Anti-Bush Snobbery

Mark Steyn‘s Telegraph column today is entitled, “Bush-beating is nothing but snobbery.” He contends that the media misunderstands Bush’s appeal and is jumping through hoops trying to explain it.

Just over a month ago, John Kerry gave his “I’m reporting for duty” convention speech. I thought it was typical Kerry – “verbose, shapeless, platitudinous, complacent, ill-disciplined, arrogant, and humourless,” as I wrote in the Telegraph back then. But what do I know? The American media hailed it as a triumph. A day or two later, the numbers came in and showed that Kerry’s “triumph” had mysteriously not prompted the traditional post-convention bounce in the polls. Even Michael Dukakis got a bounce. But not Kerry. Indeed, according to Gallup, he had the first recorded instance of negative bounce.

Fortunately, the Dems and their chums in the press were able to reassure themselves that this lack of bounce didn’t mean anything. “Just before the convention, polls showed that many more Americans than usual had already made up their minds about whom to support, leaving a small number of undecided voters to woo,” explained Bill Straub of the Scripps-Howard news service. As for the Republican convention, “Bush is similarly unlikely to see his poll numbers flourish.”
Ingenious! It was the instant conventional wisdom. There are no swing voters left to bounce. The post-convention bounce is no longer relevant. It’s a thing of the past. It belongs to the age of buggy whips and whalebone corsets. Forget about it. We’re living in the post-bounce era of American politics. Only a chump not up to speed on this new political reality would be dumb enough to suggest that the absence of bounce is because Kerry’s Vietnam-retro acceptance speech was a flop.

Last Thursday, Bush gave his speech. Unlike Kerry’s “triumph”, this was a dud. “Too long,” yawned Bob Schiefer on CBS. He lost the crowd, alienated moderates, etc. Then the Time and Newsweek polls came in, and showed Bush with an 11-point lead over Kerry. How did that happen? Whatever became of the post-bounce era of American politics? Not to worry. The new conventional wisdom is that it was the sheer meanness of the Republicans that earned them the bounce, and so Kerry’s hitting back saying he’s not going to be criticised by a President and Vice-President who weren’t in Vietnam. If you didn’t serve in Vietnam, you can’t criticise John Kerry. On the other hand, if you did serve in Vietnam and you criticise John Kerry, that just means you’re a “Republican smear artist”. Either way, don’t criticise John Kerry, because, if you do, he’ll spend his next 10 campaign rallies droning on about how he’s not going to take criticism.


You can’t beat something with nothing, and Kerry is about as spectacular a nothing as you could devise – a thin-skinned whiny vanity candidate who persists in deluding himself that Bush’s advantage is all down to “smears” and “lies” and “mean” “attacks”. It’s not.

Bush’s something is very simple: his view of the war on terror resonates with a majority of the American people; when he talks about 9/11 and the aftermath, they recognise themselves in his words; they trust his strategy on this issue. For an inarticulate man, he communicates a lot more effectively than Senator Nuancy Boy.

So it would appear.

Update: Anti-Bush Snobbery II.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. La Femme Crickita says:

    Mark Steyn is just a mean spirited European.

  2. BigFire says:

    Re: La Femme Crickita

    Though the article appears in Daily Telegraph, Mark Steyn is a Canadian writer living in New Hampshire. He just happened to write column for Telegraph, Chicago Sun Time, and various other publication.

  3. Matt says:

    Let’s also not forget why Bush is so hated by both coasts. Bush is a cowboy and, gasp, a Christian. There is nothing worse to a New Englander or New Yorker than a stupid cowboy. And don’t even discuss religion and all it’s values with hollyweird – religion tends to get in the way of their fun.

  4. McGehee says:

    Crickita, I think somebody stole your “Irony in Thread” warning signs.

  5. LowLife says:

    More than 50% people voted against Bush in 2000 and he’s not likely to get more than 50% this time even if he wins. I don’t know the demographics of snobbery but do they constitute half the population? Would I be justified in assuming that there exist snobs that are voting for Bush? Though the following may be nuanced and thus reveal me as a snob, belieing my online tag, but can’t it be reasonably said that anti-snobbery is a form of snobbery? You know, like the commercial cowboys that look down their noses at salsa made in New York. So we have snobs that hate Bush, snobs that like Bush and anti-snobs that are nothing but snobs. That probably constitutes the vast majority of the American populace. Don’t even get me started on Nader snobs, religious snobs (their heaven is just too good for the rest of us), the Communist elite, and well, just everybody else.

  6. Dan Ryan says:

    Steyn’s right. And let me be the first to admit that I am also a snob. I’m intelligent and somewhat culturally sophisticated and it bothers me that the President is a yobbish idiot. Pardon me if his everyman routine doesn’t work for me.

  7. carpeicthus says:

    Matt: Name the last non-Christian Democratic candidate. You’re being deliberately obtuse.

  8. Matt says:

    Nearly every candidate has been fashionably Christian. I cannot recall any that have listed Jesus Christ as the man they most admire though. This type of spiritualism is generally regarded as religious fanaticism and bumpkin stupidity by elites. Put that in the white house and you suffer the disdain and “intellectual” wrath of the coffee house elites (the snobs).

  9. LowLife says:

    Matt, I bet there are lots of thinks you can’t recall. For one, Bush’s famous quote of admiration was for Jesus Christ the philosopher. I’m sure that religious leaders can be considered philosophical but usually they engage in some kind of philosophy. Saint Aquinas or St. Augustine might serve as examples. Some might naturally admire Jesus Christ for his wisdom, his leadership, his sacrifice and the fact that he’s part of the big three with Father and Spirit. I bet some snobs – you know, people who think of philosophers as philosophers and of religious leaders, especially those proported to be of the same Flesh with the Father, as something of a different breed – thought that Bush wasn’t answering the question as it was ask. Some might of thought he was being lazy in his answer, ignorant in is studies or dishonest in his response.

    Not me. I’m with Bush and you. Why should anybody study Plato, Aristotle, Duns Scotus, Betham, Berkeley, Kant etc. or even try any critical thinking at all when, after all that work, all’s that’s left you is a liberal world view and the scorn of all right thinking people? Only a snob would take a question like “who’s your favorite philosopher?” and actually answer it based on the meaning of the words. Maybe that’s why snobs hate us so much. They seem to have this antiquated notion the words mean something.

  10. jr says:

    Matt- Bush is a cowboy? Have you ever seen him on a horse?

    PS: Kerry was an alterboy and goes to church most Sundays. When was the last time Bush went to church? He doesn’t even belong to one.

    PPS: The Clintons were members of Foundry Methodist Church and attended often. So don’t believe that Bush doesn’t go because it would be unsafe or disruptive. He just doesn’t want to.

    PPPS: Before Clinton, the last regular church-going president was Jimmy Carter.

  11. Boyd says:

    Just for the record, LowLife, I don’t think a President has won with an actual majority of the popular vote since George H. W. Bush in 1988.

  12. LowLife says:

    Boyd – so true, so true. But my point was not that G.W. doesn’t get 50%, but that if snobs are driving the anti-Bush campaigne there must be an awful lot of them. This whole attack of “snobs” and “elitist” is a smoke screen and doesn’t belong in the public discourse. It defines the notion of strawman and when Steyn and Joyner, both of whom are capable of better, engage in it they are talking past the issues.

    Where did Steyn get his critiques on Kerry’s and Bush’s speeches? What I read about Kerry’s speech is that he started poorly – dumb jokes and all – but finished strong. It wasn’t a great speech but he beat the expectations game. What I read about Bush’s speech was the his pacing was a bit slow, that the speech itself was divided into two parts – most people thought the second part was very good but a few prefered the first part. Nobody said it was a dud. Some thought is was an absolute success – that is to say beyond expectations. Where did Steyn get his info?

    Nobody expected big bounces out of these conventions. Mainly because so many have already made up their minds. Kerry just survived a month long attack by the swifties and most of that Bush bounce is illusionary – according to Gallup and the campaigns, anyway. In short, Steyn wasted his time with his post and Joyner didn’t recognize it as the nonsense it is. I expect both will do better next time.

  13. Tony says:

    I don’t think it’s snobbery to want—character issues aside—the most intelligent person possible as President. When availing of the services of, say, a doctor or a lawyer,would you ask: Give me the one who admits he doesn’t like to read, has demonstrated a complete lack of curiosity about the world and, indeed, doesn’t even seem to understand that most issues are complex? For Bush, even a rudimentary understanding of Iraqi society would have told him that winning the peace was going to be exceptionally difficult.

    I just don’t get this obsession with having the “common” man as president