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Home > War On Terror

"Today violence is the rhetoric of the period"

Today, violence is the rhetoric of the period

--José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses, 1930

Alan Connor ponders David Frum.

5 December 2003

David Frum used to write speeches for Bush. And now he's written a little something for The Telegraph.

The piece's pièce de résistance is a couple of paragraphs that were once written about Lincoln and which Frum thinks could be applied to Bush. It's some criticism of Lincoln at the time. Do you see what he's done there?

Lincoln was despised by some. But now we think of him as a great president. And, you see, Bush is despised by some right now. And so--.

Wait, there's more:

Both were widely thought to be intellectually and culturally unfit for office, and were condemned by their opponents for trampling political liberties: Lincoln even suspended the writ of habeas corpus.

And we got our habeus corpus back, didn't we? Frum's point here seems to be that you can see how decent the Bush administration is because Lincoln suspended habeus corpus -- well, if you like Abe, you should see the civil liberties George is planning on nuking.

The problem here (apart from all those civil liberties and illegal deaths) is that Frum's a speechwriter. So he explains that you only need to look at the content of Bush's speeches to see that he really wants a stable Middle East. A curious way of looking at modern politics, this. What he said? Pardon me, but isn't there some history of politicians using rhetoric as a form of image-management? I can think of a few examples off the top of my head. Sorry, a few million examples. And, notwithstanding the props to Locke and Tyndale, Bush's speeches were not exactly prose to relish, anthologise and read for inspiration.

Apparently, Bush's pronouncements from our Banqueting Hall formed "one of the most important addresses of his presidency". Right--. Again, what if you're interested less in his speeches than in more tangible things like whether the Middle East is safer? And - here's one of the bigger mysteries - why is it that someone whose day-to-day job has involved drawing up speeches for years - why does he think that they're something more than talk?


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