The White House press operation did a pretty good job stage managing George Bush’s meeting with Ariel Sharon on Monday. Besides a series of photos released by the Israeli press office, the general media was only allowed to take pictures from a distance during the leader’s joint press conference. All other images were controlled by the administration.
Not surprisingly, the photographs provide the message to the domestic audience that Bush has the Israeli-Palestinian situation well in hand. This shot — which ran on the cover of yesterday’s LATimes — is indicative. Basically, Bush is firmly in the driver’s seat, with Sharon passively along for the ride. Actually, the image couldn’t mirror the White House talking points any closer. According to the story line, Bush (and Sharon) are driving forward strictly adhering to the President’s road map (ambiguous as it really is), with Bush seeming to guide Sharon on where he needs to go. (By the way, the White House managed to beat to death the idea of Bush directing the otherwise obstinate Sharon, as you can also see here and here.)
Supposedly, the meeting was intended for Bush to draw a firm line with Sharon on the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The only problem is, this meeting was basically for show. In actuality, this issue was hardly discussed. Rather, the attention was limited to Bush expressing his support for the Israeli’s pull-out from Gaza.
Regarding another piece of political smoke, the White House likes to make a big deal about which world leaders are or aren’t invited to stay at Bush’s ranch. In this case, Sharon was afforded the honor. However, he was hardly there. He spent the night at a local hotel, he came over in the morning, and was gone by the afternoon.
If you read carefully, you’ll see that it was Dick Cheney (the guy who’s more likely doing the pointing) who actually slept over.
(image: Eric Draper/White House – 4.12.05 in LA Times, page 1)