The Atlantic Online | July/August 2004 | When George Meets John | James Fallows
This article is not available online, but it is an important one. Excerpts of it are available here An NPR interview with the author is available here.
Part of Fallows' argument is that even Bush's linguisitc troubles are scripted, part of a persona designed to appeal to certain voters while minimizing media criticism. Actually, that is more Lakoff's interpretation of some of the footage Fallows has, but it is a worthwhile observation nonetheless.
Bush is a notoriously opaque speaker, with mangled diction and made up words. Nonetheless, he has parsed words with the best of them (see: "imminent threat;" al-Qaeda-Hussein cooperation; nuclear threat in Iraq). And he has gotten away with it - he has erected a teflon barrier of imprecision and confusion that lets him avoid accountability for everything he does.
And it is deliberate. Kerry's meticulous accuracy and "caveats and curlicues" are a liability. Not only does he have a comprehensible record that can be mined for apparent contradictions, but his nuance may turn off voters.
Now is the time to start lowering expectations for the debates. Bush will perform better than he should, he will stick to his talking points and will look strong and resolute. Mainly because he will say he is strong and resolute 29 times. Kerry may make the mistake of actually trying to argue with the man, a tactic that Gore proved fails miserably. He simply needs to talk to the people, and hope they see through Bush's tactics.