January 24, 2007

"God bless."

I like this device in the NYT that lets you search for words in the text of all of President Bush's State of the Union addresses and displaying the results graphically. They've done a few key words -- "Iraq," "democracy," "oil" -- for you already. I decided to search for "God" (as they say....). The results show the only use of the word in an anecdote about Dikembe Mutombo, who, we're told, "believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.”

What? Bush didn't end with "God bless America"?

I check the full text. It ends this way:
This is a decent and honorable country, and resilient too. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence, because the state of our union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on.

God bless.
Somehow those last two words got left out of the "interactive graphic."

But it's interesting that Bush just said "God bless." Didn't he always say "God bless America"? Let's look:
2001: "Good night and God bless."

2002: "May God bless." (Said shortly after "God is near.")

2003: The most religious ending: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America."

2004: "May God continue to bless America."

2005: "[M]ay God bless America."

2006: "May God bless America."

2007: "God bless."
He seems to have come full circle. The blessing started out short, took its fullest form in the grandiloquent 2005 speech, then got small again. Reading the different blessings, what strikes me the most is that in 2001 he used, word for word, the tag line Red Skelton always ended his show with.



I would have thought that if Bush was going to switch to saying "God bless America," it would have happened in 2002, given the prominence of the song "God bless America" after the 9/11 attacks. But it's the 2003 speech, the one with the elaborately religious ending that introduces "God bless America" to Bush's State of the Union style. He adopts the long form: "may God continue to bless the United States of America." This is the speech that immediately precedes the invasion of Iraq. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. Ah! It was Bush's tragic mistake to believe that. God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. Ah! To think such a thing!

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. Ah! It was Bush's tragic mistake to believe that.

Oh nonsense. It was Bush's arrogance and lying that led him to claim to the United States that God speaks directly to Bush and that this was a Christian war.

Shouldn't the dumbshit Christians have been wary of false prophets?

Anonymous said...

The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. Ah! It was Bush's tragic mistake to believe that.

Yeah, most Democrats will tell you that brown people aren't mature enough for democracy. Then a couple of sentences later they'll find some pretext to accuse you of racism.

A couple of more sentences and you will find that only they care about women or gays. If you bring up burkhas, honor killings or being crushed by a wall they'll look shifty for a moment then change the subject.

Peppered throughout the rant will be mentions of "The Children." Yet the President who stopped a man who would have children raped while their parents were forced to watch? Yeah, he is worse than the rapist mass murderer.

Cognitive dissonance thy name is "Democrat."

This reminds me of part of a post I just wrote:

""

Anonymous said...

Oops, decided not to do the quote as too off-topic and forgot to remove the reference.

Anonymous said...

"It was Bush's arrogance and lying that led him to claim to the United States that God speaks directly to Bush and that this was a Christian war."

If you really were a "reality check" you could provide a quote for that assertion. Somehow I don't remember it.

Anonymous said...

Gerald,

That was an interesting argument with yourself. I would obviously love to hear more of what goes on in the wonderful mind of yours.

Anonymous said...

Great minds think alike! I, too, was thinking about Red Skelton when the Prez said "God Bless." (Skelton's actual sign-off was "Good night, and may God bless.")

And I interpreted the "long form" God bless of 2003 as Bush psyching himself, and the country, for a war that was already shaping up to be controversial, and closing his ears to doubts. Something many of us have often felt when under pressure, only Bush has a far more important gig.

PatCA said...

"The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity."

Why is believing that a tragic mistake? I believe that we all are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights...

The philosophy is right; his execution has been tragic.

tom faranda said...

GOOD HEAVENS (Oops! Sorry Reality check, I shouldn't have said that!)

Trying to read something important into the difference between "God Bless America" and "God Bless"?This whole post was an exercise in irrelevance.

monkeyboy said...

I've said before that the left has moved from "pay any price" to "White Man's Burden." Where is the democratic voice that speaks like the President does?

I often wondered how the left could offer futuire support to any democtratic movements after failing to support Iraq. But I honestly think now that there is no future support. Its all Pat Buchanan and Know Nothings now.

Matthew said...

Courtesy of Google,

Clinton SOTU 1998
God bless you and God bless the United States.

Clinton SOTU 1997
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Clinton SOTU 1996
Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

With the exception of 2003, is Bush's sign-off really that different?

Perhaps the distinction is that he actually believes it.

Sloanasaurus said...

This is the speech that immediately precedes the invasion of Iraq. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity

Bush in part got this from Lincoln. Shelby Foote writes of a story of Lincoln visiting Richmond soon after its fall in April 1865. On his way to the city, hundreds of former slaves surrounded Lincoln and started bowing and praying to him. In response, Lincoln told the crowd to pray to god only, for it is only to God that they owe their freedom.

At the time many believed that blacks were too uncivilized and immature to be free. How ironic.

Pogo said...

Re: "Perhaps the distinction is that he actually believes it."

True. But given the nearly deranged antipathy for GWB, anything Bush says is attacked simply because he said it.

Der Hahn said...

Mathew...

I could ask if were you refering to the whole speech, or just the last line but either answer would be right.

Anonymous said...

Matthew: Exactly. Invoking the Deity and carrying the Bible in his pudgy fingers were Bill Clinton head fakes in the direction of faith.

God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now.

Ah! To NOT think such a thing! Abraham Lincoln certainly thought that in his non-sectarian way. Who doesn't know these lines from the Second Inaugural?:

The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

...with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in....


Bush may hope and pray that God guide both him and the United States. I see nothing wrong with that as far as it goes. However, Lincoln's was a more subtle, humble, and ultimately tragic view. That God is indeed manifest in all events was never in much question for Lincoln and his contemporaries. The lesson Lincoln teaches, that we should remember today, is that we should never presume to know His will.

bearbee said...

This focus on religious reference in political speech prompted me to quick-read mainly inaugurals from the 20th Century, omitting speeches of Kennedy, Reagan and Bush. Most conclude with a God bless America-type theme. In the interest of brevity here are 6 notable bits and pieces. I'm not sure what this proves other than phewww we have successfully managed to avoid a theocracy.

As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymen--in the presence of our God-- I know that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail. FDR 1st Inaugural

The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world. FDR 2nd Inaugural

So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly--to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men--to the achievement of His will to peace on earth. FDR 4th Inaugural


Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first President, in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the Bible my mother gave me a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet Micah:

"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6: 8) J Carter 1976 Inaugural


My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads:

Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.

This is the hope that beckons us onward in this century of trial. This is the work that awaits us all, to be done with bravery, with charity, and with prayer to Almighty God. Eisenhower 1st Inaugural

I have asked the Merciful Father -- the Father of us all -- to let this cup pass from me, but from such dreaded responsibility one does not shrink in fear, in self-interest, or in false humility. So, “If this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.” A. Stevenson Acceptance speech 1952

Anonymous said...

Wow, that gadget on the NYT website is very cool. That would be a very cool feature for analyzing all sorts of text.

Sigivald said...

Lincoln, of course, in the Second Inaugural, had much greater cause to refer to the tragic than Bush does. (And perhaps greater cause to refer to national humility, for that matter.)

As far as the post and Bush's speech, I don't see that it's a tragic mistake to believe liberty is for all humanity. If it's a mistake at all (which I don't think it is), it's not tragic, I think.

(I'm an atheist, and none of this talk of God bothers me.

Believing that liberty is God's gift to mankind is exactly equivalent, in my analysis, to believing it's the proper and ideal [and possible!] state for all mankind, as a properly Liberal conception should hold it.

Exaggerated horror of religious speech and belief is ... I don't even know what it is, except too common, too ridiculous given actual outcomes, and a great subject for mockery - mockery the targets often can't process, coming from an atheist, who they cannot accuse of being "one of THEM!")

Anonymous said...

Head fakes? The heads being faked are yours.

It is well known and documented that the Clintons were and are regular church goers and that the Bush's rarely and never attend church.

Bush is scamming you christies and you are empowering him to screw over the country.

Anonymous said...

At least your guy had the courtesy to turn up - suppose he had to really.

Over here T Blair absented himself from the first full Parliamentary debate on Iraq for two years with the lame and derided excuse that he had a meeting with some businessmen fixed.

This left none other than Dame Margaret Beckett (Iowa Caravanning Carnival Queen 1962 and Her Majesty's Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) to tell us that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Tip for Hillary's people - have her photographed next to Ms Beckett. People will gawp amazed at how lifelike she [Hillary] looks compared to a genuine 'droid.

For his final SOTU address Bush could do worse than take a line from the late, great iconoclast Dave Allen -

"Goodnight and may your God go with you."

Or the end line from any number of stand-up comedians -

"Goodnight and, if you have been, thanks for listening."

Sloanasaurus said...

Believing that liberty is God's gift to mankind is exactly equivalent, in my analysis, to believing it's the proper and ideal [and possible!] state for all mankind, as a properly Liberal conception should hold it.

I think this is a fair rationalization. However, if one supports a more socialist and statist/government oriented society the idea that freedom is gods gift or that freedom is the proper Liberal ideal becomes a problem because a in a statist/government oriented society freedom would be a gift granted by the government. In this sense, Bush's idea of freedom poses a threat to modern secular liberalism.

hdhouse said...

"may"??? god bless america?

thank you and god bless.

night gracie.

bearbee said...

Tip for Hillary's people - have her photographed next to Ms Beckett. People will gawp amazed at how lifelike she [Hillary] looks compared to a genuine 'droid.

If you want to look handsome, stand next to a rhinoceros.... Unknown

vbspurs said...

Apropos to the "Clintons are the real churchgoers" post (teehee), I remember speaking to Felix, President Clinton's old scout at Univ in Oxford, before the young Prez moved on to his digs outside college.

He didn't say much (save some unintelligible anecdote about Clinton being called "Charlie the Chugger" by his friends, something to do with talking with his mouth full, apparently), but that on Sundays, he would hang around church yards, hoping to score some wholesome young lady.

Only he didn't say "score". But he implied it. :)

I rather like that visual of young, fuzzy-bearded Bill Clinton, as dashing young rogue, trolling the churches on Sunday for some unsullied booty.

Everyone knows the religious ones, are great in bed.

Amen,
Victoria

gj said...

The word "aisle" appeared twice in the 2007 SOTU. Bush did not use it in any previous SOTUs. I guess now he's decided there's some value in bipartisanship.

Next up: "New Orleans" was mentioned twice last year, but not at all this year. I wonder why he didn't want to talk about the great rebuilding effort he's led. Oh. Nevermind.

Pogo said...

reality check said "...you christies ...

There's probably a word for the type of soul who speaks this way, so pitifully wrong, so backward and unlearned, so hateful and scared.

It escapes me for the moment.
Detritus? Offal? Wasteland?

Anonymous said...

"Everyone knows the religious ones, are great in bed."

As in Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows'? "...there were so many people you just had to meet without your clothes and everybody knows." You mean that?

Errant Catholic young women, Victoria you may have a point. But does anyone seriously think that Martin Luther would have been a great lay? With his constipation?

Palladian said...

Pogo, I think the word is "stupid".

Or perhaps "assh**e"

vbspurs said...

As in Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows'? "...there were so many people you just had to meet without your clothes and everybody knows." You mean that?

Well, I was thinking more in terms of Cole Porter's 'Anything Goes', actually. :)

"If young bears you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Well, nobody will oppose!"

Errant Catholic young women, Victoria you may have a point. But does anyone seriously think that Martin Luther would have been a great lay? With his constipation?

I see Martin Luther as a Keith Richards type.

Sure, he's skanky and looks like death warmed up, but he's famous, and I'd throw my knickers at him just the same.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Detritus? Offal? Wasteland?

"Limp dick angry at the world"?

Cheers,
Victoria

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I like Red Skelton, but that clown portrait is starting to freak me out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, bearbee, for those well-chosen quotes. And Sigivald, I appreciate your thoughtful and broad-minded comment.

Bearbee's excerpts and my quotations from Lincoln illustrate that is has not been unusual for Presidents to invoke the Deity.  In fact, all Presidents, to my knowledge, have sought Divine benediction in one form or another.  Presidents have functioned throughout our history in a high priestly, sacerdotal, or sometimes prophetic role in what could be called the traditional American civil religion.

The now-tattered civil religion of the United States was woven into the very foundations of the Republic.  American civil religion has been a concept broadly, but not exclusively, informed by Protestant Christianity with a heavy Deist component, and it provided the citizens with the beliefs, symbols, and rituals they would need to secure democracy.  But it was neither sectarian nor specifically Christian.  American civil religion interpreted the founding event of the American Revolution in biblical language. The new nation was the final act of the Exodus from the old lands across the Atlantic.  Its sacred texts were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

The theme that emerged from the Civil War was that of death, sacrifice, and rebirth, with Lincoln as its martyr. Lincoln and Washington became "the Peter and Paul of American patriotism."

Those who worry about the coming of a theocracy because of vaguely Judeo-Christian statements, or the odd prayer uttered by the President or some other official, misunderstand the history and many of the philosophical underpinnings of this country.

Here are a few more examples of Presidential entanglement with the idea of God and His relationship to the United States.

My fervent supplication to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who provides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every defect, that his benediction my consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed by its administration to execute with success the functions alloted to his charge....

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible hand which conducts the affairs of man more than those of the United States.  Every step by which we have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency....
George Washington's First Inaugural Address

I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel did of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life.
Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address

The Presidency is not merely an administrative office.  That is the least of it.  It is preeminently a place of moral leadership.
Franklin Roosevelt

Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith—and I don't care what it is.
Dwight Eisenhower

To say that God is behind all life and all history is certainly not an unusual Presidential sentiment.  How deeply the occupants of that office have believed what they said is a question not easily answered, but I suspect a certain lack of sincerity.  The American people want a President who is religious and moral—but not too Christian and not too pious.  The national leader should be able to speak in public with feeling about God in general, but not mention Jesus Christ in particular in order not to offend.  One of the difficulties people had with Jimmy Carter stemmed from the sense that he actually deeply believed his Evangelical Christianity.

And one of the many reasons that George Bush gives offense is that he attempts to wear on his sleeve his rather flea-bitten, personal, and not very well-informed brand of Christianity.  Those adjectives seem to describe much of the rest of his Presidency as well.  So, if we believe God is behind all history, George Bush has indeed given us ample opportunity for somber reflection. He's also given us that opportunity if we don't believe in God.

RogerA said...

"It is well known and documented that the Clintons were and are regular church goers...."

A wonderful understanding of what constitutes a truly spiritual person, there reality check. I think this topic is covered in the new testament by the discussion of the pharisees...an allusion that I feel reasonably certain will have to be explained to you.

Sigivald: beautifully said, and thank you.

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honey hassan said...

i gotta agree with what Mathew said earlier. Clinton has been known to repeat the same old style over and over again.

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