Thursday, September 30, 2004

O'Reilly's Bush Interview, Pt. 3

I watched the final section of the Bush interview, and I have conflicting feelings about it. First, my quibbles. Whoever cut the interview on O'Reilly's end did a poor job in my opinion. This final segment struck me as much shorter than the first two. I would surmise that the goal was to divide the segments by topic (foreign policy, domestic policy, personal reflections), but this had the effect of making the final segment seem less weighty than the first two. Quite frankly, this final portion of the interview left me wanting more than I got. This nit is a problem with the editors at Fox though, and not an issue with the president's answers.

On the other hand, I think that Bush's final answers revealed him at his most human, giving a true glimpse into the man's character. O'Reilly essentially asked three questions: 1) What were you thinking in the Florida classroom on 9/11/01, 2) Why do people get upset over your faith, and 3) What don't Americans know about you? The first two questions were the most personal questions of Bush over the course of the entire three-part interview, and the answers were sincere and compelling. The final question made me chuckle out loud, but Bush's response struck me as profound. He really didn't know what to say. O'Reilly had just given him the chance to plug himself and his character one last time for the audience, and the man just didn't have an answer for him.

I think the reason is that the American people know this president in a way that few presidents have been known by the public, certainly since FDR and his fireside chats. Bush, love him or hate him, is a very transparent person. His feelings and his passions are not hidden or masked. He laughs when he is amused, he becomes short and terse when he is angered, his eyes tear up when he is sad. And for all the blather about "Bush lied," most honest liberals will admit that Bush makes his intentions known, and then follows them through. Since 9/11, this man has experienced the breadth of human emotion, and his responses to these emotions have been public for all to see. What don't we know about George W. Bush? Not much, in my opinion. Even those who hate the man will tell you that his character flaws are plain to see. So when the president halted, thought, and stammered a bit to think of an answer that never came, I suspect that many Americans had the exact same response. And I think that just such a moment of shared emotion and experience is what John Kerry is totally lacking.

Grade for the third interview segment: A, despite its brevity.
Grade for entire interview: A-

As for the impact of the interview as a whole, that remains to be seen. However, I believe it will be quite positive for Bush, and I look forward to seeing this week's polls to track whether there was any noticeable change in his numbers. All in all, the interview was a good campaign decision for Bush. Let's see if Kerry follows suit (I'll bet he doesn't).