George W. Bush, as we all know now, won his second term as president
2004 by the biggest electoral margin in history. He carried every state.
It all started, historians now agree, with what has come to be
known as "Rummy's Technically Correct Defense."
The seeds of that defense, you remember, were planted back in
January, 2003, when the president in his State of the Union address
uttered his famous 16-word charge: "The British government has learned
that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from
Six months later, those 16 words became known as "The Uranium
Fiction" because the charge was said to be based on forged documents.
It was very embarrassing for the president, who insisted that
everything he did or said grew out of what he called his "darn good
His press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said of The Uranium Fiction,
"No one can accurately tell you it was wrong. That is not known."
But it was Donald Rumsfeld who offered the most inventive and
effective defense. Here's what he said: It was "technically correct,
what the president said, that the British government did say that and still
Technically correct, not because Saddam had in fact sought
uranium, but because the Brits in fact said what the president said they
(Actually, the president claimed the Brits had "learned," not
merely said, that Saddam had sought uranium But let it pass, let it
The unspoken argument is that it's not so important that what the
president says is true. What's important is finding some Brits who also
say what the president says. It has to be Brits. No French need apply.
Even if Rummy's Technically Correct Defense bent the truth a bit,
it worked welland so often that it became known as RTCD. By the end of
2003, it had been applied to other of the president's verbal problems.
(1) His insistence on linking Saddam and al-Qaida as though they
were allies rather than antagonists. After much searching, Mr. Rumsfeld
found two retired Brit diplomats who had once visited Iraq and were
overheard saying something about both Saddam and al-Qaidain the same
(2)The president's assertion that everyone knows Iraq has weapons
of mass destruction, even though no one can find them. Rummy located in a
pub three members of a Brit rugby team who said they'd bet a bob or two
that they could jolly well find WMDs if the price were right.
The RTCD worked so well because it was always accompanied by the
Fleischer Challenge (FC): "If you say we're wrong, prove it. Just prove
Karl Rove recognized the usefulness of the RTCD and the FC, so the
president used them often during the rest of his first term.
The Truth, Mainly
"Economists say cutting taxes for the rich but not for the poor is
a very good idea," he told the nation during the Christmas season.
When a Democrat cautiously questioned that notion, the president
produced two British undergrads enrolled in an introductory econ course.
He flew them to Washington on Air Force One and sure enough, they told a
joint session of Congress that they believed cutting taxes for the rich
but not for the poor was a jolly good idea that made for lovely plane
Then the president, just to see how far he could go, got a little
In his 2004 Easter message he said that through his secret
intelligence, he had learned that British scholars had concluded that the
Easter Bunny lays Easter eggs. The Democrats earnestly assembled a team
of rabbit biologists who said the president was surely mistaken. So the
president produced a video tape of one British kindergartner telling
another about the miracle of a virgin Easter bunny laying an Easter egg.
Later the president told the nation that his secret intelligence
also revealed that babies come from storks, warts come from toads, and
blindness comes from masturbationand that his source was a private boys'
school in Manchester.
But the critical element in his landslide re-election was
something else his secret intelligence told him: the British academic
community believed the president's Democratic opponent was "a doo-doo
head." When he was challenged on that point, he produced a complete class
of British third-graders who sang "Democrats are doo-doo heads/Doo-doo
heads, doo-doo heads/Sleep on rocks instead of beds/Because they all are
And when the president's Democrat opponent stoutly denied being a
doo-doo head, the British third-graders cried out in unison, "Prove it.
Just prove it."
The doo-doo head song brought tears to the eyes of the president.
Catchy lyrics, he thought, and a darn good argument.
He'd have to talk to Karl about using it in the debates.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail