Saturday, January 29, 2005

Brian Lamb Interviews George Bush! / The Old Country Buffet Era

What a banner day in the world of C-SPAN fandom! Bush was interviewed by Brian Lamb for Q & A, C-SPAN's Sunday night interview show, but you can already watch it online if you just can't wait.

If you are looking for insights into the complex political genius of George Bush, this interview won't really do much for you. But, if you are fascinated by the way Bush has somehow been able to charm 51% of Americans into voting for him, despite his obvious incompetence when it comes to talking intelligently about political issues, this interview is for you.

Juxtaposed with Brian Lamb's serious manner and love of books, Bush comes off as goofy and inarticulate as ever. With each passing question he looks more and more like Dennis the Menace being grilled by Mr. Wilson.

At one point Lamb asks Bush what he watches when he watches television. Bush says "I really don't watch much TV...Of course C-SPAN, what am I thinking?" Look at his gesture here when he says that (sorry no audio):

That "I'm such an idiot" gesture is right out of Chris Farley's playbook. Can you imagine any other president in our history doing that? And who would have thought that someone with that kind of schtick could ever be a viable presidential candidate?

(from the Chris Farley Picture Gallery

While liberals may hate to admit it, Bush's cluelessness has a certain charm about it and that's a large part of why he beat John Kerry. Smart people act like they know everything, and they say all kinds of confusing things; between the arrogance and the fancy words, people don't know what to believe. Bush, on the other hand, acts like he barely knows anything, and like it or not, that inspires people to trust him. People tend to trust what they can understand.

In sum, when the nation is evenly split on political issues (like it is now) charm is the deciding factor. Therefore, I believe we have entered the era of the "Old Country Buffet" President. (If you've never been to Old Country Buffett, think Sizzler but not so fancy.) The question, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" is outdated; Bush doesn't even drink.

When you ask yourself, "Which candidate would you rather go to Old Country Buffet with?" I think you have a pretty good guage of who will win the presidency. Take a look:

Who would you/the American people rather go to Old Country Buffet with?

04 Bush Kerry..........Answer: Bush
00 Bush Gore...........Answer: Bush
96 Clinton Dole........Answer: Clinton
92 Clinton Bush........Answer: Clinton
88 Bush Dukakis.......Answer: Bush
84 Reagan Mondale...Answer: Reagan?
80 Reagan Carter.......Answer: Reagan
76 Carter Ford...........Answer: Carter
72 Nixon McGovern...Answer: ??

I think it works all the way back to 1976, but I don't know anything about the dynamic of Nixon vs. McGovern so I won't even hazard a guess. Also, I don't know what Mondale was like so I'm just assuming that Reagan out Old Country Buffeted him because I imagine that Reagan could outcharm almost anyone. But when you look at the last four elections, that's when you are really getting into the meaty part of the Old Country Buffet Era. Bush and Clinton both possess an unmistakable "down home charm" charm that made all four of their opponents look relatively stiff and uptight.


Sam Well said...

Reagan wouldn't beat Carter for company at an Old Country Buffet! Good Lord, Jimmy Carter was a Georgian peanut farmer! Reagan's stories all sprung from his days in Hollywood; Carter's were about the time a rabid jackrabbit attacked him while he was fishing on the pond. Even more than he hated liberals, more than he hated children, Reagan vituperatively hated hicks.

Dan Bana said...


Very true. I take back my statement that Reagan beats Carter in the Old Country Buffet Challenge. I am going to add a section to C-SPANTASTIC!! called "People Who Have Proven Me Wrong" and you are going to be the inaugural member.

Your objection raises a question: does the fact that Reagan beat Carter mean that pound-for-pound charm is more important than being comfortable in a place that offers all-you-can-eat pudding? In other words, do we need a new criterion for judging the kind of charm American voters look for? Or should we say that the Old Country Buffet Era begins after the Reagan/Carter election?