The Bushisms: Like Father, Like Son

Poor Dubya. The English language has been terribly unkind to him. So have his critics, who have been quick to deride him as the most syntactically challenged president in our nation's history.

Apparently we have forgotten the verbal feats of Bush the elder, who never met a metaphor he couldn't mangle. "He can't help it," former Texas Gov. Ann Richards once said of George H.W. Bush's frequent verbal miscues. "He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

Try as we might to read their lips, the George Bushes have often left us searching for meaning, not to mention nouns and verbs. As this side-by-side look at "Bushisms" reveals, Dubya has simply been striving to live up to his father's rhetorical legacy.

The Economy, Stupid

"We're enjoying sluggish times, and not enjoying them very much." --George Bush Sr., Jan. 2, 1992

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." --George W. Bush, Jan. 27, 2000

Freudian Slips

"For seven and a half years I've worked alongside President Reagan. We've had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We've had some sex...uh...setbacks." --George Bush Sr., in 1988

"It was just inebriating what Midland was all about then." --George W. Bush, reflecting in 1994 about growing up in Midland, Texas

Metaphorically Misspeaking

"Please don't ask me to do that which I've just said I'm not going to do, because you're burning up time. The meter is running through the sand on you, and I am now filibustering." --George Bush Sr., April 20, 1989

"The senator has got to understand if he's going to have -- he can't have it both ways. He can't take the high horse and then claim the low road." --George W. Bush, Feb. 17, 2000

The Call of the Wild

"If you're worried about caribou, take a look at the arguments that were used about the pipeline. They'd say the caribou would be extinct. You've got to shake them away with a stick. They're all making love lying up against the pipeline and you got thousands of caribou up there." --George Bush Sr., speaking about the Alaskan pipeline, Oct. 31, 1991

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." --George W. Bush, Sept. 29, 2000

The English Patient

"Fluency in English is something that I'm often not accused of." --George Bush Sr., June 6, 1989

"The woman who knew that I had dyslexia -- I never interviewed her." --George W. Bush, denying a magazine article's claim that he suffers from dyslexia, Sept. 15, 2000

Is Our Children Learning?

"And let me say in conclusion, thanks for the kids. I learned an awful lot about bathtub toys -- about how to work the telephone. One guy knows -- several of them know their own phone numbers -- preparation to go to the dentist. A lot of things I'd forgotten. So it's been a good day." --George Bush Sr., Jan 21, 1992

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." --George W. Bush, Feb. 21, 2001

Mistake My Wife, Please

"It has been said by some cynic, maybe it was a former president, 'If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.' Well, we took them literally -- that advice -- as you know. But I didn't need that because I have Barbara Bush." --George Bush Sr., March 30, 1989

"The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case." --George W. Bush, Jan. 30, 2000

Winging It

"If a frog had wings, he wouldn't hit his tail on the ground. Too hypothetical." --George Bush Sr., in 1992

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." --George W. Bush, in Oct. 18, 2000

Riding the Wave of the Future

"High tech is potent, precise, and in the end, unbeatable. The truth is, it reminds a lot of people of the way I pitch horseshoes. Would you believe some of the people? Would you believe our dog? Look, I want to give the high-five symbol to high tech." --George Bush Sr., April 25, 1989

"Will the highways on the Internet become more few?" --George W. Bush, Jan. 29, 2000

Poetically Incorrect

"The Democrats want to ram it down my ear in a political victory." --George Bush Sr., Oct. 31, 1991

"We ought to make the pie higher." --George W. Bush, Feb. 15, 2000

Anti-Matters of the Heart

"I hope I stand for antibigotry, anti-Semitism, antiracism. This is what drives me." --George Bush Sr., Jan. 17, 1992

"Unfairly but truthfully, our party has been tagged as being against things. Anti-immigrant, for example. And we're not a party of anti-immigrants. Quite the opposite. We're a party that welcomes people." --George W. Bush, July 1, 2000

Shoot Me

"Obviously, when you see somebody go berserk and get a weapon and go in and murder people, of course, it troubles me." --George Bush Sr., Oct. 17, 1991

"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it." --George W. Bush, May 14, 2001

Freudian Slips II

"I don't want to run the risk of ruining what is a lovely recession." --George Bush Sr., Oct 22, 1992

"If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign." --George W. Bush, Feb. 16, 2000

The Dangers of Microphones

"These, they're very dangerous. They trap you. Especially these furry's these furry guys that get you in real trouble. They can reach out and listen to something so -- keep it respectful here." --George Bush Sr., speaking to Arnold Schwarzenegger about the need to be careful when speaking near open microphones, Sept. 13, 1991

"There's Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times." --George W. Bush, Sept. 4, 2000

Return of the English Patient

"I've been talking the same way for years, so it can't be that serious." --George Bush Sr., Aug. 7, 1988

"I've coined new words, like, misunderstanding and Hispanically." --George W. Bush, March 29, 2001

On the Couch

"To kind of suddenly try to get my hair colored, and dance up and down in a miniskirt or do something, you know, show that I've got a lot of jazz out there and drop a bunch of one-liners, I'm running for the president of the United States...I kind of think I'm a scintillating kind of fellow." --George Bush Sr., April 26, 1988

"Actually, I -- this may sound a little West Texan to you, but I like it. When I'm talking about -- when I'm talking about myself, and when he's talking about myself, all of us are talking about me." --George W. Bush, May 31, 2000

The Electability Thing

"I don't want to get, you know, here we are close to the election -- sounding a knell of overconfidence that I don't feel." --George Bush Sr., Nov. 6, 1988

"I don't know whether I'm going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I'm ready for the job. And, if not, that's just the way it goes." --George W. Bush, Aug. 21, 2000

Daniel Kurtzman is a San Francisco-based writer and former Washington political correspondent. He runs's political humor Web site, which can be found at

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