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Defending Mr. Bush
(July 28, 2004)

       I read the remarks attributed to President George W. Bush by Professor Yoshihiro Tsurumi, who says he taught young Mr. Bush while a visiting associate professor of international business at Harvard in the 1970s.
        Among the man-who-would-be-President's alleged declarations: the film version of Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" was "corny," "people are poor because they are lazy," FDR's New Deal was "socialism," and that the corporation-regulating Securities and Exchange Commission is an "enemy of capitalism."
        Hm. I think that Mr. Tsurumi, who recently revived the Bush remarks in a couple of articles, badly misunderstood his pupil---if he even recalled the statements correctly. Like the kneejerk elitist rich liberal he almost certainly must be, Mr. Tsurumi assumed the very worst about Bush's comments, if he did not flagrantly twist them for his own cynical political purposes.
        Let's consider the alleged declarations, one at a time.
        "The Grapes of Wrath" is "corny."
        Frankly, I was immediately struck by Mr. Bush's sophisticated aesthetic evaluation of cinema, if not literature, as evidenced by his keen and original analysis of the Academy Award-winning film, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by John Steinbeck.
       A book, for those younger people who might not know, is a tightly bound batch of  pages with print conveying all manner of information---in this case, a story. This story details the plight of the poor Joad family, who leave the Depression-era "Dust Bowl" of Oklahoma for the promise of California, only to encounter prejudice, discrimination, and brutality at the hands of the farmers that exploit them. It was based substantially on truth.
        By remarking "it's corny," and thus likening the film to a bulwark grain that has fed humanity since the dawn of time, young Mr. Bush neatly encapsulated the tale's substantial poetic, metaphorical, and earthy import. Ma Joad and her brood, the student Bush cleverly suggests, are bulwarks of society, rooted deeply and imbued with a natural, indefatigable spirit in a world that would both assault and nurture them---much as a corn stalk is nourished by sun and beleagured by storm.
        One might further extrapolate that his analysis covers the film's mechanics, too---suggesting that its direction and acting evoke exactly these same humanistic qualities.
        If this is "corny," bring on the ears! One measure of genius is perhaps the ability to express profundity succinctly, and preppy Bush's remark accomplishes this most dramatically.
        Let us now move on to his statement, "people are poor because they are lazy." This, the crafty Tsurumi apparently believes, conveys a hardness of spirit; an out-and-out churlishness born of being a child of great privilege who did not have to earn his wealth. I say that the professor accidentally offers more insight into the cunning mind of the liberal than in any Scrooge-like facet in the Bush character.
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So, Prof. Tsurumi, please, in the name of reason and fairness, retract your vicious contentions and ugly lies about President Bush, or at least about the idealistic young man who studied with you so many years ago.
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        Behold the sheer vagueness of the statement: "people are poor because they are lazy." Why, it is open to all manner of interpretation! How on earth does Tsurumi know what Bush meant by the word "poor"? Or "lazy"? This is just what a liberal---and particularly, the liberal press---does interminably: take a statement entirely out of context, distort its meaning, and use it to malign the speaker.
        Mr. Bush, a compassionate conservative, was obviously referring to people being "poor" only in less desirable human traits: greed, cruelty, impatience, selfishness, jingoism, xenophobia, zealotry, etc. They were not "poor" economically, but "poor" in objectionable attributes! What other meaning could a man as giving and altruistic as our president intend? Such "poor" people would be nothing less than noble of impulse.
        Hence: "people are poor (in undesirable qualities) because they are lazy." See how the meaning changes!  
        Now for lazy. Doesn't this definitively mean indolence, sloth? Doesn't the word derive from the Middle Low German, lasich, meaning feeble; akin to Middle High German erleswen, meaning to become weak?
        Undeniably so.
        But Mr. Bush was not speaking definitionally. He was employing a specific, connotative use of the term. He was, in short, speaking with the poetic license of scholarly argot, not common daily English, and I'm frankly surprised that this eluded professorial Tsurumi.
        What do I mean?
        Only this: consider all the songs and poems that extoll the sheer beauty of being lazy! "Lazy Moon," for instance, bespeaks idyllic, pastoral repose and satisfaction on a warm summer night. Spanky and Our Gang crooned anthemically, longingly of "Lazy Days," meaning nothing if not "happy days." Then there is a matter of sheer efficiency and invention, embodied in the lyrically named invention, "Lazy Susan," a device which enables quick and easy retrieval of necessary goods.
        "Lazy" a bad thing? Hardly. So a good translation of Mr. Bush's statement, so deceitfully distorted by Tsurumi, would be "People are noble and compassionate because they appreciate the beauty and happiness of life and think efficiently." While this is a far more prosaic statement than the original, which carries an almost haiku-like pregnancy, the meaning is now clear enough:
        Give us more happy, efficient people, Mr. Bush was saying. Who would argue?
        Now to the third statement, that FDR's New Deal was "socialism." Here, young Bush was absolutely correct. All the FDR-conceived programs that successfully put many thousands of citizens to constructive work, gave them self-esteem, income, and at the same time enriched the country with industry, engineering feats, and art---all acts of socialism. The Civilian Conservation Corps, Federal Emergency Relief Act, Agricultural Adjustment Act, Tennessee Valley Authority, Home Owner's Loan Act, and the National Recovery Act sought to improve the common good, and they certainly did so, effectively ending the Great Depression.
        Tsurumi's mistake was in thinking Mr. Bush was being pejorative here, instead of clinical. Why, no president---no person---in his or her right mind would question the good accomplished by the New Deal. Obviously, the thoughtful W. Bush was being dispassionately descriptive, clearly implying that socialism isn't a bad thing unless used as a pretext for totalitarianism (as has been the case in the former USSR and China.)
       After all, the G.I. bill was an act of socialism, offering education to countless WWII vets who would not have otherwise afforded it. And gosh, why is Social Security called "Social?" To imagine that college student Bush would criticize such humanitarian governmental interventions is like imagining President Bush would try to dismantle Social Security.
        Too laughable for words!
        Finally, we come to the assertion that the Securities and Exchange Commission is an "enemy of capitalism." Here, young George is at fault---but only for not having finished his intended meaning. Or perhaps Tsurumi did not recall the full sentence (or deliberately, deftly omitted a portion!)---or maybe young Bush just didn't have time to finish. (He might have had pressing cheerleader practice, or fraternity kegger, after all.)
        What he meant to say, I'm sure, was that the SEC is an "enemy of capitalism run amok." The SEC, of course, was designed as a check against runaway corporate exploitation of the country, and, well, breaking the law---two things that happen when all community responsibility is abandoned in favor of sheer greed. This is not capitalism---it is capitalism amok.
        If Mr. Bush had meant the SEC was simply an "enemy of capitalism," well, that would mean the U.S. government is an enemy of corporate America, and we all know that this is very far from the truth. Why, the President and his administration have extremely loyal and close ties to many major energy corporations, from Enron to Halliburton. And every self-respecting, clear-thinking patriot knows that the charges of lawbreaking, tax-evasion, kickbacks, working behind the government's back with countries in the "Axis of Evil," and other controversies engulfing Enron, Halliburton, and many major energy companies are the invention of rich elitist liberal extremists who just don't understand the dog-eat-dog ways of the world.
        So, Prof. Tsurumi, please, in the name of reason and fairness, retract your vicious contentions and ugly lies about President Bush, or at least about the idealistic young man who studied with you so many years ago.
        No one---no one---expressing opinions as puny, nasty and downright puerile as you suggest Mr. Bush did could ever, in anyone's wildest dreams, grow up to hold an office as lofty, inspiring and important as president of the United States of America.

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