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“The first time I met [George W.] Bush, I knew he was differentOne who did not know. The other was that he had the confident to ask questions that he didn’t know very much.”
A comment on Bush II by his friend Richard Perle
Our selected president, Bush II, is not the only American leader that is unable to concentrate his thoughts on maps. But, he is one of the worst in our history. As recognized by his advisors and himself, his worst subject is English. He admitted this in his acceptance speech during the Republican Convention on August 31, 2004. Jay Leno’s joke that Mr. Bush “has attacked his biggest enemy, the English language” was most appropriate We do not know what Mr. Bush’s favorite subject in school was, but we are aware of the fact that he needs improvements in every area of education, particularly geography.
More recently, in 1988, we had Vice President Dan Quayle on our hands. Who can forget his misspelling of the word “potatoes” and making a fool out of himself? This was not the only mistake he made. He believed that people in Latin America speak the Latin language and that it was a part of the United States. His statement about Hawaii became a ridiculous piece of geographic literature. Mr. Quayle also thought that Chicago was a “state”, the USA was a part of Europe, and Phoenix was located in California.
However, before Dan Quayle, a very bad situation caught the public by surprise. During his debate with Mr. Carter on October 6, 1976, President Ford earned his place in historical gaffe and verbal stumbling for suggesting that Eastern Europe, especially Poland, was not dominated by the Soviet Union, while many of the viewers were laughing at him. Although this was not the only reason Mr. Ford lost the election, he quit politics altogether and probably went skiing.
Political jokes, particularly in Less Developed Countries, are seen as ideological expressions by the population that is unsatisfied by the current undemocratic political activities. It was after the (s)election of Mr. Bush to the presidency of the United States the number of political jokes increased and some journalists started collecting his blunders and bloopers, termed as Bushisms. One of these collections on the Internet, by Mr. Jacob Weisberg, at http://slate.com that is regularly updated is the most complete one. Another site, http://www.dslextreme.com/, used Mr. Weisberg’s collection and analyzed Bushisms as to what Bush meant to say and categorized his error types. “Evidence of Bush’s Stupidity – – From His Own Mouth!” is given in http://www.utah.indymedia.org/p. Mr. Bush’s only geographical bloopers entitled “Dubya the Geographer: Someone Buy This Man an Atlas” appears in firstname.lastname@example.org.
None of the above collections has looked at Mr. Bush’s geographical mistakes carefully and discussed them in a systematic academic methodology. This gap should be somehow filled by the present paper analyzing Mr. Weisberg’s site. Collected chronologically since 1994, this file has nearly thirty pages with a record of 325 direct quotation entries. Mr. Weisberg’s file has only a single quote attributed to Mr. Bush in 1994 which is not related to geography.
We are aware of the fact that most of these direct quotes are taken out of context and may lose their original meanings. It seems that most of these quotes are informal talks and not coached or supervised by his advisors or read directly from cue-cards. If they were formal statements and coached, Mr. Bush would have had fewer mistakes. Of the above total quotations, only 32 were found to have some expressive geographical statements. These statements are listed, classified, and discussed chronologically from the earliest time to the present.
Generally speaking, some the quotations are just bad or very bad English. Some of them do not make sense at all and some of them are beyond human comprehension and logic. Many of them simply point towards lack of sound education and become ridiculously funny and very sad, simultaneously. Still, few of these quotations are ahistorical, lost in time. Yet, some are aspatial, lost in space. This article is concerned about the last aspect of Bushisms that is to study direct quotes containing geographical keywords from 1999-2004.
Thus, this paper will look at Bushisms from 1999 to 2004. Each entry has a date and has a reference to the place where it was expressed or published. This file was utilized to document the status of the mental map of our President. Mental map is a reference to Mr. Bush’s geographical education. Our research question was to see “whether he was able to conceptualize correct locations for the countries that he was talking about.” In this paper, it will be argued that Mr. Bush’s geographical knowledge is as bad as or even worse than his English. It is believed that a geographically illiterate American president would be very dangerous for the world. In the following section, first the actual excerpts are given then they will be briefly discussed.
“Kosovians can move back in.”
-CNN Inside Politics, April 9, 1999.
“Keep good relations with the Grecians.”
-Quoted in the Economist, June 12, 1999.
“If the East Timorians decide to revolt, I’m sure I’ll have a statement.”
-Quoted by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, June 16, 1999.
The above three quotes are references to ethnic groups mentioned in 1999 before Mr. Bush became the president of the United States. Of course, he is wrong in all three cases. In technical English syntax, this is called “misconstructed plural noun.” People from Kosovo are properly called Kosovars. Even elementary school students know that people from Greece are called Greeks. A correct name for the people from East Timor is East Timorese. The above three misnomers may look like harmless and honest mistakes. But, they are not. They represent a whole host of much bigger problems. The problem was not that Mr. Bush assumed to add (ian) to the end of the names of different ethnic groups. Supporters of Mr. Bush may say that not very many Americans, even national political leaders, knew much about Kosovo or East Timor. Then, the question is why he was unable to come up with a correct ethnic name for the people from Greece? A much bigger problem for Mr. Bush was his statement on East Timor. He had absolutely no idea about this place! He told Ms. Dowd of the New York Times, that if an international crisis arose, he will have “a statement” by then. He was and still is highly dependent on his advisors, mostly a group of right wing Republican neocon war mongers. By the way the great majority of his tutors, including his National Security Advisor, are geographically illiterate too. Now, we must imagine the type of foreign policy practiced in the USA by the Bush administration. It is not just “mislabeling”, it is damaging to our international relations.
“The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned first-hand from your foreign minister, who came to Texas.”
-To a Slovak journalist as quoted by Knight Ridder News Service, June 22, 1999. Bush’s meeting was with Janez Drnovsek, the prime minister of Slovenia.
In this statement, Mr. Bush confuses the two countries of Slovenia and Slovakia. Or, Slovenia became Slovakia. Some people may remember that Slovakia was a part of the former Czechoslovakia that went though a velvet divorce and two countries were created from one. But, how many Americans know anything about Slovenia? We have to remember that this was Mr. Bush, a candidate for the most powerful office in the world talking to the prime minister of another country and calling his country by a wrong name. With a population of 2.0 million, Slovenia, on the other hand, was the first of five republics to secede and receive independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
California and Florida:
“I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It’s pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, D.C., is close to California.”
-In Los Angeles as quoted by the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2000.
GOV. BUSH: Because the picture on the newspaper. It just seems so un-American to me, the picture of the guy storming the house with a scared little boy there. I talked to my little brother, Jeb-I haven’t told this to too many people. But he’s the governor of-I shouldn’t call him my little brother–my brother, Jeb, the great governor of Texas.
JIM LEHRER: Florida.
GOV. BUSH: Florida. The state of the Florida.-
The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, April 27, 2000.
The above two excerpts can be seen as geographical references to the states in the United States. These two indicate President Bush’s difficulties with communication. In the first case, he is actually correct. Western Texas is closer to California than Washington, D. C. However, he is unable to put his statement in a form of proper English. His mental map is badly functioning if he is not briefed on unpredicted media questions. In the second case, he is confusing his little brother with himself and Florida with Texas. These two quotes imply that Mr. Bush is as bad with US geography as with world geography.
“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.”
-Beaverton, Ore., Sep. 25, 2000.
This quote is also indicative of our president’s lack of communication abilities. First, we do not know what he means by the word “big.” Second, it is not clear whether he knows the meaning of words such as “imports and overseas.”
Us and Ourselves:
“But the true threats to stability and peace are these nations that are not very transparent, that hide behind the-that don’t let people in to take a look and see what they’re up to. They’re very kind of authoritarian regimes. The true threat is whether or not one of these people decide, peak of anger, try to hold us hostage, ourselves; the Israelis, for example, to whom we’ll defend, offer our defenses; the South Koreans.”
-Media roundtable, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2001.
Here, Mr. Bush attempts and badly fails to simply say what he wanted to say. By the word “ourselves”, he means “us” or the Americans. He is saying that authoritarian regimes that are not transparent may take Americans, the Israelis, and the South Koreans as hostages. Although, probably briefed on transparent societies, he still is unable to send a simple message through, indicating how shallow and deplorable his education is.
“A lot of times in the rhetoric, people forget the facts. And the facts are that thousands of small businesses-Hispanically owned or otherwise-pay taxes at the highest marginal rate.”
-to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Washington, D.C., March 19, 2001.
“I’ve coined new words, like, misunderstanding and Hispanically.”
-Radio-Television Correspondents Association dinner, Washington, D.C., March 29, 2001.
In reference to another ethnic group, Mr. Bush has invented the word “Hisponically.” A bigger problem here is that not only he made a mistake but he is bragging about it. Saying so what! However, he has forgotten that he also coined the word “misunderestimate.” This funny looking word must enter the Guinness book of records. These so-called “new words” are not invented by the creative mind of a president. They are emitted from ignorance and lack of a sound educational attainment. He is just messing up reasonably correct terms.
“Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican.”
-Declining to answer reporters’ questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001.
Using words such as Brazilian and Mexican in reference to languages is not uncommon by geographically illiterate people. Apparently, Mr. Bush, the former governor of Texas, next door neighbor of Mexico, and a person who speaks Spanish poorly, had no idea that a “Mexican” language does not exist. Although he knows little Spanish, he was unable to pronounce the name of the prime minister of Spain. In this case, Mr. Bush might have been joking with reporters. Instead of Mexican, he could have said “nor in any language.”
“Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend theirself.”
-On how far we’d be willing to go to defend Taiwan, Good Morning America, April 25, 2001.
The above excerpt is self-explanatory. Mr. Bush is still struggling with himself and themselves.
“We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.”
-Gothenburg, Sweden, June 14, 2001.
Imagine the President of the most powerful nation in the world in Sweden talking about Africa. The country of Sweden has one of the best educated and geographically literate populations in the world. Mr. Bush made a fool out of himself by the above statement. Educational planners make sure that middle school students learn and define different spatial units of measurement such as a county, country, and continent. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In one of his debates with Vice President Gore held in 2000, Mr. Bush referred to the country of Nigeria as a continent. We do not know that the President could have been briefed before the incident. However, we know that some of his tutors may be bewildered too when talking geographically.
“Do you have blacks, too?”
-To Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001.
“It’s very interesting when you think about it, the slaves who left here to go to America, because of their steadfast and their religion and their belief in freedom, helped change America.”
-Dakar, Senegal, July 8, 2003.
Here, although George W. Bush is dealing with three different continents, he is talking about slavery. First he has no idea that the largest number of Africans outside Africa is found in the country of Brazil in South America. Then, he thinks that slavery was something similar to the Puritan’s move to the USA in search of religious freedom. This is merely an insult on nearly 25.0 million native Africans who were taken forcefully out of Africa alive and about 75.0 million who lost their lives in the most inhumane process of slavery.
“I assured the prime minister, my administration will work hard to lay the foundation of peace in the Middle-to work with our nations in the Middle East, give peace a chance. Secondly, I told him that our nation will not try to force peace, that we’ll facilitate peace and that we will work with those responsible for a peace.”
-Photo opportunity with Ariel Sharon, Washington, D.C., March 20, 2001.
“My administration has been calling upon all the leaders in the-in the Middle East to do everything they can to stop the violence, to tell the different parties involved that peace will never happen.”
-Crawford, Texas, Aug, 13, 2001.
“There’s a lot of people in the Middle East who are desirous to get into the Mitchell process. And-but first things first. The-these terrorist acts and, you know, the responses have got to end in order for us to get the framework-the groundwork-not framework, the groundwork to discuss a framework for peace, to lay the-all right.”
-Referring to former Sen. George Mitchell’s report on Middle East peace, Crawford, Texas, Aug. 13, 2001.
“My administration has been calling upon all the leaders in the-in the Middle East to do everything they can to stop the violence, to tell the different parties involved that peace will never happen.”
-Crawford, Texas, Aug, 13, 2001.
“I understand that the unrest in the Middle East creates unrest throughout the region.”
–Washington, D.C., March 13, 2002.
A total of 17 times, in his statements, Mr. Bush referred to the Middle East or places and personalities in this region. Five of these statements contain the name of this region. Although, it is believed to be the most important region in regards to proven fossil fuel reserves, many people including our President do not have a clear concept about this region. Since Middle East is an ethno-centric name, an interesting question can be asked is: middle of what and east of where? Another funny name for this region is Near East. Regardless of what ever this region, in Southwest Asia and North Africa, is called in the “name game” of neocolonialism; it is still the most important place for cheap energy in the whole world. This region alone has nearly 75% of the proven oil reserves. It is believed that the fate of democracy and economy in the world, particularly in Europe, Japan, and the US depends on availability of cheap oil from the Middle East. Yet, the Bush administration attempts uselessly to prove that American occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with oil. This little dirty little word slowly has disappeared from our political arena. On the other hand, nearly 83%, 34 out of 41, of Mr. Bush’s associates have direct ties with oil companies. And, Dr. Rice is the one and only person from academia whose name has appeared on an oil tanker. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration’s arrogant foreign policy in regards to this region is preemptive, unilateral, and illegal mixed with bad theology.
“More Muslims have died at the hands of killers than-I say more Muslims-a lot of Muslims have died-I don’t know the exact count-at Istanbul. Look at these different places around the world where there’s been tremendous death and destruction because killers kill.”
-Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2004.
The above quote is a reference to terrorist acts in the city of Istanbul in the country of Turkey. The fact that can be noted is he repeats one word many times. In this statement the word “Muslims” is repeated three times. In another short statement on January 29, 2003, “Saddam Hussein’s” name is mentioned four times. In a press conference in Oklahoma City, August 29, 2002, in a short sentence, he repeated the word “love” four times. In the same city and on the same day the two words of “we” and “they” together were repeated seven times by Mr. Bush. Apparently, he is trying to emphasize a point or taking time to remember what he was going to say. Thus, indicating his inability to communicate properly.
“Nothing he [Saddam Hussein] has done has convinced me-I’m confident the Secretary of Defense-that he is the kind of fellow that is willing to forgo weapons of mass destruction, is willing to be a peaceful neighbor, that is-will honor the people-the Iraqi people of all stripes, will-values human life. He hasn’t convinced me, nor has he convinced my administration.”
-Crawford, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002.
“The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.”
-Grand Rapids, Mich., Jan. 29, 2003.
“Perhaps one way will be, if we use military force, in the post-Saddam Iraq the U.N. will definitely need to have a role. And that way it can begin to get its legs, legs of responsibility back.”
-the Azores, Portugal, March 16, 2003.
“The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the-the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice.”
-Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003.
“Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq.”
-Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2003.
“This has been tough weeks in that country.”
-Washington, D.C., April 13, 2004.
“[A] free Iraq is essential to our respective securities.”
-Washington, D.C., June 1, 2004.
Controlling the second largest amount of proven oil reserves in the world, Iraq weighed heavily on Mr. Bush’s mind. His plot of a preemptive and illegal invasion of Iraq had a lot to do with personal revenge, security of Israel, and oil. So far, more than 1,000 young American soldiers and many thousands of mostly innocent Iraqis have been killed because he is concerned about democracy in this nation. After all, Saddam was brutal. He even “gassed his own people.” Actually, Saddam’s own people lived in and around the city of Baghdad and the city of al-Takrit, his birth place. Saddam’s own people lived relatively comfortably in central Iraq. Yes, Saddam murdered his enemies not his own people, the Kurds in the North and Shiahs (Shiites) in Southern parts of the country. On March 16, 1988, known as Bloody Friday, Saddam ordered to gas and kill about 8,000 children and elderly people in the Kurdish city of Halabja. That was during a Republican administration. The Kurds were not Saddam’s people. But, what did the American government did under Mr. Bush’s hero, Ronald Reagan.
Now, Mr. Bush has tried and failed miserably to relate September 11 to Iraq and zero Weapons of Mass Destruction has been found here. These are seen as two of the biggest lies in the history of mankind. His lies caused human sufferings in many different countries including the United States of America. The largest numbers of mostly innocent people in the world in the 21st century have been brutally killed during Bush’s presidency. Let’s not also forget what his agents did in that infamous prison, Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad. What happened here is an important representative of his democracy. Abu Ghraib now should stand as a symbol of Bush’s inhumanity, cruelty and global violence.
“Iran would be dangerous if they have a nuclear weapon.”
-Washington, D.C., June 18, 2003.
“Secondly, the tactics of our-as you know, we don’t have relationships with Iran. I mean, that’s-ever since the late ’70s, we have no contacts with them, and we’ve totally sanctioned them. In other words, there’s no sanctions-you can’t-we’re out of sanctions.”
-Annandale, Va., Aug. 9, 2004.
The Axis of Evil is a label used by Mr. Bush in his State of the Union speech on January 29, 2002. This phrase actually was coined by David Frum and only read to the nation by the President. This name tag was utilized for countries that sponsor terror that included Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The word “Axis” was used by Hitler to indicate alliance, cooperation, and partnership. Thus, it is so wrong to classify these three unconnected nations under an axis of alliance. In reality, the USA, Great Britain, and Israel fit under this label so perfectly. Together, they have illegally occupied lands belonging to Middle Eastern Nations and have many common goals. In the same State of the Union Address, Mr. Bush’s Statement read “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom. It is true to talk about “Unelected Few” not only in Iran but also in the US. Thus far Mr. Bush’s statements have not been very helpful to the elected authorities in Iran. We have gotten rid of Iran’s two big enemies, the Taliban and Saddam’s regimes. We are also helping the Shiahs (Shiites) in Iraq to build an Islamic Republic similar to that of Iran. The “Unelected Few” in the US and Iran are the most secretive regimes in the world advocating similar theologies.
“I’ve got very good relations with President Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdallah and the King of Jordan, Gulf Coast countries.”
-Washington, D.C., May 29, 2003.
“King Abdullah of Jordan, the King of Morocco, I mean, there’s a series of places-Qatar, Oman-I mean, places that are developing-Bahrain-they’re all developing the habits of free societies.”
-Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2004.
The above two flubs are the worst of its type in the history of mankind. Nobody so far has been able to make so many clumsy mistakes in only a few short sentences. Nobody has been able like Mr. Bush to mutilate the English language, principles of communication, and geography at the same time. He has a total misunderstanding of the region called the Middle East. The first quote is probably the source a comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live, May 11, 2002. Vice President Cheney and Dr. Rice were trying to teach Mr. Bush about three Abdullahs: King Abdullah of Jordan, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and somebody else by the name of Abdullah from Egypt or Yemen. And, Mr. Bush simply could not comprehend this so-called “complex world.” What Mr. Bush has achieved to do is that he mixed everybody’s name and place of origin at the same time. Of course, he used the “Gulf Coast” as a reference to the Persian Gulf, with over ten thousand miles of distance between the two.
In the second excerpt, he has done it again. But, nobody can find any other misunderstanding of the situation like this one. Mr. Bush is the only individual who lists five countries in a sentence and confuses himself and everybody else. He repeats the word “places” and “developing” twice. At the end, the final result is so uninformative, it becomes meaningless. Only in Mr. Bush’s view, the King of Jordan is also the King of Morocco. Did Mr. Bush really know that these two countries were not the same? Did he know that these two countries are located at extreme ends of the Mediterranean Sea, five time zones separating them? It does not matter whether he has the right answers to these questions or not. What matters is that he is making a mockery of geography. He clearly fails to recognize what he was talking about!
From the above brief discussions, it can be said that George W. Bush tops both President Ford and Vice President Dan Quayle. But, it seems he had some special bond with Mr. Quayle. Probably, as a good student of Mr. Quayle, Mr. Bush has almost perfected the art of geographical illiteracy. Although, this art has destroyed the future roles of Mr. Ford and Mr. Quayle in politics, Mr. Bush is busy creating more nonsense for our ancient discipline and other subjects. He came up with the saddest and worst verbal stumbling about the Middle East. As mentioned before, nobody has been able to mutilate and destroy many principles of geography in a short sentence like George W. Bush. He has mastered the art of geographical illiteracy.
Remembering the fact that 78% of Americans are unable to locate the country of Iraq on a map of the world, according to the National Geographic Society, isn’t Mr. Bush talking in the same tongue of the general population? Doesn’t he have advisors on world affairs? Aren’t some or most of these statements simple innocent trivial bloopers? One could actually argue that our president’s immediate problem is not geography. After being voted out of office, if he has any desire to reeducate himself, he has to learn basics of the English language, principals of communication, history, mathematics, and redo his MBA. He needs a total overhaul of his education and not to rely on advisors with specific agenda. At least, he should learn to read from cue-cards. But, not knowing basic mathematics, English, and history, does not create major international problems. However, a person like George W. Bush with no mental map becomes dangerous to the whole community. He has no problem selling his risky global perspective to a geographically illiterate population.
His on the job training has resulted in a more caricatured map of the world, called cartogram in geography. His tutors, with their specific agenda and shortcomings, are mostly petro-neocon-Zionists such as Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, and particularly Dr. Rice. Since day one of his presidency, George W. Bush has been looking for justifications to invade Iraq. He hijacked a national disaster and dropped it in the form of bombs on the head of innocent Iraqi people. His promise of freedom, repeated nearly thirty times in his first debate with Kerry, is funneled down through American WMD and the Abu Ghraib. This is the risk of having one of the most ignorant men and the most geographically illiterate president in the White House.
Dr. IRA KAY has a doctoral degree in geography he can be reached at: email@example.com.