Page 15


ke g , 56′ server reciaers r Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER Merver readers are SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING \($o are Ceserver advertisers r Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, cof fee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. \(15-GJ Q TheTexasObsenrer ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Call 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin ore-mail [email protected] through records, radio, TV, and books, entertained the nation and established him, long before his death in 1979, as “the king of bloopers.” Collecting bloopers today seems a bit quaint, like collecting orange crate labels. Though slip science slides on, why is Urn … appearing now? The subtextand pretextof the book is that in 2007 you don’t need a blunderologist to tell you that the most powerful man in the world is a gaffe factory. Erard explains that he began his project out of fascination “with how George W. Bush’s speech was portrayed, even fetishized, by the media and other observers.” Erard titles his penultimate chapter, a discussion of Bush’s verbal bungles, “President Blunder.” While quoting several of Bush’s egregious bloopers, Erard contends that other public figures Dan Quayle, Bush pere, even Thomas Jeffersonalso mangled English. He paints the 43rd president as a victim of changing expectations by citizens who average seven to 22 slips of the tongue a day. While supporting standards of excellence in public discourse, he asks us to chill out, to accept slips as normal. The final words of Urn … ask that we “not only forgive our blunders but enjoy them.” Joy isn’t exactly the result when Bush proclaims: “I don’t care what the polls say. I don’t. I’m doing what I think what’s wrong.” We are more attentive to miscues by the president than by other mortals. Yogi Berra is said to have said, “I didn’t really say everything I said.” Like Berra, Bush has become a repository of apocryphal gaffes, but he has uttered enough real ones on the record to embarrass anyone who values clarity and truth. When Berra erred, a game could be lost; a blunder by a president bears a higher potential cost. During Elizabeth II’s recent U.S. visit, Bush recalled, “You’ve helped our nation celebrate our bicentennial in 1776.” That was a failure to communicate. But when the man in charge confuses Slovenia and Slovakia, refers to Africa as “a nation of incredible disease,” and comments on the balance of trade with: “More and more of our imports come from overseas,” we have to wonder how that affects policy. In the 1976 film Bedazzled, a character with a severe speech impediment struggles for agonizing moments to express a thought. “Well, that’s easy for you to say,” replies Peter Cook. It is not easy for us to listen. Sometimes stumbling in a sentence can be as refreshingly natural as a child’s belch during a stuffy sermon. But the bloopers that Bush, a graduate of Andover, Yale, and Harvard, emits betray a blend of ignorance and insouciance. They are not refreshing, even if natural. President Blunder is farting at the world. Steven G. Kellman, a professor in the department of English, Classics, and Philosophy at the University of Texas at San Antonio, was recently awarded the National Book Critic Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. LETTERS TO THE EDITORS 307. W 7th St. Austin, TX 78701 [email protected] 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 29, 2007 I.