As the author of a previous item headlined “The Economist (Sort Of) Endorses Al Gore,” Chatterbox is obliged to inform his readers that the Economist just endorsed George W. Bush. What can Chatterbox say? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. As Chatterbox noted in his earlier item, the Economist pretty unambiguously pronounced Dubya a dummy in the following ad, which appeared in The New Yorker, the Harvard Business Review, the Industry Standard, and various Ivy League alumni magazines:
There was a sister ad mocking Gore, but the language in that one (“Spin a politician too far and he’s apt to wind up where he started”) was so vapory and British-understated that the intended message–that Gore’s clumsy attempts to recast his wooden image never work–probably didn’t get through to many people. (Even if it did, it’s a pretty mild criticism compared to calling somebody a moron.)
So why is the Economist endorsing Dubya now? The likeliest explanation is that the Economist’s editorial staff likes Dubya a lot better than the marketing staff does. It’s also possible that the Economist has adopted the line taken by Robert Bartley, editorial-page editor of the Wall Street Journal: namely, that it’s good that Dubya is a dummy because that makes him more like Ronald Reagan. (Click here to read Chatterbox’s disquisition on the Bartley column, and click here to read Slate “Earthling” columnist Robert Wright’s argument that the 1980s were less demanding on the presidential brainpan than the next four years will be.)
Or it could be that New York Times columnist Bob Herbert nailed it when he wrote on Oct. 19 that Dubya is himself a beneficiary of “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Certainly the Economist’s praise for Bush couldn’t be more condescending:
Bush-haters say that he is naïve, ignorant, inexperienced, and doesn’t know the name of Chechnya’s leader. That was indeed a genuine worry. But he has grown during the campaign, has shown a better grasp of his brief and, just as important, has proved to be a quick learner. Like Ronald Reagan in 1980, he has shown that he has a clear sense of where he stands on the big themes and, though hardly in the Gipper’s league, that he can even communicate fairly well.
Bush supporters like to talk about how much he’s grown during the campaign season. Chatterbox has no idea what they’re talking about, mainly because they never cite any examples. In any event, since when is a campaign supposed to be a crash course in acquiring the qualifications to be president?