The Better Rhetor takes a close look at Dubya telling us what we need to know.
I think these performances reveal more than a comical disregard for the language or a second-rate intelligence. I think they reveal something innate about George Bush, something intrinsic to his personality and view of the world.
In the Bush lingo, "What you need to know" functions a way to cut off questions, end discussion, and discourage thought. It is a profoundly authoritarian phrase, one that speaks to Bush’s patrician background and privileged upbringing. He knows what we need to know, and he will make no bones about telling us. More, the use of this phrase is deeply anti-democratic, a command that the people follow and not question. It is the speaker’s way of letting you know who’s in charge, who has power, who has the right to speak. It absolves listeners of responsibility and encourages them to place all troublesome thoughts in the hands of the Dear Leader, the Grand Inquisitor, the God-king, or whatever title the dictator-of-the-day has bestowed upon himself. (And It’s almost always a "He," isn’t it?)
Bush is no dictator, not legally, but he is an authoritarian, one who seems to resent intensely the questions or criticisms of others, no matter how mild. From the start, his presidency has been spectacularly anti-democratic, whether in its quest to expand executive powers, its obsessive pursuit of secrecy, its contempt for the U.N., its incessant propagandizing, or, at the most basic level, its theft of the democratic process in Florida. "What you need to know" captures the authoritarian nature of the Bush regime, letting all of us know that we are no longer required to question, to think, to act. Bush will do these for us. That's what we need to know.
What we need to know is that this country can ill afford another four years of Bush rule. The first thing the Democratic Party needs to do is grow a spine and refuse to go along with any part of the Bush agenda; fortunately, that seems to be beginning. But only slightly less important is to realize that the man's support is, as Daily Kos has noted, "a mile wide and six inches deep." Let the Republicans get overconfident about Bush's so-called popularity, and simply point out that voting for Bush has resulted in little clear benefit, but rather a massive loss of jobs and a much less secure nation, beginning with the 9/11 debacle and improving hardly a whit since.