Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 19, 2008

In Perfect Alignment

Bush Hurricane Ike



On Tuesday, when the insurance giant American International Group appeared headed toward bankruptcy, Mr. Bush flew to Texas to inspect hurricane damage. As he flew over the devastation in his helicopter, Marine One, a press helicopter following him adjusted its flight path allowing photographers on board to capture the image of Mr. Bush’s chopper in perfect alignment with the wreckage below.

On the ground in the Gulf Coast island of Galveston, Tex., Mr. Bush met behind closed doors with state and local leaders and emerged surrounded by a crowd of them, holding the hand of Galveston’s mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, as he walked past television cameras that his aides kept a safe distance away.

“Mr. President!” a reporter shouted. “What are you going to do about A.I.G.?”

Mr. Bush looked straight at the cameras and kept walking as he shouted back. “We’re here talking about the people of Galveston, Texas,” he said. “They’ve got a great mayor, and they’re working hard.”

— from: “Bush Emerges After Days of Financial Crisis“  (NYT)

I would contend that this image — carefully crafted for the news media to demonstrate how Bush cares about the hurricane devastation in Galveston — is actually further indicative (just like he was during Katrina) of how out-of-touch Bush really is. 

Ever since the Katrina debacle, Bush and the concrete thinkers at the White House have been absolutely scrupulous in rushing to the scene of every tornado, hurricane, flood, bridge collapse, etc.  Curiously though, this bending over backward to get the dramatic compassion photo occurred concurrently with another crisis in which Bush otherwise, and more true to form, again essentially failed to show up.  With the White House on PR auto-response mode after physical disasters, the execution of this compassion picture occurred over Galveston in the midst of a multi-day stretch in which Bush was essentially AWOL as a Katrina-like storm engulfed Wall Street. 

…And then, if there is any truth to the rumors that the Government has imposed a no-fly zone over Galveston Island to prevent pictures of bodies from circulating once again, it would only make this presidential photo-op that much more ironic.

Image from NYT September 16, 2008 slide show: A Slow Recovery

(image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.  September 16, 2008.  Galveston.  caption: President Bush surveyed the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike during a helicopter fly-over of Texas on Tuesday. Federal officials estimated that more than 2 million people were still without power, and that thousands of homes had been flattened and at least 40 bodies had been recovered.

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