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April 21, 2006

In Which We Can Safely Conclude That “Smug” Is Finally Dead

Triocleveland

If there was a point in the past month where the wheels seemed to completely come off Bush’s fantasy express, it was in Cleveland on March 20th.  That day, Bush gave a horribly obtuse speech on Iraq, belaboring personal interest stories from Tal Afar at the expense of the fact the country was coming completely unglued.

At the time, my visual analysis for HuffPo keyed off an allusion to Bush’s “vision problem.”  My “second favorite” image of that event, however, became a lot more relevant this week with the announcement that McClellan was being shelved and Rove was getting put back in his box.

I like this shot for many reasons.  It demonstrates how much Rove is — and remains — a central spoke.  It’s also a fitting last look at Scott McClellan.  As the image articulates, Scotty has been the front man.  Sadly, however, he always seemed just a little out of focus, and someone who reflected poorly under more intense light.

In this surprisingly unguarded moment, however, what is most striking are the expressions.  As Bush drifts off to Neverland, Rove retains something of a poker face.  McClellan and Bartlett, on the other hand, look disturbed and upset — even betrayed.

Bushgrabshu

Cheneychecksout

(click for the full disappointment)

As previously mentioned,, the shot also serves to foreshadow a greater breakdown.  With those faces, for example, the three spinmeisters could have as easily been observing this week’s listing ship, with Bush humiliating President Hu, and Cheney opting (then checking) out of Bush’s Oval Office remarks with the leader of the hyper-image conscious Asian megastate.

Taking one more look at McClellan and company, I just don’t believe those expressions are particular to the moment.  Instead, they feel like the gestural reactions that accompany the loss of faith.





(image 1: unattributed. Cleveland, Ohio.  March 20, 2006. image 2: Ron Edmonds/A.P. White House.April 20, 2006. Via YahooNews.  image 3: Tim Sloan/Getty. White House. April 20, 2006.)

  • http://profile.typekey.com/richsodergren/ rchsod

    cheney is in really poor health. dozing off like this is a sign that he is on some strong meds to keep his heart going. he`s like reagan who because of old age had to sleep most afternoons during his last term. cheney will step down and be replaced by the new face of the republican party. it is nice to see those three together for one last time. scotty is off to who cares where, karl has a few court dates ahead,and the other face who cares? after the disaster of the of the hu visit i think reality has finally burst the grand delusions of bush`s world.
    they all look so sad

  • margaret

    This is what happens when you hoard all the rope for yourself….you end up hanging by it. This is a perfect picture of the deflation of power. As I have said here before, have patience. Truth will always out, and justice will be done.

  • http://orwellsgrave.blogspot.com Stephen McArthur

    I think this photo from Getty Images is an even more powerful reflection of the tension between W and Hu.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4927966.stm
    While Bush claimed respect between the two, there was never any evidence of it from what I saw.
    I persistently had the impression of a bully cowboy really wanting to push around the little yellow slant-eye.

  • Mona

    … the snakepit….

  • mugatea

    Rove has lost little, only title.
    Cheney is absolutely amazing. Full disappointment, indeed.
    Bag on.

  • NrkeyQueer

    Worst poker faces, ever!
    Its interesting that we find ourselves turning to images of the presidents advisors rather then Bush himself for information on his administrations internal state. Bush himself is such a blank slate. He can look like a messianic war hero to some people and a shiftless buffon to others, often within the same picture (Mission Accomplished, anyone?).
    This image is the visual representation of a larger problem within the administration. Bush and images of Bush are heavily managed. His underlings (and managers) however, are running around willy nilly leaking CIA information and looking constipated in their reaction shots. The management of a presidents image is important, but management of his consultants image has fallen by the wayside. is the flip side of the rise of the consultant classes, they have become legitimate media targets. Someone in then Clinton administration understood this. They made media icons out of Stephanopolis and Carville. To some extent, the media attention kept them on message and on task.
    Is the operation of the White House starting to spiral out of control? Not quite, but these images bely a lack of confidance in his top staffers that people of all political stripes should find worrying.

  • itwasnt me

    Scotty looks like he just came out of his room after a good cry, Bartlett looks like he just came out of the bathroom after popping his pimples, and Rove, well, Rove just looks mean. He ain’t going away.

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    From the top shot one infers that the food in the White House cafeteria is tasty. A couple of my high school classmates ended up on submarine duty in the Navy. Both gained 40-50 pounds during their tours while another classmate drew carrier-based anti-sub duty and was still rail thin when he got out. Apparently one of the ways the Navy compensates for the physical isolation of sub duty is with a great mess.
    Trying to live inside a bubble extracts its toll.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    After the insults to the Chinese, I think we’ll start seeing those soft velvet gloves coming off more often. They don’t like being insulted.

  • steve laudig

    I’m intrigued by the statue on the desk in the middle of the photo. I think it is “Bronco Buster” by Remington. Assuming it is then this is the “Quintessential Remington Cowboy Bronze!”
    Go to: http://www.andevan.com/
    Here’s the pinpoint site: http://www.andevan.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=100.
    Here’s part of the description:
    “Frederic Remington created iconic images of the Western frontier composed of Native Americans, cavalrymen and cowboys, subjects he described as “men with the bark on.” Nowhere in his oeuvre is the cowboy more celebrated than in his first bronze subject, “The Broncho Buster”.
    Originally conceived in 1895, “The Broncho Buster”, depicting a cowboy breaking in a wild horse, was an immediate success, symbolizing all that was triumphant and heroic of the West.”
    The statue shows a “man with his bark on.” In contrast, the photo shows men with their bark off. If humans represent something about themselves in the art they display for others to see, then this choice by the Bushies of triumphalist whites from a prior imperial and confident time [2 years after overthrowing the Hawaiian Kingdom government, 3 years before the pretextual war with Spain to grab colonies] is an excellent counterpoint to what looks like their current mood.
    “Mission accomplished.” Indeed.
    Perhaps it’s time to replace the Bronco Buster with “The Norther” by Remington. From the same vendor. “Detailed Description. In a successful attempt to capture the harsh conditions of weather and season on the lives and livelihoods of the western frontier, Remington sculpted “The Norther.” A work of art that utilizes textures and symmetry to recreate the appearance of the winter’s cold forceful winds and falling snow on his steed, coat and chaps, “The Norther” depicts a determined rider’s trek through the barren terrain.”
    Is it naive to suggest that to the Bushies Iraq is the “new” “Old West” a “bronco” that they were so confident they’d be able to “civilize” or “break”. Iraq is now barren terrain but it isn’t the impersonal weather that’s making it tough. It’s the “natives.”
    Reminds me of an old joke that’ll get me in trouble for repeating but here goes.
    A cowboy and an American Indian and an Arab were talking. The Indian said. “Once we were many and now we are few.” The cowboy said, “Once we were few and now we are many.” The Arab said “Once we were many and still we are many.” To which the cowboy replied. “that’s because we ain’t never never played “Cowboy and Arab” before.” Okay, so don’t abuse me for the joke. Contextualize it.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RubDMC/ RubDMC

    I’m with itwasntme – these white men are jowly, beady-eyed, porcine. Now that doesn’t make them pigs…

  • Esoth

    I was looking for the Cheney naps picture that has a broader focus, so that you can see the rest of the room standing politely and attentively. This portion of the wider-framed picture, featuring Cheney drooling in dreamland, and Rummy, eyes cast down, might have instead have been a snapshot of a moment of quiet reflection.
    Bush tugging petulantly at Hu’s sleeve reminds me of the second-graders in my daughter’s class — when words fail to move someone in the direction you want, the hands move involuntarily to make it happen by force.
    Scottie, Rovie seem to be eating their guts out, as their man Bushie flounders on.

  • readytoblowagasket

    steve laudig said: “The statue shows a ‘man with his bark on.’ In contrast, the photo shows men with their bark off.”
    I’d take it a step further and say the photo of McClellan, Rove, and Bartlett shows the soft, pulpy, grublike center.
    Ew.

  • PTate in MN

    McClellan looks anxious and wary, like a puppy who has been abandoned. Who will protect the master now?
    Bartlett looks grim, worried. His face has the focused attention of a Houston Control Center engineer fifteen minutes after Apollo 13 transmits, “Houston, we have a problem.”
    Rove, still in the center of things, is saying to himself, “Ah, it all goes according to plan, mwha-ha-ha.”
    At least that’s how these boys look on my poor resolution monitor at home.

  • Asta

    I was reminded of children’s nursery rhymes when viewing the first photograph. What came to mind was “Three (not so) Blind Mice” and “Three Little Pigs”. So I did a search on nursery rhymes and found two less popular rhymes that might be fitting.
    “The Three Crows”
    (Now remember, a flock of crows is called a “murder”, perhaps an appropriate metaphore here).
    Three crows sat upon a wall,
    Sat upon a wall,
    Sat upon a wall.
    Three crows sat upon a wall
    On a cold and frosty morning.
    The first crow couldn’t fly at all,
    Couldn’t fly at all,
    Couldn’t fly at all.
    The first crow couldn’t fly at all
    On a cold and frosty morning.
    The second crow fell and broke his jaw,
    Fell and broke his jaw,
    Fell and broke his jaw.
    The second crow fell and broke his jaw
    On a cold and frosty morning.
    The third crow was calling for his ma,
    Calling for his ma,
    Calling for his ma.
    The third crow was calling for his ma
    On a cold and frosty morning.
    The forth crow wasn’t there at all,
    Wasn’t there at all,
    Wasn’t there at all.
    The forth crow wasn’t there at all
    On a cold and frosty morning.
    (Hmmm, who could the 4th crow be….?)
    Then I was charmed by the last verse of “Three Little Kittens” who had lost their mittens and had begun to cry. Fast forward…
    ‘The three little kittens they washed their mittens
    And hung them out to dry,
    “Oh mother dear, do you not hear
    That we have washed our mittens.”
    “What! washed your mittens, you are good kittens.”
    But I smell a rat close by,
    “Meeow, meeow, meeow” we smell a rat close by.’
    Yeah, I smell a rat close by, too. Hope you kittens washed those mittens really, really clean.

  • itwasnt me

    Ya know, another thing comes to mind about a lot of people in and around Republicanism (those shown here a good example). They all sort of have a juvenile/feminine fat deposit pattern. Human body fat, I’m told, contains/stores estrogens. Could there be a med/psych paper waiting to be written here? Cheney, for example, is a big man, but doesn’t have this fat pattern. It’s specifically these pudgey, Limbaughesque looking guys. I wonder about this…

  • Asta

    itwasntme, maybe what you see is what spurred me towards childrens’ nursery rhymes.
    “They all sort of have a juvenile/feminine fat deposit pattern.”
    Yep, I see it, too.
    We really shouldn’t give a gun to a child, ya know?

  • Cactus

    The triumvirate was shot a month ago (pun intended), but one wonders if they already had an inkling of their futures. Rove is ‘demoted’ and Bartlett was brought in by Rove so his future looks iffy under Bolten. Baby-face McClellan, out of focus, looks as if he were just crying.
    They are all looking at the same thing, but their expressions are quite different. McClellan looks wearily, as if he’s seen too much that he didn’t want to see. He’s dispirited and emotionally out the door. Bartlett is looking more intently than the other two, he had to prove he’s interested. “Notice me, I’m paying attention.” There was spec, of which I’m sure he was aware, that he would replace McClellan. Rove, on the other hand, appears to be looking at the same thing, but his eyes do not see it. He is thinking of his next move, or the next political trick. He has hidden behind those glasses for so long that he doesn’t realize someone else can see him.
    In the next photo, Bush doesn’t seem to know what to do (lack of tact, experience, empathy) and Hu is shocked at Bush’s action. Apparently, so is the man standing in the background who looks very unhappy and may (can’t be sure) have his fist clenched.
    In the getty photo, Cheney is definitely sleeping, head looks off to one side. Rummy looks to be nodding, but I think it is just a pensive nod. In this crowd, it there was prayer going on, all would be bowed and the two men behind Rummy are just looking straight ahead.
    Meanwhile, rumors are abounding. Apparently something is going to happen mid-week and rumors of Condi leaking and Rove being indicted just lend further patina to these photos, especially the first one. If Condi goes, Hughes might be the strong woman by default (there is a resemblance to Bar).

  • CommiePinkoScum

    Interesting that a “feminine fat deposit pattern” is considered a bad thing for politicians to have. A politicians’ weight is irrelevant to their job. Rove isn’t evil because he’s fat. The feminine issue is reminiscent of when newspapers reported Bush’s inner circle was mostly women. No matter how far we think we’ve gone, femininity and politics still don’t mix in some people’s eyes. We’ve come a long way, baby.

  • itwasnt me

    Yes, Asta, your lovely poems gave me idea, in fact…

  • ummabdulla

    Before Andy Card resigned, they were talking about how this administration is burned out, and how the senior staff works like seven days a week, 14 hours a day or whatever… that’s not healthy, and these guys show it. On the other hand, Bush gets plenty of vacation, takes time to exercise, and always sleeps early. Come to think of it, Condi seems to have time to shop, exercise and play chamber music, too.

  • Esoth

    I was looking for the Cheney naps picture that has a broader focus, so that you can see the rest of the room standing politely and attentively. This portion of the wider-framed picture, featuring Cheney drooling in dreamland, and Rummy, eyes cast down, might have instead have been a snapshot of a moment of quiet reflection.
    Bush tugging petulantly at Hu’s sleeve reminds me of the second-graders in my daughter’s class — when words fail to move someone in the direction you want, the hands move involuntarily to make it happen by force.
    Scottie, Rovie seem to be eating their guts out, as their man Bushie flounders on.

  • http://growabrain.typepad.com/growabrain/2008_us_election/index.html Growabrain

    It seems that you read more into it than was visible on the surface at the time. With a 20-20 hindsight, you were right on target, Michael.

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