George W. Bush

Subliminable Messages


Matt has already noted Kevin Drum's rather paranoid reaction to Bush's Yalta remarks, but I'm going to repeat the passage:

[H]ere's what I'm curious about: why did Bush mention Yalta at all? For most people alive today this is long dead history, but Bush's speechwriters are well aware that "Yalta" was once a codeword extraordinaire among a certain segment of the population. In fact, it was perhaps the single biggest bugaboo of the wingnut right in the late 40s and 50s, right up there with Alger Hiss and Joe McCarthy's list of communists in the State Department.

But most of those people are dead. So who was the reference aimed at? Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?

It's not the first time I've encountered this notion that Bush, like Dylan or Nostradamus, speaks with a hidden second meaning (or, in some cases, a hidden first meaning). The suspicion took off with his peculiar invocation of Dred Scott in the second presidential debate, which turned out to be the most prominent veiled reference to abortion since Billie Joe MacAllister and a girl that looked a lot like you were spotted throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge. "The potential double meaning," The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick wrote, "rekindled speculation among Mr. Bush's critics that he communicates with his conservative Christian base with a dog-whistle of code words and symbols, deliberately incomprehensible to secular liberals." Thus we see detailed hermeneutic analyses of everything from Bush's quote from Ecclesiastes at the Republican National Convention (which doubled as a boomer-friendly shoutout to the Byrds) to his repeated use of the phrase "I believe."

My question: Is there any other American president whose words were subject to such frenzied interpretation in their own time? If you've got any nominations, post 'em in the comments.