Here at low culture, we have already speculated how agonizing it must be for members of the White House press corps to be subjected to President Bush’s repetitive jokes and audaciously inane pet nicknames for his friends and peers.
Having taken a closer look at the full transcript of Tuesday’s press conference, however, it became vividly clear: the president must be taking leadership cues from David Brent of BBC America’s second-season hit television series, “The Office”). David (brilliantly played by actor Ricky Gervais) is the bumbling and deluded Regional Manager at a paper-supply company in an office park in the middle of nowhere.
Fans of the show can check out the uncanny similarities by looking at the lesson plan:
1. Use humor to ingratiate yourself with your staff (be “one of the guys”), but be sure that they remember who’s in charge.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you talked about politics. For weeks if not months now, when questions have been posed to members of your team, those questions have been dismissed as politics and the time will come later to address those questions. You indeed have said that yourself. How can the public differentiate between reality and politics when you and your campaign have raised over $80 million and you’re saying that this season has not started?
BUSH: You’re not invited to lunch.
2. Fish for compliments, even when you’re criticized.
QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians…
BUSH: Major or meager?
3. Display your keen sense of teamwork and express your solidarity with your staff, particularly your trust in their ability to do their job well.
QUESTION: And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?
BUSH: That’s a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops. I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, “Does he have what it takes to do his mission?” He told me he does.
4. Show your employees you really care, praise them whenever you get the chance, and give them affectionate nicknames.
BUSH: The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She’s doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She’s doing what her — I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis — I value her judgment and her intelligence — but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That’s the best way to put it. She’s an unsticker…
… and — is she listening? OK, well, she’s doing a fine job.
5. Keep making your favorite jokes over and over again until they get the reception you know they deserve.
BUSH: Let’s see: Mark Smith, a radio man.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir, for including radio folks here.
BUSH: Face for radio.
QUESTION: I wish I could say that was the first time you told me that, sir.
BUSH: First time I did it to a national audience, though.
QUESTION: Actually my wife the last time.
6. It’s important that your staff respects you and your sense of hipness. Whenever you have the chance, show off your awareness of fashion trends.
BUSH: Last question?
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President…
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
BUSH: Fine looking vest.
QUESTION: It’s inspired by some of the attire from your APEC colleagues last week.
7. To innovate in today’s fast-paced world, you need to be open-minded and able to coin new phrases for your brand.
BUSH: It is dangerous in Iraq because there are some who believe that we’re soft, that the will of the United States can be shaken by suiciders and suiciders who are willing to drive up to a Red Cross center, a center of international help and aid and comfort, and just kill.
8. Be a real straight shooter; employees will appreciate your honesty.
BUSH: I can’t put it any more plainly. Iraq’s a dangerous place. That’s leveling. It is a dangerous place.
9. On the other hand, when confronted with a mistake you might have made, either lie or pass the buck to someone else — preferably an employee working beneath you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I may take you back to May 1st, when you stood on the USS Lincoln under a huge banner that said, “Mission Accomplished,” at that time, you declared major combat operations were over. But since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date…
BUSH: …The “Mission Accomplished” sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from staff. They weren’t that ingenious, by the way.
So, there you have it. Finally, there’s a rational explanation for why it seemed as though we were watching reruns of something already familiar to us.
(Additional thanks to J.”K.” W.)