[Hpn] A washingtonpost.com article from wtinker@fcgnetworks.net

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Sun, 25 Jun 2000 17:52:18 -0400 (EDT)


You have been sent this message from wtinker@fcgnetworks.net as a courtesy of the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com).

GW BUSH at his next to finest hour,or at least 8 minutes worth of his ADA speech!!
A Brother In Disability
Bill
PS I believe Mickey Mouse is a more viable candidate!!

To view the entire article, go to http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55749-2000Jun24.html

Bush's Style Still Raises Worry Within the GOP


SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine –– Real men don't give great speeches.

To a certain extent, George W. Bush believes this. When he hears a musical cadence, a mellifluous tone, a rising and falling intonation in a speaker's voice, his phony alarm goes off.

And so we find him, during a recent campaign swing, delivering his one formal speech of the day without much in the way of oratorical razzle-dazzle. It's an eight-minute number pledging his support for Americans with disabilities. He reads it in a nice, soft, relaxed voice, perfect for the small room and intimate audience. But he's hardly two paragraphs into it when he muffs an important transitional line, inserting an extra period: "That is more than our creed. As a nation."

It's a small thing, but points to a large fact about Bush--one that has a number of prominent Republicans concerned. According to people close to him, the Texas governor believes that his homespun delivery--complete with stumbles and swallowed words--is a sign of sincerity and authenticity.

Some key figures in the party, mindful of the speechmaking genius of the party's icon, Ronald Reagan, aren't so sure. They have been urging the Bush campaign to begin spending large blocks of time rehearsing for the biggest speech of his career: his address to the Republican convention on Aug. 3.

They are coming up against a primal revulsion in Bush for all things seemingly packaged. "He could be spending half his time getting ready for that speech, and it would be time well-spent," says one former Reagan aide. But Bush--who has never delivered a prime-time, nationwide address--is counting on the skills he has to carry him through, his staff says.

"There is a resistance to being quote-unquote 'handled,' " acknowledges Karen Hughes, Bush's communications director and one of his inner trio of aides. "The governor is a straightforward person. He has a concern that some of the contrivances of modern campaigns--like TelePrompTers, like speech coaching--can take away from his ability to communicate with people in a very straightforward way."

One major Bush fundraiser puts it more succinctly: "He thinks that stuff's for sissies."

It's not that Bush is a bad public speaker. In a field with the likes of Al Gore, John McCain and Bill Bradley, Bush is about average. All of them are more comfortable with off-the-cuff chats than with formal addresses.

Peggy Noonan, who wrote some of Reagan's greatest hits, says Bush--and the others--are held to a standard almost no one can meet. "We have contradictory desires," she says. "On the one hand, we want a president who will stand up and speak boldly, with eloquence, with the right word for the right moment. . . . On the other hand, we want a president who's unaided, unscripted, wholly 'authentic.' But a guy who's wholly authentic and unaided will fail sometimes--will say the wrong thing, even the dumb thing--because he's human, and that's what humans do."

Bush has a good basic grasp of the structure of an effective speech. Hughes recalls the day five years ago when she met with Bush to draft his first inaugural address as governor. He took a pen to a legal pad and scratched out an outline: Introduction, themes, examples, peroration. Learned it in a class at Yale, he explained.

And he has one great thing going for him: He seems relaxed, even when he may be stumbling. Nothing makes an audience more uncomfortable than a speaker who is clearly ill at ease.

But a recent speech in Washington, to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, told a lot about the limits of his skills. The TelePrompTer is a device that displays the text of a speech on two transparent panels set near eye level, one on each side of the podium. An experienced user learns to scan an entire passage of a speech in one glimpse, and then to spool it out while locking the audience--and the cameras--in his gaze.

Bush clearly had trouble keeping his place as he turned from one transparent panel to the other, and he often paused at the end of a line of text--even though it was not the end of the sentence. Afterward, he confided to friends that he is still uncomfortable with the technology.

He also seemed uncomfortable with the formal English of his text. In conversation, Bush is a man of many contractions: "that is" becomes "that's," "you are" is "you're," "what will" is "what'll" and so on. His speechwriters have not yet molded their style to his--and as a result, he sometimes sounds a bit like a schoolboy reading aloud from a grammar book.

Some of the concern over the Bush rhetorical style dates back to the primaries. Thousands of active Republicans around the country who had never heard the Texas governor were swept up by the buzz about Bush and his amazing ability to connect with people. He was, word had it, positively Reaganesque.

But when they finally got a look at Bush in television sound bites and candidate debates, the air went out of a party full of balloons. He seemed to have more in common with his famously fumble-tongued father than with the Great Communicator.

There were a lot of panicky phone calls to campaign headquarters in Austin--including the sort of calls that demand attention, the ones from men and women raising $100,000 or more for the effort. The general thrust was: Hey, what gives?

"And Austin would say, 'If everyone in America could just get in a room with the guy along with 25 other people, they would see what we see,' " recalls one member of the elite Pioneers group of fundraisers. "Of course, that's not possible in a presidential election. Reagan knew how to read a speech from a TelePrompTer and make everyone who heard him feel like he was in their living room."

That skill takes hard work, according to Reagan communications guru Michael Deaver. He was reminiscing recently about the former president, and though George W. Bush's name did not come up, what he had to say was instructive about the art of political communication.

"Reagan felt that his job was the speech," Deaver said. "Everyone in the campaign had a job to do, and his was to communicate his vision, and the way he did that was through his speeches." Reagan rehearsed even the simplest presentations; unlike most candidates, he reviewed his stump speech before every appearance.

Of course, Reagan had the advantage of years of experience in reading texts: as a radio announcer, an advertising pitchman, an actor. But he is hardly the only major political figure who mastered the art of formal speechmaking--or the modern technology of communications. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt rallied two nations over the radio, while Jesse L. Jackson and Mario M. Cuomo built huge followings in large part on the power of their stirring speeches to Democratic conventions.

"You'd think no Republican would need a lesson in the value of effective speaking after Bill Clinton," grumbles one GOP leader.

President Clinton is indeed an interesting example to consider. Once upon a time, he was a confident governor making his first nationally televised, prime-time speech. It was 1988, and the then-leader of Arkansas was chosen to nominate Michael S. Dukakis for president. He didn't appear to have put a lot of time into rehearsal--his rambling, soporific performance was a colossal dud.

Four years later, a more practiced Clinton accepted the nomination himself. And the speech he gave in Madison Square Garden--fluid, passionate, resonant--was a major moment in his winning campaign. Clinton had been battered in the primaries and, in the months before the convention, actually sank to third place in the polls, behind President George Bush and third-party candidate Ross Perot.

His memorable last line, "I still believe in a place called Hope," helped recast Clinton as the candidate of optimism. After that night, he never trailed again.

Bush is preparing for his convention speech in his own way, Hughes says. Last month, he met in Austin with Hughes, strategist Karl Rove, campaign ad man Mark McKinnon, policy director Josh Bolton and Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter. For nearly two hours, they discussed the themes and ideas they wanted to communicate.

Then Gerson started writing. Two weeks ago, with his first draft in hand, he met with Bush at the governor's family retreat in Maine. Once again, Hughes and Rove sat in, and together the group discussed broad outlines. "We didn't go through it line by line," Hughes says. "It was 'more of this, less of that.' "

Bush plans to repeat this process several times, and then he'll edit each word of the speech, Hughes says, until "he spends so much time with it that it is very real and from his heart and really reflects who he is, his values and what he wants for the country."

Only in the last days before the speech will he spend "a couple of sessions" practicing with the TelePrompTer.

Hughes acknowledges that formal speaking is "a practiced art." She adds: "Obviously, Governor Bush doesn't have as much practice as the vice president has," conveying the idea that "practice" is a rather oily thing.

But Bush, Hughes promises, "will be comfortable."