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He Yelled Himself Hoarse

There is a lot for which President Bush will be eternally criticized, once he bids to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a sweet parting. But among those things which history will judge exemplary in Bush: His rolled-up sleeves.

For a half-century now, the sight of a president in a button-down Oxford shirt, the sleeves rended upward in anticipation of his labor—Our labor, he’ll tell the crowd—has been an evergreen arrow in the campaign quiver. It isn’t just the sleeves: A corpus of mannerism, countenance, speech, and inflection go along with the sleeves. The rolled-up sleeves allow a sitting American president—allow the most powerful man on Earth—to goad a crowd into a three-syllable chant of USA, and look presidential doing it. No, you cannot roll up your sleeves and then give a speech exhorting Americans to roll up their sleeves, too. That’s a bit on the nose. You’ve got to simply do it, and by example give inspiration. Bush did this just yesterday, in Sellersburg, Indiana. He wore himself hoarse by invoking Reagan—a master of the sleeves himself—and telling the audience that Democrats in Washington plan to “just say no” to listening in on terrorists.

Anyway, I suppose in this one respect, although one hopes in others, history will glow warmly on Bush, because he was a president who, in a room of just a few hundred or so, teased forth from each person his own glow.


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