I’ve clearly felt that Bush let down his guard after the ’06 elections, and that this stretch has been defined by increasingly immature behavior and disinhibition. What I haven’t been able to decide, however, is whether Bush has been hitting the bottle and/or the medicine cabinet.
Overall, I think Gawker did a decent job of editing a series of Bush Olympic images focusing not just on Junior’s strange behavior, but also the suspicious gash on his forearm and the facial flushing associated with potential alcohol abuse. A particularly interesting thing to study in the shots from last Sunday’s swimming event (seen above), by the way, are the expressions — both of a concerned and a possibly humoring/co-dependent quality — from daughter Barbara.
Where the Gawker series doesn’t help, however, is showing photos from multiple days with the intimation that Bush might be drunk or hung over throughout. (In this video interview with Bob Costas within hours of the swimming event, Bush doesn’t seem out-of-it at all.)
Focusing specifically on this image, and the series of Sunday night photos at the swim stadium, however, the drinking argument fits to the extent Bush lost his balance on the way into the arena, perhaps after having an extra share of dinner cocktails. What lends weight to the argument, also, is just how much help he required.
If he stumbled with his full wits about him (okay, go ahead and joke), would he have really required the whole crew of secret service guys? (It’s probably also helpful to study this longer view.) But then, maybe the fact the whole crew was ready was because they had been counting the drinks in the first place. (If Bush was drunk, however, it’s strange to consider that Laura, who does seems more zombie-like lately, or at least Barbara, behind him, wouldn’t have been more clued in.)
In terms of Bush’s escalating disinhibition, two of the most vivid examples I’ve captured in the past four or five months involved the WH Correspondents Dinner in April and the NATO summit last March. As to suggestions of drinking, specifically, there was that weird analogy about three weeks ago in which Bush characterized the economy as drunk and hung over. And of course, there were those suspicious photos shot during the G-8 Summit in Germany a year ago.
All in all though, the significance of the image — just like the significance of the suspicions — has more to do with what this photo does speak to, which is the widespread recognition of George Bush, even perfectly straight, who can barely maintain and the George Bush who can barely deal.
(image: Rick Rycroft/AP. National Aquatics Center. Beijing 2008 Olympics. August 10, 2008)