Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
March 29, 2006

Pitching The Staff



Marking its supposed staff shake-up,  the White House released a not-so-intentionally humorous set of images Tuesday.  Forgetting for a moment that the Card for Bolten swap is little more than a token difference, consider the “meta-communication” in and between these shots.

Given the way Bush has been floundering, the top photo seems like a tremendous rip on Card.  We see Andy Boy helping Bush with a map, knowing full well Bush has become hopelessly lost of late.  In the second pic (And, why wouldn’t the White House have its own stewardesses?), the lighting is not only more dramatic, the kneeling Bolten actually seems to have an audience.  (If you consider this a completely obvious point, well, you could survey a lot of pictures before you came across one in which Bush actually seemed to be listening to an aide.)

Going back to the day’s White House photo gallery, also notice the matching pair of Bolten and Card photos with Bush on the White House lawn.  It’s also a crack-up how the Bush/Bolten shot is so large and businesslike, whereas the Bush/Card shot — beyond the endearing nostalgia — shows the two looking not-so-significant amidst the green expanse.

(image 1: March 2002. Air Force One en route to El Paso.  image 2: Eric Draper. March 28, 2006.  Air Force One en route to Portland.

  • ummabdulla

    To me, the top photo shows Card and Bush as sort of equals.
    The bottom one shows Bolten on his knees in front of Bush, in more of a servant position (not unlike the woman behind him with the drinks).
    Does Bush always have that jacket around when he’s on Air Force One?
    In the photo of Bush and Card on the White House lawn, both of them have their legs in strange positions – what is it they’re doing out there?

  • Carl Manaster

    Bolten couldn’t be more literally “at arm’s length”

  • Rafael

    The first looks like either:
    a) two business partners talking about a upcoming project, like engineers talking over building’s plan
    b) Two general planning the next military campaing.
    Both entail looking at present and future plans of action.
    The second picture looks like the Emperor on his throne, holding court over one of his loyal courtiers. Not a flattering portrayal of Mr. Bolten.

  • jt from BC

    Bolten confirmed after four faith filled years. Now risen from bended knee its this libretto they were rehearsing back in 2002 (the stewardess serving r– and coke told me so)
    WARNING: if you link, do so on low volume.

  • martin

    Throughout S.E. Asia we operate what is nominally known as reflexive language: it is the dog of the tail, rather than the dog’s tail.
    This, from Whitehouse staff , becomes very different to instep visions. (yesterdays post of Blair and bush).
    The head of the Bush dog is missing. This is not a turning point.
    The strength of todays post minded me of a singular, fetischised image: that of, ‘The Warm Leatherette’ from Grace Jones lyric:
    Warm leatherette,
    A tear of petrol,
    Is in your eye,
    The hand brake,
    Penetrates your thigh.
    A tear of petrol,
    Is in your eye,
    Quick let’s make love,
    Before we die.
    This was the complicated, complicit image that hit me from the bag post. A sumptuous, subtle, laid back and somehow, wholly consuming lie for the beguiled collective.
    To me the Bag is on the very edge of a simlar laureatte. Many of the posts are stunnigly reflective in their qualities. Many more are reflectively stunning. They seem to contain a Montain of American consideration:
    Is it right for Americans to kill these people.
    Is it right for these people to kill Americans.

  • lib4

    What is the stewardess serving… RUM AND COKE

  • Cactus

    ummabdulla, I wondered about that jacket, too. It’s like he knows he is of so little substance he has to constantly dress the part. Did it start on that carrier when he dressed in full combat drag, ‘heh, heh, look at me!’ Now he’s on AirForceOne so he gets to wear that cool jacket.
    In the top photo, Card is saying, “Look, right there, that’s New Orleans, see, right by the water.” In the second one, it looks like CAT (clear air turbulence). Card is down and bracing himself on the table. The attendant is slightly off balance and braced against the door, the tray a little off kilter; will she spill the coffee? I wonder if Bolten is discussing that $2.5trillion deficit he is responsible for.

  • Grumpy

    It does no favors for Card that the key light is focused on his sagging gut.
    Not that there’s anything especially wrong with his middle-aged spare tire. Just that the lighting in the room distracts from the main business of the subjects’ faces & hands.

  • John Gillnitz

    What is the stewardess serving… RUM AND COKE
    Posted by: lib4 | Mar 29, 2006 at 01:24 PM
    Exactly what I was thinking (except it looks like Jack Daniels to me). There are three guys and the stewerdess has three drinks. It doesn’t look like milk and cookies.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Have I mentioned lately that Bush is clearly drinking again?

  • marysz

    I have trouble telling Card and Bolten apart. They’re such complete non-entities, as is their boss Bush. Looking at the photos at the White House website of the three men, they’re so nondescript. How did this group of nobodies get so much power? The photo on the WH website after the ones of Card and Bolten is one of Bush with the President-elect Preval of Haiti. Bush couldn’t look goofier. Preval has a skeptical look on his face and who can blame him?

  • hauksdottir

    I’ll agree with Rafael that the first image looks like experts consulting over plans. I’ve been on building sites and in meetings where the architect, engineer, and site foreman were hovering over my blueprints (I used to be a design drafter… one way for an artist to make a living). Despite ego conflicts, when there was a problem to be solved, heads would get together and fingers wouldn’t point at each other but at the charts and plans. Equals for a time.
    Having the documents raised not only brought them into better lighting, but allowed both men to stand on the same footing while discussing them. Even the photographer gets to stand.
    Unfortunately, the area of most brilliance is Card’s stomach, so the eye keeps getting dragged there, rather than up near the fingers. But this is documentation, not art.
    The second image has the photographer down as low as his subjects, so everybody gets to grovel while Bush sits. Unless.. could the photographer have remained seated next to Bush instead of offering his seat to Bolten? Or does Bush’s seat swivel out? Air Force One is roomy, but one has to wonder at layout. (I spotted the little safety lights above for seat belts and paging flight attendants, so they are in the air.)
    The other reason why Bolten appears to be groveling isn’t just his physical lowering, but the expression on his face. He could be saying “I hope this meets with your approval”, like a kid delivering homework. Also, the hand on the table… is he protecting the thumb? Tucking the thumb in is a classic sign of insecurity.
    As to whether the gentlemen are drinking whiskey or Dr Pepper? I’d have to venture soda because those glasses seem a bit too full to just be spirits. Of course, I’m not a Washington insider prone to hanging around bars, and that may be a normal serving of alcohol. But, I doubt it. As much as I’d like actual proof (pun intended) that Bush is drinking again, this picture won’t do it.

  • momly

    Maybe it’s just the influence of everything Brokeback, but I imagined that in the first picture there would come a moment when they would turn from the papers in front of them, look into one another’s eyes……
    ….and bomb the s*** out of Iran.

  • PTate in MN

    The second picture reminds me of good parenting practice. You get down to the child’s level to communicate with him.
    Is the WH trying to persuade Americans that GWB is in charge, a hands-on executive doing the work of the American people? They need to counter the impression that GWB is an incompetent, an idiot, and a liar. So they show him in glasses reviewing documents.

  • ummabdulla

    Exactly, PTate! On both points.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes