Take #1 – by Chris Maynard
This was the White House press office’s paltry offering on Saturday, on what must be one of the slowest news days possible; the ork week’s gone and Christmas is still two days off. You’ve got to give them credit for trying though; just the day before being hauled to the wilds of Camp David, both Gates and Pace were doing the photo slog in Iraq.
Now Mr. Gates seems to be wearing the same blazer he brought to Baghdad (looks a lot like John McCain from this angle, doesn’t he?), and the General has dipped into his civvies for its twin. The President has (is this common ground or what?) come up with the same, although it lacks the spiffy brass buttons of his subordinates, perhaps a gesture toward his subtle streak of personal integrity, a man not accustomed to taking the easy way out.
But once we look more closely, the grouping falls apart. Of the four hands we might see from this angle, three are tucked away. Well, maybe the air is a bit nippy, or just maybe, their hands, especially Bush’s, are empty. This goes well with his posture, the slightly canted “I’m really paying attention to what you’re saying” look of a Dale Carnegie graduate at a cocktail party. When you have no light to hide beneath a basket, carry the basket anyway. No one will look.
Somehow we’re supposed to believe that away from the glaring eye of the public, these guys will be able to figure it all out for us in total privacy. But remember, of course, that they’re on a woodsy hiking trail that’s paved. That’s a fire hydrant in the left corner, not a weathered tree stump. All they need is a skunk ambling across the background.
The General has his ball-point pen neatly stuck into the spiral binding of his note pad. Are these guys ready for wilderness survival or cursory note-taking? Behind our backs are not Chip and Dale, Bambi and the gang of penguins from that bird movie but a bunch of Secret Service agents, directors of this and that and all their hangers-on. But it’s okay, world, they’re working hard.
Perhaps it’s the demands of the 24-hour news cycle that demands this constant flow of meaningless treacle. Maybe people watching these scenes on television somehow are more secure, or connected, or just better informed, but it’s doubtful. Watching a magic box with a moving picture of three men in blue blazers moving their lips is just that, and no more.
Their lips could be moving because they’re telling guy jokes, or tricks for telling Sunni from Shiite, and we’d never know.
Take #2 – by The BAG
Seeing him parrot Bush’s body language in this latest White House pic (unless it’s somehow the other way around), I continue to worry about Gates’ capacity (personally or politically) to exercise much of his own independence.
(image: Eric Draper/The White House. December 23, 2006. Camp David. whitehouse.gov)