April 21, 2006

In Which We Can Safely Conclude That "Smug" Is Finally Dead


If there was a point in the past month where the wheels seemed to completely come off Bush’s fantasy express, it was in Cleveland on March 20th.  That day, Bush gave a horribly obtuse speech on Iraq, belaboring personal interest stories from Tal Afar at the expense of the fact the country was coming completely unglued.

At the time, my visual analysis for HuffPo keyed off an allusion to Bush’s “vision problem.”  My “second favorite” image of that event, however, became a lot more relevant this week with the announcement that McClellan was being shelved and Rove was getting put back in his box.

I like this shot for many reasons.  It demonstrates how much Rove is — and remains — a central spoke.  It’s also a fitting last look at Scott McClellan.  As the image articulates, Scotty has been the front man.  Sadly, however, he always seemed just a little out of focus, and someone who reflected poorly under more intense light.

In this surprisingly unguarded moment, however, what is most striking are the expressions.  As Bush drifts off to Neverland, Rove retains something of a poker face.  McClellan and Bartlett, on the other hand, look disturbed and upset — even betrayed.



(click for the full disappointment)

As previously mentioned,, the shot also serves to foreshadow a greater breakdown.  With those faces, for example, the three spinmeisters could have as easily been observing this week’s listing ship, with Bush humiliating President Hu, and Cheney opting (then checking) out of Bush’s Oval Office remarks with the leader of the hyper-image conscious Asian megastate.

Taking one more look at McClellan and company, I just don’t believe those expressions are particular to the moment.  Instead, they feel like the gestural reactions that accompany the loss of faith.

(image 1: unattributed. Cleveland, Ohio.  March 20, 2006. image 2: Ron Edmonds/A.P. White House.April 20, 2006. Via YahooNews.  image 3: Tim Sloan/Getty. White House. April 20, 2006.)

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Michael Shaw
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