March 4, 2007

The Compassion Gulf


“We can never replace lives, and we can’t heal hearts, except through prayer. And I know — I want the students to know, and the families to know that there’s a lot of people praying for them.”

–White House photo caption.  President surveying tornado damage.  Alabama, March 3, 2007.

Of course, you saw this.  And this.  Well, yesterday, the White House visually completed the triad.

The question is, how could the Administration be so blind — or tone-deaf — to actually publish an image this completely callous?  Especially when its explicit aim, as Bush saccharinely telegraphs (in a companion photo caption), is to WANT US TO KNOW that he gives a shit.

The attire only drives home the emotional contrast — Bush dressed in black; his sure-to-become-infamous phone conversation complemented by a grateful and radiant black tornado victim in pure white.  And then, there’s the scale.  I reduced the pic considerably.  The version above is 450 pixels high, while the White House version — which would probably double the length of this post — runs an eye-popping 800 pixels.

Update: 1:47pm EST.  Thanks to BAGreaders for pointing out that this is the woman’s phone.  According to AP, the woman’s name is Benita Fletcher, who called her boyfriend, then handed the phone to the president.

It’s interesting, however, given the curious visual, why the White House caption offers no context.  It reads:

President George W. Bush visits with residents in Americus, Ga., March 3, 2007. The President toured tornado-damaged areas in Alabama and Georgia.

By failing to explain the photo, the White House leaves the viewer to assume.  Not that this Administration ever feels a responsibility to inform anybody about anything, but it almost seems like an intentional omission.

Just as The BAG assumed the worst (Bush talking to Rove about how this trip might undo the Katrina debacle; or a quick check with Laura about flying out before lunch), it’s possible the White House looked at this image — especially, posted as large as this — as a gift.

But what, specifically, was the Administration hoping we might see?

Maybe, the love of a people for its leader.  Maybe so great a compassion for the afflicted that the President, Benita and her boyfriend could immediately bond.  Maybe such harmony, the President might as well be black and Benita white.

(image: Paul Morse/White House. March 3, 2007. Americus, Ga.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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