Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: George W. Bush took a half hour off from glad-handing supporters at a 'thank you' dinner to witness for Christ to a teenage boy.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: The piece quoted above began circulating on the Internet in the first week of January, 2001. In response to the oft-asked question of "But is it true?" we have to answer that it's a charming bit of folklore but it ain't gospel.
We never found anything to substantiate that the incident as described in the
I went ahead and phoned the information to Ken Herman, the reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for the Lufkin Daily News and now covers Bush for the Austin American-Statesman.Okay, so it didn't happen. Was there at least some basis to the story, something stemming from Bush's previous public behavior or stated positions on the place of religion in public affairs that could have laid the basis for this tale? Or was the whole thing cut of whole cloth?
He, in turn, put the question to the Bush people.
Here's his report back to me:
"No banquet, no story, never happened."
Bush is a Methodist and makes no bones about having reaffirmed his faith around the time he swore off liquor in 1986. That he is staunchly Christian, there can be no doubt. However, being a Christian
My faith gives me focus and perspective. It teaches humility. But I also recognize that faith can be misinterpreted in the political process. Faith is an important part of my life. I believe it is important to live my faith, not flaunt it.It's a good story, but it doesn't appear to fit the man's professed philosophy. Yet, true or not, there are good reasons for stories of this nature:
Tales that seek to highlight the sterling qualities of incoming Presidents provide ways for supporters to proclaim that their man is not like the bum leaving office, and thus are a time-honored tradition no matter who is on his way out and who is on his way in. It's their way of saying through lore and rumor that there is a new guy in town, and he's not like his
But the popularity of such stories reaches far beyond the need of a few handfuls of rabid supporters to beat their chests about the proven rightness of their cause: Such tales also work to reassure folks, both those who voted for the newcomer and those who didn't, that this new man is a decent sort of guy and that he will do right by the country. Especially in the aftermath of closely-contested elections, inspiring or humanizing stories about the incoming are welcome oil to pour onto troubled waters. Across the space of a few short weeks, a population which had recently and vehemently split itself into two warring camps has to again reconcile into one nation under the guidance of a President that some chose and some didn't. Part of that transition is coming to see the President-Elect as someone the country can look up to, and part of that process is good, old-fashioned storytelling.
In a general sense, that is what drives this
Were another about to go into the White House, we'd see a different set of stories keyed to that person's strengths, but we'd still be hearing positive stories about the President-Elect no matter who he was. It is the nature of lore to fit itself to whoever holds the spotlight of the moment, and the need for reassurance by story would assert itself no matter who the country had selected to stand in the glare.
Barbara "legends in the making" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 February 2007
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