“Now watch this drive”: the renewed belief of American moral superiority

          After 9/11, containment culture re-emerged in the American society. Although Cold War ideology flourished in many different ways, political figures lead the trend. On August 4th, 2002, President Bush gave an informal interview on his golf course. Expressing his distress after the Israel suicide bombings, President Bush establishes the United States as a protector of the free world, as he claims “[the United States] must stop this terror (…) for the sake of humanity”. The United States, as leaders of the free world, must lead the war against terror, just like it conducted a war against communism. Repeating the verb “must” three times, President Bush shows that America has the burden to contain and fight terrorists who have altered the world peace the United States had established. Bush’s speech is similar to Truman’s 1947 address to congress in which the latter urges congress to take action to support Greece and Turkey. Truman claims that “the free people of the world look to [the US] for support”. The possibility of a terrorist attack since 9/11 thus revived the containment culture and the belief that the United States should lead the war to save the world.

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          When leaving the journalists, President Bush says “see you at church”. This sentence is another example of the resurgence of Cold War ideology. Religion should play a key part in the life of a “typical” American, who has to go to church once a week. During both the Cold War and the War on terror, religion sharply opposes the two sides: while Soviet Russia banned religion, the terrorists claim they follow Islam. Reinstalling religion as a pillar of the American culture allows Bush to categorize who is “with the US” and who is “against it”.

          Bush’s interview is however most famous for its last sentence: “Now watch this drive”. Seemingly displaced, as President Bush should be too preoccupied with the ongoing issues to play golf, this sentence conveys President Bush’s will to celebrate the American way of life; Americans practice sports, thus have a more complete and fulfilling life. President Bush again attempts to show the American moral supremacy, by showing that the “private sphere”, making the American way of life more diverse than that of the terrorists, is as important as the “public sphere”. A healthy lifestyle leaves time for personal activities.

          Although informal, this interview is deeply tied with the ideology of the Cold War, and shows the cause of the US’ various interventions: spiritual superiority implying heavy responsibilities.

Sources:

Truman’s 1947 address: http://www.history.com/speeches/the-truman-doctrine

Bush’s “Now watch this drive”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HZ3Tjohwqo

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2 thoughts on ““Now watch this drive”: the renewed belief of American moral superiority”

  1. Wonderful analysis of what is often seen as a humorous news interview; people usually seem to miss the true message of Bush’s famous line relating to enjoying the American lifestyle. I think Bush’s line “See you at church” is also especially significant and could be overlooked without proper analysis. From the birth of the United States, the President has served as a model for upholding traditional christian values, especially during the Cold War. Ronald Reagan, in his “Evil Empire” speech in 1983 highlighted religion as a staple of American life, differentiating us (the U.S.) from them (the USSR) and validating us as “the good guys.” Reagan even cites William Penn: “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.” Reagan ultimately stresses religion above other aspects of American life. So, as President, Bush echoes the same sentiment that so many Cold War presidents did: Christianity as the civil religion is critical in preserving and promoting American culture in times of uncertainty and insecurity. Bush likely figured that without the President’s strong faith in religion, the country would be less unified and more demoralized. It is likely that we will see presidents’ subtle reinforcement of religion in future catastrophes.

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  2. Very well written analysis! Your mention of President Bush’s “see you at church” line reminds me of one of the core moral arguments McCarthy makes in his “Enemies from Within” speech. By pitting U.S. Christianity against the atheism of the Soviet Union (a juxtaposition you aptly mention in your own analysis), McCarthy appeals to American patriotism and the belief in the ideal of the U.S. being “a city upon a hill”–a moral beacon for the rest of the world.

    Additionally, I find your interpretation of President Bush’s “Now watch this drive” comment very fitting as well. On the one hand, I can see how off-putting Bush’s offhand remarks can seem, especially when heard again in the present day. However, it is really interesting to see an example of what Mrozek called a movement towards a physical “toughening up” of the American citizen through sports. Carefully shaping one’s image to fit into the norm was definitely a central part of the containment narrative post 9/11, since any observable qualities of the individual that served as accompaniments to the image of an indestructible U.S. were encouraged.

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