Strategery is a fictional word coined by comedy writer Jim Downey in a now famous Saturday Night Live sketch written to lampoon former president George W. Bush during the election cycle of 2000, when he was still a candidate.
The sketch, which first aired on SNL on October 7, 2000, simulated a debate between candidate Bush and his rival, Al Gore, and mocked Bush as an intellectual lightweight, playing off of his propensity for misspeaking and using neologisms.
In the skit, Will Ferrell, impersonating the former president, says “strategery” when the moderator asks the candidates to “sum up, in a single word, the best argument for their candidacy.”
The sketch is also noted for fellow cast member Darrell Hammond’s impression of Gore, who is depicted as stiff and pedantic, presenting the word “lockbox” as his sole policy position.
Always one to embrace satire and be self-effacing, the Bush White House later appropriated the term and eventually consultants within the 43rd president’s orbit became affectionately referred to as “The Department of Strategery,” as reported in the Washington Post in 2004.
Over the years, the word became synonymous with “Bushspeak,” or a repeated pattern of verbal gaffes (like when Bush used the term ”misunderestimated” in a press conference soon after the 2000 election).
Eventually, “strategery” became a symbol of the Bush presidency itself, embraced and even celebrated by conservatives, while simultaneously used by the left as a symbol of the president’s failed policies, particularly when it came to the Iraq War.
The word has become so deeply associated with Bush and his presidency that in 2017, in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, Bush recalled a story in which he claimed to have invented the word himself, only to be corrected by Lorne Michaels when the two met in person.
To this day, Bush maintains his sense of humor about the sketch and his depiction by Ferrell, saying “it’s important not to take yourself too seriously,” and claiming that the impressions of him presented on SNL never bothered him a bit. Bush himself used the term in a 2001 interview with CNN, presumably as a self-deprecating nod to the comedy sketch.
Indeed, in 2019, the Bush presidential library embraced the term even further when they launched a politically-themed podcast called The Strategerist.
Uses of “strategery”
Newsweek (November 7, 2022): “‘Here’s a funny story: I didn’t realize that I never said strategery,’ Ferrell said in his famed faux-Bush voice, squinting his eyes. ‘Someone else wrote that.'”
Rolling Stone (September 29, 2020): “Amazingly, ‘strategery’ became such a famous term that even Bush came to think that he himself had said it. ‘I damn sure said, ‘strategery,” he told Jimmy Kimmel in 2017.”