Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Hofstadter Huff

Linda Colley in the London Guardian employs a wishful analysis of why Bush is leading Kerry in the polls. "As the historian Richard Hofstadter observed, there is a long, disreputable tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics, and Bush's studiously plain, sometimes stumbling language resonates with this very successfully. Kerry's speaking style, by contrast, is clever enough to alienate, without being so powerful as to compel attention anyway." (via the always interesting Jefferson Morley)

Kerry’s reputation for being the brain in the race is based on nothing. He’s written one book, a total clip job, and while I grant he comes off as thoughtful, it’s such central-casting New England-statesman posturing. Also, Bush may not speak real good, but, boy, does everyone know what he’s saying. Kerry’s cleverness generally amounts to speaking out of both sides of his mouth. It’s not too clever by half; it’s too unclever by half. All tone and gesture; very little analytical thrust; very little in the way of conviction; no great data-crunching going on; one doesn’t find him making lovely historical analogies or literary allusions; rather his shtick is all very autobiographical and self-centered. Next to, say, a guy like Bill Clinton, George Bush might look like the anti-intellectual’s candidate. Not next to Kerry.

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