard a snippet of an interview with Bill Clinton; he was lucid, intelligent and persuasive. Some of his sentences had several linked clauses. He used words like ‘profound’, ‘disproportionately’ and ‘dislocation’, and used them correctly. He coherently related the grim after-effects of Hurricane Katrina to the global geo-political issues of the day.”
(I also listened to Clinton: it was an excellent interview. I strongly recommend that you check out the streaming audio/video version.)
During the last presidential election campaign, there was at least one documentary that presented film clips of Bush campaigning for his father and giving coherent speeches which demonstrated a modicum of rhetorical skill. It was suggested that the folksy, semi-dyslexic style that he adopted as Governor of Texas and subsequently was therefore likely to be a mere facade, an act to appeal to voters distrustful of “smart-aleck politicians”. The implication was that Bush was smarter than he sounded.
But Bush isn’t running for anything now, and even members of his own party are turning on him. If he were capable of giving a speech of the calibre of Clinton, now would be a good time to do it. Maybe it’s alcohol, maybe psychoactive medication, or even too many diet sodas. Whatever the reason, the conclusion is inescapable that today Bush is, quite simply, what he appears: a venal, cunning, opportunistic, but ultimately rather stupid man, incapable of reasoning from B to C, let alone describing A, B and C in well-turned sentences.
And I really miss Clinton. He had his faults, but they didn’t include stupidity and incompetence. Competence would be nice right now.