September 3, 2005

The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#1)


The Katrina Disaster — Day 2

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dubya is in San Diego likening his private war to WWII.  The occasion is VJ Day — the 60th anniversary of the victory over Japan. 

Bush still has a few days left in his five week summer vacation.  Even so, it is his third Iraq speech in two weeks, coming immediately on the heels of the Iraqi constitution debacle.  Of course, it is also shadowed by the distraction caused by grieving mother and anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan. 

In his speech to a sea of white-clad officers at the North Island Naval Air Station, Bush ignores the hurricane  — even though tens of thousands have already filed into The Superdome; New Orleans is already 80% submerged; and his Republican cohort,  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, has already appeared that morning on The Today Show declaring that the Gulf Coast has experienced "catastrophic devastation."

Because I would not hear about the New Orleans disaster till later that
afternoon, I am already starting to tease this picture apart. At first,
I think it captures the Administration’s tension and ever growing
desperation over Bush’s war. What begins to really crystallize, though,
is just how many images I have seen of Bush "in the act." Certainly,
this "serial kissing" behavior must have a functional nature. Beyond
its false intimacy, I think it serves (depending on the situation) to
disarm, charm or endear.

What I find particularly interesting about this shot,
however, is its almost urgent adolescent quality. What it seems to lay
open is the awkward and otherwise blind bumbling that underlies (and
ultimately, undermines) George’s every attempt at assertiveness.
Besides that, it suggests our country is in the hands of a stabbing and
nervous man-child with severe difficulty more deeply or
consistently interacting with others when there are real (particularly
life-and-death) feelings involved.

(image: Susan Walsh/AP.  August 30, 2005.  North Island, San Diego.  In

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Michael Shaw
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