April 25, 2006

Bush's Rainbow


A number of you wrote about this lead photo in yesterday’s NYT

The image shows George Bush in a marine lunch line in Twenty-Nine Palms, California.  Because Bush is chumming it up with the white soldier, while the (lone) black soldier next to Bush seems miles away (and less interested in the power than the lunch), the question put forth is whether the photo has racial overtones. 

Personally, I’m not sure.  One thought that arises, however, is the following: With Bush at around 30% in the polls, is his diminished standing allowing photographers to almost subliminally raise questions (or, expose different forms of bias) where previously none would have dared?

I probably wouldn’t have taken note of this if it were not for the way the Bush’s, and the White House photo gallery, patronize blacks on an almost daily basis.  The most blatant offender, of course, is Laura Bush.  For a recent example, take this pic from the WH site showcasing the Presidential Easter Egg Roll.


(larger version here)

In this shot, as is typical of so many others, a black boy is positioned beside Mrs. Bush — whereas there is no other black child in the photo, and just one other male (top left, orange collar).  Also typical is the body language, in which the boy leans away from Mrs. Bush calling out the emotional gap between the two.

I don’t know why the MSM hasn’t paid more attention to this pandering.  Further, how come Laura Bush continue to get away with this visual obsession with young black males, and her idea that they — through her extended mentorship — can be saved from (her perception of) the world’s ills.

How well the Bush style of mentorship works is highly questionable, however.  For example, take a look at this shot from the last SOTU address.


Notice how Laura Bush does the same snuggle act with then-White House aide, Claude Allen? 

(If you will recall, Mr. Allen– who GWB described as a friend of the family — had been on a fast track through the largely white, conservative world — at least, until he was discovered to have a shoplifting problem.  But such troubles are probably not unusual for a young man who fell into the sphere of people who seemed to treat him as both a hatchet man and window dressing.)


So, is there anything to make of yesterday’s Times photo? 

Maybe not.  Maybe, though, what’s significant is that the photo captures Bush looking and acting like a regular white guy, thus subverting a White House policy to always frame Bush as a card-carrying member of the rainbow coalition.

(hat tip: Mark)

(image 1: Jim Wilson/The New York Times.  April 24, 2006.  The New York Times, p. A1.  image 2: Shealah Craighead/White House. Washington. April 17, 2006. whitehouse.gov. image 3: Jason Reed/Reuters.  January 31, 2006.  Washington, D.C. Via YahooNews. image 4: Gerald Herbert/A.P. Twentynine Palms, Calif. Sunday, April 23, 2006. Via YahooNews.)

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Michael Shaw
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