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April 25, 2005

Ranch on the Side

345,Http Us.News1.Yimg.Com     Cactus

Since entering office, Dubya has made the biggest deal about who does and doesn’t get the Crawford invite.

In viewing the images out of the dude’s ranch, however, I’m always interested in how the White House PR operation scripts the setting and story line for each guest.  For the elementary school version of this latest visit, check out a site like Wonkette for plenty of snickering about how Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah spent the morning holding hands.  Maybe the Wonk (and a whole lot of others) fell for some visual bait, however.  What better way to deflect the fact the Bush’s are in bed with the Saudis than to encourage a visual stir over some literal contact.  Sort of breaks up the coverage, doesn’t it?

Beyond the flesh, I was thinking about the graphics in terms of another aspect of wildlife.  I was thinking about how the location scouts picked out cactus for Sharon a few weeks ago, whereas the Crown Prince earned bluebonnets.

(image 1: Jason Reed/Reuters, April 25, 2005 in YahooNews; image 2: Tim Sloan/AFP Monday, April 11, 2005 in YahooNews)

  • Johanna

    Wow – can these visuals be for real? Okay, without getting paranoid, am I being manipulated via the media (including photos released by the Whitehouse) or what?
    This is what the first picture says to me – off the top of my head, keeping in mind that oil prices are so very high right now….
    Here is the President of the United States, the strongest military power in the world, holding hands, a very intimate gesture, with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. They are holding hands, they are walking, gently, in the bluebells, and he is doing this with a man in distinct Arab clothing. A man who is in charge of the country, that 19 (?) of the hijackers who caused the destruction of 9-11, came from. I wonder how this is playing in the bible belt? Texas?
    The President holding the Crown Prince’s hand says so very much. As they walk and talk, the President’s hand is gesturing out, showing – openess? The other hand, holding the hand of the wiser (?) older man, a gesture of trust and intimacy.
    The way that the picture is framed, looking up, from the gentle blue bells, into this private intimate moment, leaves me as the viewer, feeling as if I am intruding on them – on this intimate moment. The visual message seems to be, we are gentle friends with the Arabs/Muslim peoples.
    Whereas with Sharon, well, the President has his stern face on doesn’t he? With Sharon, I couldn’t believe in the many pictures released of the event that I saw, was often seemingly bending, hunched, over. Was it just a coincidence, perhaps his back was acting up? Why it seems to me as the viewer, here is the President, being stern with Israel among the “prickly” pear cactus. Its dry, its hard, its stern. Sending perhaps, the visual message that the President is tough on Israel.
    Here is the irony of both of these pictures – we are not tough on Israel and we are overtly tough on the Arab/muslim man and woman, especially, in this country.
    Peace. Johanna

  • kali yuga

    Close up: tinyurl.com/aj7tv

  • Richard

    Why do I keep on hearing a high falsetto . . . “Tiptoe through the tulips . . . “

  • http://www.idyllopuspress.com/meanwhile Idyllopus

    I saw, went away and thought and then it seemed to me cactus = strength, while the bluebells and handholding indeed = intimacy, gentleness. So rather than seeing the cactus pic and thinking “hunched over” what I carry away from a comparison is the desire to communicate resolve, unflinching, while dosing with sweetness on Saudi Arabia and a communication of passive submission. Both pics in their own way, say, “Things are in control just as we want them to be, and you too.” Really is a tad bizarre though, the bluebonnets pic. “Come, take my hand, witness the flowering of democracy, the fruitful desert, the wonders of the peacable kingdom on Earth.” A wonder they don’t have lion and lamb drinking from a pond in the foreground.

  • http://combatraccoon.blogspot.com/ CombatRaccoon

    Holding hands in public is a common practice among males in the Middle East where it merely signifies friendship and does not have the effemminate, or even homoerotic, implications typical in the West where holding hands by adult males is almost taboo. The image indicates that President Bush is willing to display his friendship with Saudi royalty in a manner that is especially recognizable within the context of Middle Eastern culture.
    See http://wrc.lingnet.org/mec.htm
    “Long handshakes, grasped elbows, even walking hand in hand by two males is common place in the Arab world. A considerable number of Arabs touch more between the same sex, to show liking–not sex. They hold hands, hug each other, kiss if close friends. As Arab society condones the outward display of affection between male friends, one may see Arab men, even officials and military officers, holding hands as they walk together or otherwise converse with one another.”

  • Asta

    But…but…but this isn’t Arabia. Yet.

  • kali yuga

    “Holding hands in public is a common practice among males in the Middle East where it merely signifies friendship and does not have the effemminate, or even homoerotic, implications typical in the West where holding hands by adult males is almost taboo.”
    So then, if it were common practice in the Middle East for males to suck each other’s dicks, we would instead have a photo of Chicken George on his knees wearing a bib.
    I would apologize for being so crude, but the Bush Nazis have set the tone for political debate in this country . . .

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Vini, Vidi, Nada
    even according to offical accounts, nothing News :
    the old fundamentalist Jewish Leader came to visit The President. together, they make some inane, scripted statements. afterwards, alone ~ before he leaves town, Sharon says something like, “we’re gonna do what we’ve been doing…” iow, nothing new.
    the old fundamentalist Muslim Leader came to visit The President. together, they make some inane, scripted statements. afterwards, alone ~ before he leaves town, Abdullah says something like, “we’re gonna do what we’ve been doing…” iow, nothing new.
    imho, the only difference between these two old fundamentalist farts is that the Muslim has the President over an oil barrel, and the Jew has the President in a pickle barrel.
    meanwhile, you’re bleeding Treasure and The Troops are being picked off like fish in a barrel :-/
    this isn’t news.
    it’s not even… comedy : it’s tragedy.

  • Bugboy

    This was obviously staged (note how Bush appears somewhat uncomfortable in his body language in other photos from the event)for the benefit of middle-eastern audiences due to the social acceptance of physical contact among same sex individuals. It’s the opposite sex that makes the Sauds uncomfortable while in this country homophobia abounds even amongst the most open minded.

  • Tilli (Mojave Desert)

    Why do we never see a photo with Bush on a horse?

  • Asta

    Bushie is afraid of horses. It’s a fact.

  • Katherine

    at one of the WH Christmas parties Laura Bush told some of the visiting children that the President was a “windshield cowboy” / heh

  • Basharov

    Holding hands in public is a common practice among males in the Middle East where it merely signifies friendship and does not have the effemminate, or even homoerotic, implications typical in the West where holding hands by adult males is almost taboo.
    Maybe so, but if you watch the moment when Shrub and the Guy In The Dress start holding hands, it’s Bush who makes the first move, and not the GITD. The GITD meanwhile looks slightly startled (he’s spent enough time ordering up call girls at the Ritz Hotel in Paris to know this isn’t considered normal behavior anywhere but back in Riyadh) but he figures, what the Koresh, if he wants to hold my hand, he can hold my hand.
    There’s no way to avoid the fact that this whole maneuver on Shrub’s part was bizarre, and can’t be explained away by saying he was trying to be “culturally sensitive”. It’s painfully obvious that our “steely-eyed rocket man” (as Peggy Noonan calls him) has, shall we say, “unresolved issues” about certain subjects. (I’m kind of surprised that he didn’t tell the GITD that the view was “fabulous”, but maybe Laura has slapped him upside the head enough for saying it that he’s sublimated the impulse into hand-holding.)
    Oh, and the reason for using cactus as a backdrop for Sharon’s visit and bluebonnets for the GITD’s hasn’t got a lot to do with image manipulation. It has to do with the fact that bluebonnets are a very short-lived phenomenon in Texas. They begin to bloom in late March, reach their peak around the end of April, and they’re gone by the middle of May. If there had been any bluebonnets on the pig farm when Sharon was there, he and Shrub would have been rolling around in them like a couple of javelinas in heat, but when the only sign of life on your hell-hole of a “ranch” is a cactus, then that’s what you use for your photo-op. And when the bluebonnets fleetingly bloom for those two magical weeks, all Texans know it’s time to trip the light fantastic through the fields of blue, hand-in-hand with your Significant Other, because in another week or so it’ll be too hot to skin an armadillo even if you could find some shade.

  • Asta

    Basharov wrote: “Maybe so, but if you watch the moment when Shrub and the Guy In The Dress start holding hands, it’s Bush who makes the first move, …”
    I saw the same footage tonight on the news and I had quite a different reaction from the video than I did from the stills.
    I agree with you, Basharov, and I will take it a little bit further. Because I’m female and I just can’t shut up.
    Bushie WAS agressive. I was once in a relationship wherein my x-spouse needed to be in control at all times, and when I saw the part where Bush grabs Prince Abdullah’s hand in a confrontational way (there was also that intense, penetrating look on W’s face), well, I cringed. It felt so familiar that I empathised with the Prince, which is rather odd, because I don’t like the Prince.
    Bottom line, sans all the analysis…Bushie behaved very un-Presidential. And he was trying to bully someone who has us all by the short hairs economically. So much for diplomacy and negotiation. And common sense.

  • Basharov

    He showed the same aggresiveness at the opening of Clinton’s library when he tried to shove his way past Bill as they were coming through a door trying to escape from a heavy rainstorm. That time it was just Bush puffing himself up like a bantie-rooster with delusions of being an eagle in a pitiful attempt to out-macho the Alpha Dog. This time the big difference was the powerful homoerotic element that Dubya couldn’t seem to suppress.
    I think there are some serious conflicts going on in what passes for his brain, especially in the part that deals with sexual identity. I’d say all these years in the closet, always afraid that those little “experiments” afterhours at the Deke House would surface have taken a toll. I sure hope Cheney’s keeping him away from the nuclear launch codes.

  • pammo

    Bush’s Neverland Ranch . . . holding hands with boys in dresses, sweet caresses behind the stiff cacti, the swaying greenery.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    I agree with MonsierGonzo; this is a tragedy.
    Maybe it’s because I’m female, but my immediate reaction to the handholding (and hand grabbing, I noticed that too, Asta), was what a way to blow your cover! I am sorry that most of our media pundits were making over the homosexual innuendo of the moment when the political/economic moment is screaming HERE I AM! IN BED WITH THE SAUDIS AT THE EXPENSE OF MY COUNTRY!
    Can anyone say “treason”?

  • http://graphitefurnace.blogs.com Evan

    It’s funny how the White-Wing — er Right Wing Press interperets these images. The NY Post clipping I saw taped up in a pizza joint today proclaimed “Look at the lengths our culturally sensitive Prez will go through to negotiate lower prices at the gas pump.” They saw it as savvy, foxy, sublime business genius.

  • http://www.photorant.com/ Kevin Bjorke

    What struck me immediately was the fact that BOTH these photos are staged as if they were glimpsed through the trees (bluebonnets, whatever) by secretive telephoto-ing paparazzi, when in fact they’re both deliberately staged by the White House’s media managers.
    Then again, a lot of old-school Hollywood Hush-Hush-type photographers would deliberately include a branch or some leaves (sometimes held by the photographer themselves) for the same purpose — to make the staged PR-managed shot LOOK as if it were giving you a priveleged, intimate glimpse.

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