December 6, 2007

Between The Mushroom Cloud And WWIII


It was interesting watching George Bush’s NIE press conference all the way through.

What the reporters were repeatedly trying to get at was something Bush continually preaches but utterly fails to live by, which is that actions have consequence — particularly in terms of one’s credibility.

If you do watch the video, you need consider it in two parts.  The predominant but virtually insignificant part has to do with when Bush — having endured another question — starts to move his lips and words come out.

The more significant and interesting aspect is when Bush has no choice but to attend to the question.  In a face-the-music type of session like this one, we can not only observe the customary squinting, grimacing and laughing, but during the more blunt and direct challenges, we can also witness the less usual swaying; the facial tics (typically consisting of snorting, sniffing and tight pursed lips pulling to one side of the face); and even beyond that, the brief, otherwise nonsensical, somewhat crazed, staring-slightly-into-space looking glance.

As an example of that last peculiarity, check out the image above (or the frame I grabbed while Bush was enduring question number three):

When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in ’03 had already come to light to this administration. So can’t you be accused of hyping this threat? And don’t you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?

(I believe my frame captured him somewhere between the mushroom cloud and WWIII.)

It’s not surprising, by the way, that the press conference ended with a question about Bush’s body language,  and whether he was feeling troubled at all (surprise, suprise) about a credibility gap with the American people.  (After getting angry, Bush made certain to point out that: “…Psychology 101 ain’t working. It’s just not working. I understand the issues, I clearly see the problems….”)

But back to the physical indicators, and the meaning of the bodily reactions.  I have no idea how many shots AFP photographer Mandel Ngan had to take to isolate the one above, but it captures Bush exactly in one of those “can’t tolerate reality — especially when it’s in my face” kind of moments.

In episodes like these, in spite of his insistence about feeling untroubled, you can see Bush’s shield actually gives way for an instant, and there is trouble all over the place.

White House transcript and video here.

(image: Mandel Ngan/AFP.  December 4, 2007. Washington, DC. via YahooNews)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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