August 29, 2005

Bush In Crawford: Calling It Curtains


Often, a news image will lead the wire because it captures some underlying truth about the political moment at hand.

This shot is incredibly robust in terms of symbolism.  The photo — from yesterday — shows George Bush in full “damage control” mode entering a press briefing to reframe the dismal results of the Administration’s Iraqi constitution effort.

Because the meeting took place in Bush’s aircraft hanger in Crawford, it seems the photographer’s vantage worked substantially to the President’s disadvantage.  If Bush’s policies are shrinking in popularity, this image might well serve as visual documentation.  (At the same time, if the PR team decides to hang curtains in a hanger, they shouldn’t be surprised if their man ends up looking like a midget.)

Besides the stature issue, I was also drawn to the three shadows Bush generated.  In my mind, these echoing reflections suggest the fact this guy never had a good idea where he was going in Iraq.  As well, it suggests the growing fragmentation of the whole endeavor. 

I also thought the seal floating on the left curtain was interesting.  (It’s hard to decipher in this shot, but the text reads: “The Western White House” and “Crawford, Texas.”)  “Western White House” seems an obvious reference to the terms used for Nixon’s La Casa Pacifica and Ronald Reagan’s ranch.  Regardless, Bush come off smaller whether by association to the former or comparison to the latter.  Also, given that Bush has been pinned down in Crawford by anti-war demonstrators (as well those who criticize his unending vacations), you would think his people would want to minimize the Crawford connection.

(But then again, hubris can cause you to play things up that another could hardly live down.)

Finally, in terms of cultural reference, this image (with those two hilariously oversized curtains) seems to connote a sound stage with Bush (the emcee) emerging on set.  When I first saw this shot, I thought I was looking at a file photo of the old Tonight Show, with Bush as Johnny Carson.  (Although, from this distance, he might also be mistaken for Pat Robertson walking onto his show.)  The scene emphasizes how thoroughly staged this Presidency has been, and how policy (not to mention competence) has been subsumed by dramatic effect. 

As Bush Co. war agenda comes unglued in the absence of tangible notice by the media or the opposition, the photo portends the Administration will be brought down ultimately be exposed by humorists as a parody of itself.

(Revised 8/29/05 7:40 PST)

(image: Jim Watson/AFP.  August 28, 2005. Crawford, Texas.  In YahooNews)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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