Tender loving care

A lot of attention is being paid to President Bush’s off the cuff remark about “Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” (downloadable from here.)

Now, the President is renowned for fumbling when he makes impromptu remarks. I’m sure what he was trying to say was that doctors, especially obstetricians and gynecologists, are motivated by their love for people, that they care about their patients, and they are being driven from their devotion to helping women by the skyrocketing costs of malpractice insurance, and that this is wrong, and…

I’m sorry. I can’t continue. I’m giggling even as I type this, and I burst out laughing every time I watch that. I remember once Molly Ivins (back when she was funny) describing George Bush the Elder blindly wrestling with a sentence, fighting over every word until, exhausted, he reaches the period and agrees to call it a draw. It’s obvious that his son inherited this remarkable gift. Half the fun of watching him speak extemporaneously is the bated-breath anticipation of just what will actually come out of his mouth.

And it’s never something bland, it’s always a particular twist of word or phrase that will just score a bullseye on the nation’s funnybone. Many so-called comedians would sacrifice their mothers to come up with material as remotely funny as what the President does entirely naturally.

But there is another point here. Bush knows this, admits it, even embraces it. Remember his line at the convention about knowing it was bad when Arnold Schwarzenegger was correcting him? Just try to imagine John Kerry saying any such thing.

You can’t. Kerry was born without the gene that allows him to make self-deprecating jokes. I can recall exactly three instances, and they revolve around a common theme:

1) When asked by Tim Russert, about his testimony about war crimes before Congress, Kerry responded (NOT “answered”) with “the real question, Tim, is what happened to that fabulous hair?” or words to that effect.

2) When introducing his “band of brothers” on the campaign trail, Kerry repeated the mantra “we’re all a little older, a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country.”

3) When giving the qualifications that he and Senator Edwards had to serve as President and Vice-President, he listed among their virtues that “we’ve got better hair.”

Just imagine if John Kerry had made such a statement as “oo many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” (giggle, snort, guffaw) We’d be subjected to a steady stream of campaign surrogates explaining that Kerry meant exactly what he said, with long lists of prior statements that reinforce some nebulous (I’m sorry, “nuanced”) position that was consistent with his gaffe. Kerry’s detractors would then go digging and find a long list of prior Kerry statements that show just the opposite. Some doctor that’s supported Kerry would come out and explain that what Kerry said is indeed 100% accurate and it’s degrading to the whole medical profession to keep bringing up the issue. And finally the New York Times or the AP would track down the person who first reported the statement and find a way to link them to the Bush campaign.

But with Bush, though, you know what will happen. He won’t say anything. And we won’t expect anything. We’re used to it, we’re comfortable with laughing at his malapropisms and understanding what he was struggling to say. And at the next event where Bush is expected to say something humorous (say, at the next Gridiron dinner), he’ll make a joke about it at his expense.

I want a president who can make self-deprecating jokes. It shows a humanity, a comfort with himself, a willingness to acknowledge, even embrace, his own strengths and weaknesses.

But in the meantime, though, I leave you with this thought:

“Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”


(laughing so hard, I can barely hit the “save” button and publish this thing…)

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  1. Charles September 8, 2004
  2. Jim Kouri September 8, 2004
  3. Debra September 8, 2004
  4. BA September 8, 2004
  5. Larry Morin September 8, 2004
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  14. Barry McCockener September 10, 2004