Bush is commonly known for his poor command of the language and his stark black-and-
white view of the world (Podhoretz 2002, In Praise of the Bush Doctrine). Bush has said
that he used such straightforward language to communicate to the public the direction
America was heading in the war against terrorism (Woodward 2002, 100).56 For
instance, on the eve of the failed effort earlier this year to win U.N. support for military
action against Iraq, Bush stated, “It’s time for people to show their cards” (quoted in
Milibank and Loeb 2003, A01). Like a cowboy, “he calls the shots like he sees them”
(Fields 2003, A19). Revisiting the tough-talk of the Old West, during a press conference
Bush again invoked the talk of the cowboy, when a reporter asked “Do you want bin
Laden dead?” To which the president responded, “There's an old poster out West, I
recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’” (quoted in Schneider 2001, A Reagan Echo).
Bush’s forthright language and simple phrases may indeed speak to Americans.
In an account of the president’s August 2001 vacation, Los Angeles Times reporter
Ronald Brownstein attempted a complex articulation of Bush’s presidential image.
Brownstein wrote that “Bush is taciturn where Clinton was loquacious,” acknowledging
that “part of that may reflect his staff’s uncertainty about his skills at delivering formal
speeches or sparring with the press in news conferences” (Brownstein 2001, A8). He
elaborated: “The White House seems to be telling voters that Bush may be a man of
fewer words than his predecessor, but at least you can always trust his words. In White
fine points of diplomacy of dealing with these kind of issues,” said Vice President Dick Cheney about Bush on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (quoted in Mills 2003, 4).
56 “A lot of times you get out here and you know something is going to happen or you’re thinking about something,” Bush recalled. “And you get asked a question and it just, it pops out. I’m not very guarded in that sense sometimes … It was a little bit bravado, but it was also an understanding […] that in self-defense of America that ‘Dead or Alive,’ that it’s legal” (quoted in Woodward 2002, 100-101).