January 13, 2006
Throw Me Something, Mister!
Given the way the Alito
coronation confirmation hearings played out this week, Thursday’s Bush Mardi Gras portrait at least provided some comic relief.
Maybe the White House advance team was a little lax, or maybe they just aren’t that concerned anymore. Either way, Bush ended up in this campy room for a photo-op New Orleans business roundtable. Of course, the newswires were all over angle B. Not having a lot of options, White House photographer, Eric Draper, ended up working angles C and A.
As you can tell, Angle C was a bit problematic.
Besides the President facing "Red White and Blue Puppies," there was
all that dead space: the weird temporary screen; the glare; a scale
that made Bush and the business leaders look like a bunch of midgets;
and the suggestion — in light of the twenty foot Louie Armstrong —
that Bush had made the trip down just to blow his own horn — which is
basically the way the NYT called it, anyway.
The specifics of the shot are even stranger still. Maybe Draper was looking for a gesture from Bush so you knew exactly
which midget he was. The way it reads though, it seems "W" is raising his hand for permission to speak (or use the men’s room).
And this is the shot the White House got out of angle A, avoiding the
reveler in exchange for the Elvis guy. This shot is "off" also,
however. Bush is doin’ his gesticulatin,’ but Mayor Nagin forgets to
The shot of the week, however, is the one with the "reveler."
In this version, the figure, tossing around the signature beads, is an
obvious Mardi Gras reference. That being the case, we’re not looking at Bush alongside just any
character. Consistent with ritual, this figure stands for the local
tradition of masking and costuming oneself. Given Bush’s tendency to
do the same, the figure — at least to a New Orleanian — would suggest
The other local association to the traditional green, purple
and gold figure involves the glorification of paganism. While Bush
outwardly professes a straight-laced lifestyle, the reveler could just
as well reflect his alter ego. And I’m not just referring to the
protracted Spring Break that was Dubya’s youth.
Whether the focus on governmental inebriation takes the form of
deficit spending, pandering to special interests, indulging corruption,
abusing power, or carrying on an orgy of militarism, the resonance
between these two characters arises from the fact Bush has transformed
the Presidency into his own personal Carnival.
White House Photo Gallery
NOLA Photo Gallery here
(images 1 & 2: David Grunfeld /Times Picayune. January 12,
2005. New Orleans, La. nola.com. Images 3 & 4: Eric Draper/White
House. January 12, 2005. New Orleans, La. whitehouse.gov). image 5:
Larry Downing/Reuters. January 12, 2005. New Orleans, La. Via
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