November 11, 2004

Looking Like Himself (or: Campaign Hangover)

Here is the shot from today’s front page NYTimes story (“Nominee for Attorney General Rides an Ideological Divide”) on Bush’s new Attorney General. Here are some impressions.

Bush’s General Appearance

I think it was particularly telling, in the first Bush-Kerry debate, that “W” kept reiterating how hard his job was. In this photo — especially when you see it in print — Bush looks terrible. His eyes are puffy, his nose and his cheeks are red, his forehead is showing new and deep furrows, and he looks both physically and emotionally heavier. (In fact, if you didn’t know Bush was on the wagon, you might think he was hung over …from something other than the election.)

Bush’s Expression.

I was impressed this week by news stories saying that Bush finally felt like he been legitimately elected. Throughout his first term, it felt that the thoroughly scripted nature of his Presidency required him to exert the most excessive amount of self-control.

This week, his apparent “vindication” quite possibly has resulted in Bush being more himself. One form of that seems to involve letting himself wear his emotions. Although Bush looks somewhat worn in this shot (and/or sad, and/or emotional?), you can also see something of that cynical/skeptical look, as well (cocked head, single raised eyebrow). Last term, that would never have been let through.

Unless he just badly needs a vacation (like the year he took off after his first “election”), maybe what we’re getting a preview of is a Bush who (suddenly) couldn’t care less what kind of face he presents to the public. The question is, with his guard down, will the product turn out to be better, or worse?

Bush’s Choice For AG

By all description, Bush is conducting his cabinet reevaluation in an iron fisted manner — putting all cabinet members in a form of lock-down, forcing them to publicly await the decision on their fate. With the selection of Gonzales, a long-time Bushie who is low key and knows how to take orders (he was the intellectual hatchet man behind the interrogation policy that spawned Abu Ghraib), you can take one rather independent cabinet officer off the board for the Christian far right, but add one to the list of Bush clones.

…With his new found confidence (or, simply entitlement), it’s probably safe to say that, this time around, Bush intends to pick all the folks himself.

(photo: NYTimes –AFP/Luke Frazza)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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