Clive James. From a speech delivered at the Australian Commercial Radio Conference, 16 October 2004.
............you have to admire a country so democratic that a mentally handicapped man can become President. Incidentally, I was in New York the weekend before last, having arrived just in time for the first debate between Bush and Kerry. Watching the debate with a deepening sense of awe, I thought: there is the spectacle of the two most highly qualified men in a great office, and then there is this. It wasn't surprising that Kerry was generally thought to have won the contest. Being more articulate than George W Bush is no challenge. So is my cat. In the debate, Bush once again proved that it is too early in America's history to have a president for whom English is not his first language. Once again you could see the truth of the remark (I think it was my remark but other commentators have been borrowing it) that the British prime minister Tony Blair's great advantage as a world statesman is his gift for putting President Bush's thoughts into words. It's even possible that President Bush has no thoughts at all, only emotions. When he searches for a word, he feels fear, and his face shows it. When he finds one, he feels triumph, and his face shows that. Almost always, the word he finds is the wrong one, but his look of relief arouses sympathy in the audience, as when a child, sent to fetch a spoon from the kitchen drawer, comes back with a fork. I was especially sympathetic when he announced that the "group of folks" , by which he meant the insurgents in Iraq, were fighting us " vociferously": "that's why they're fighting so vociferously". He must have meant "viciously" or perhaps "ferociously", but he could scarcely have meant "vociferously". If all that the insurgents were doing was shouting loudly they would be less of a problem. But Bush's premature senile aphasia wasn't the real story of the debate. The real story was that Kerry, even with his opponent disappearing into a semantic black hole, still managed to win only by a hair. In fact he won only by a hairstyle. ......."