October 3, 2005

All I Need Is You: The Psychology of George And Harriet

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Because so few images of Harriet Miers are available, you probably have already seen the photo of her with Bush in the canyon.  (As soon as I heard the news, I even used it in my rather snarky piece on HuffPo this morning.)

It’s not just the single picture, however, that reflects her role as Bush confidant and most passive of SCOTUS nominees.  It’s the context of that image in a 2002 White House photo gallery — particularly, its placement couched below four intimate “home (only) on the range” rancher boy shots, and above two even more personal and romanticized photos — which provides the most telling impression of why Harriet Miers is the next Supreme Court designate.

You just can’t look at this series without noting that Ms. Miers is the only woman present, and that, otherwise, the images are dripping with testosterone.  That’s because, a weak man consumed with power has no choice but to constantly remind others what a man he is.  In such men, you find two kinds of women surrounding him.  One is the domineering type, who he is beholden to.  (Like Laura Bush, who I’m guessing is the one who picked this candidate.) The other is the neutered type, who is no threat to the “alpha women” and makes Bush feel — just to keep up the illusion — like someone actually listens to him.


You could say this appointment smacks of cronyism (the new favorite anti-Bush charge).  Psychologically though, I think that’s giving Bush too much credit.  As a Chauncy Gardner-type, Bush is too defensive and lightweight to have generated that many “high power” relationships outside his immediate circle.  (Which is not to say that Cheney and the rest of the team didn’t graduate from “Cronyism U.”)

Others would say that Bush turns to people he “trusts.”  But “trust” only exists in relationships that convey authority and equality in near equal measure.  In Bush’s case, the attachments he forms with others are characterized much more by dependency.  There is the set of people he depends on to quietly tell him what to do, and there is the other group he depends on to make believe he knows.

(images 1 – 8: Unattributed.  Crawford, Texas, Friday, Aug. 9, 2002. whitehouse.gov.  image 2:  Eric Draper/White House/AP. Crawford, Texas.  August 6, 2001.  George Bush with staff secretary Harriet Miers.)

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Michael Shaw
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