George on George

We have gone through the looking glass, people, when I start agreeing with George Will on the current Bush administration.

Will’s column addresses a comment by Bush—apparently an ad lib—while in the Rose Garden with the Prime Minister of Canada.

Appearing Friday in the Rose Garden with Canada’s prime minister, President Bush was answering a reporter’s question about Canada’s role in Iraq when suddenly he swerved into this extraneous thought:

“There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily — are a different color than white can self-govern.”

Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum have already commented on this presidential slip of the tongue. When I came across the quote, I had to read it twice, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. I kept stumbling across the phrase “people whose skin color may not be the same as ours.”

Ours? Ours? I literally looked at the back my hand. Ours? “People whose skin color may not be the same as ours“? Last I checked, as an African American my skin color is much closer to that of your average Iraqi citizen than to, say, George Bush.

So, my first question was who is this “we” implied in Bush’s statement? It was clear to me that, in a desperate attempt to label people who oppose his misadventure in Iraq as racist without actually calling them that, Bush had inadvertenty revealed something about how he thinks in terms of race. When George Bush thinks “American” some part of his brain—perhaps by default— automatically thinks “white.”

“Us” or “we” in terms of “American” means people with “white” skin. A racist assumption in and of itself. Even George Will recognized as much.

Note that the clearly implied antecedent of the pronoun “ours” is “Americans.” So the president seemed to be saying that white is, and brown is not, the color of Americans’ skin. He does not mean that.

Will gives Bush much more of the benefit of the doubt than I do. Speaking off the cuff, a dangerous thing for this president, I think he revealed more about what he really thinks than if he’d taken a moment to engage his brain before his mouth and consider how his words would sound when they hit the ears of others.

Of course, Bush realized this about halfway through the words tumbling out of his mouth, and attempted to save the moment by clearly saying “people whose skins—are a different color than white.” But it was already too late. The head scratching, reminiscent of earlier days of the George W. Bush administration, when the president would make a statement, people would wonder what the hell he meant, and then the White House would trot out a staffer to tell us what the hell he meant; this time in the person of Scott McClellan, who attempted to reassure us with platitudes.

I found myself agreeing with Will on one particular point of his.

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts.

If the war in Iraq, and the dismal present state of affairs in that country, is any indication, this administration cannot be counted on to think; to think in the long term about the consequences of particular policies and courses of action; to think critically about the intelligence available; to think realistically about what will actually be required, in terms of troop numbers, financial resources, and international support, to make a succesfull bid for “regime change” and plant the seeds of democracy in Iraq; to thoughtfully assess the results of the invasion and occupation, and admit that many, many mistakes were made. There’s no evidence that much though—other than fantasies of being “welcomed as liberators,” and paranoid dreams of “mushroom clouds”—went into the planning and execution of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

No, this administration can’t be counted on to think, not to even mention ever having second thoughts. Clearly, they can’t be counted on to govern for another four years, or to clean up the mess they’ve made.

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6 Responses to George on George

  1. shannon says:

    And how about his conflation of Islam with nonwhite skin, too?

  2. Janine says:

    As Shannon said — it’s so wrong on so many different fronts that the mind just *boggles*. I sat here and reread that three times with my jaw agape.

  3. a reader says:

    With his revealing remarks about ‘brown-skinned’ people’s possibly limited capacity for democratic self-government, Bush not only shows his contempt for vast numbers of American citizens, but also shows himself to be shockingly unaware of the fact that the world’s largest democracy is India, with a population of over a billion (1,027,015,247 persons in 2001).

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  6. Wulf says:

    Yeah. Bush has no idea that India is a democracy. He clearly thinks India is the 15th planet. And he obviously thinks that all Americans are white and Christian.

    Come on. Bush has made mistakes, and he has pursued bad policies, but *this* is a non issue, and it is stupid and unconstructive to pretend that it somehow shows that he is a dimwitted bigot. Target *real* issues.

    “There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern.”
    That’s a true statement, the only issue with it is why he said “ours”. Considering that Bush was talking in the context of the US-Canadian relations wrt Iraq, and considering that the US is 70% non-Hispanic white, and Canada even more white, I think he was probably (foolishly but correctly) saying “our” skin is mostly white and very little Arab, which is the group racists keep saying cannot self-govern.
    (He might even have meant “ours” as in “mine and yours”, since he was talking to a white reporter.)

    But is this really the most important part of the comment? The fact is that lot of people in the world do believe that skin color affects the ability of a people to be free and self-govern. And Bush’s response is unequivocal: “I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily — are a different color than white can self-govern.” For all his faults, this is a good notion.

    Remember, this has been questioned on the left and the right, and Bush’s lack of inclusive language is not as important as the fact that there is nothing inherent in being a Muslim or an Arab that precludes self determination.

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