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April 2, 2006

Oh, Mexico


This is one of the most significant pictures of Bush I’ve seen in years.

The shot, featuring “W,” Mexican President Vicente Fox and new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was taken last Thursday at the Mexican Mayan and Toltec ruins of Chichen Itza.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, this is one of the few times I’ve actually seen Bush look comfortable in his own skin.

Having worked at several colleges and graduate schools as a clinical psychologist, I’m very familiar with the psychological dynamics of a four year term.  (It’s still basically the same, even if Bush had to go back and repeat four years.)  To overgeneralize, the cycle is characterized by awe and intimidation in the early phase; a rather robust sense of entitlement in the middle to later phase; and then a fairly dramatic humbling, often marked by some regression as graduation approaches.

Not that he won’t be struttin’ again on Monday, but amid the ruins, Bush had the post-entitlement look of a little boy.  Or, more pertinent to the cycle, he looked like a de-fanged old man.  (Actually, his old man.)

Bottom line, Bush is showing up where he started.  Coming into office, his one big idea was to tackle “the immigration thing.”  Which made sense, because the world for him was basically just the U.S. and Mexico.  (Clearly, George has never been that ambitious a guy.  If he’s spent most of his presidency in a state of panic, it’s because Rove craves the grandeur.  Sadly, Bush never saw through the projection.)

But perhaps this trip has been a small watershed for Bush.  For a day, at least, maybe he realized he could show up for work, and not have to act like somebody he’s supposed to be.  And when you tone down the paranoia, and the sharp edges, what comes through is a truer physiognomy.


Not only that.  In the absence of the shaky legs, the darting eyes, and the myriad other physical symptoms, this image speaks to another Bush pathology:  the completely manic relationship to time.

How else could one explain Bush’s proximity to a historical monument lasting longer than an inhalation?  As James Gerstenzang points out in this almost whimsical piece in the LAT, Bush went to St. Petersburg but raced through the Hermitage.  He skipped the Colosseum in Rome, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Taj Mahal in India.  In China, he did the Great Wall in half an hour.

But graduation approaching, Bush showed up dressed like his CEO brother from across the border, got his picture taken without having to be front and center, and otherwise let down his hair (or actually, his gut).

And oh yeah, he also took in something of Chichen Itza.

(image: James Reed/Reuters.  The New York Times.  March 31, 2006. p.A1)

  • tracy

    Well, it looks like he was in a hurry here:

  • mugatea


  • marysz

    The Washington Times had this photo of Bush pretending to loose his balance as he walked with Fox. Bush always seems happier out in the sun. He might have a seasonal affective disorder (along with his many other emotional and behavioral problems).

  • Asta

    The first photo has the feeling of those old postcards from the early 20th century. Handtinted.
    It’s interesting that their shadows are so stark and solid, yet the threesome seem to be illuminated from another light source. (I was gonna say they were well lit, but it was such a bad pun…)
    The sky is filled with those delightful patches of clouds, yet the landscape does not show their shadows, as it would in such an open expanse.
    The more I look at this, the more photoshopped it appears. The only thing that’s missing is the boldly scripted “Wish you were here!”.

  • steve laudig

    Does anyone know what they might be looking at? We know what’s in the background but not what they are seeing.

  • ummabdulla

    Asta: “The first photo has the feeling of those old postcards from the early 20th century. Handtinted.”
    That was exactly my reaction! Here’s another photo that looks like it was taken at the same time. The shadows are the same, but the color is very different.
    Supposedly Bush’s handlers are letting him loosen up and “be himself” more these days; they figure with his poll numbers so bad, it can’t really hurt.
    What kind of get-up is Stephen Harper wearing?

  • ummabdulla

    Tracy, those photos and the comments had me actually laughing out loud – my 4-year-old was looking at me like I had gone crazy…

  • PTate in MN

    He looks to me like a three-year old, standing and being a good boy for the camera. He isn’t wearing his usual suit & he does seem more relaxed than usual in this particular costume. It’s interesting to contrast these pictures with his non-verbals in India. Were Laura & Condi along on this trip?
    I like this picture as well.
    I wonder if he fell under the charm of Mexico, as so many do? In particular, as a Texan and someone who speaks some Spanish, the land and language might feel familiar in a way that DC, India or Europe never will. Or perhaps he felt more comfortable because his policies on immigration & guest workers are more appreciated south of the border. He might have been willing to linger because he was among friends for a change?

  • Cactus

    Here we have three guys mugging for the camera. I’m pretty sure the only thing they are looking at is the line of photographers. But their dress is interesting.
    Bush & Fox are members of the oligarchy of their respective countries. Geedub is wearing what appears to be a new peasant-style shirt with wide hip-line and over-size sleeves. Which is okay for casual ruin-hopping. Fox takes it a step further with the light clothing which would be worn by workers and adds the peasant hat to be one with the common folk. (And he’s not even running for office.) Harper seems to be the odd duck out. I don’t know much about him, but I’m sure it’s warm enough in Mexico that he doesn’t need a vest. Especially since he’s from Canada where it’s cold. I wonder if he wore the sports vest as a subtle reminder about a certain veep’s hunting accident.
    I noticed that the photos on the WH website do not show any casual dress, except for Fox. Perhaps it’s a difference of the warm, humid Mexican weather outside (isn’t Chichen Itza near a jungle?) and air conditioning inside. Or maybe the WH doesn’t want any photos that don’t show him as ‘presidential.’
    The LAT article implies that the trip was a favor to Fox to increase the tourist trade. Geedub’s lax immigration policies already favor Fox’s high unemployment rate. I sure hope he comes back with some Mexican papayas.

  • futurebird

    This photo is almost… new age. I guess it’s the white shirts and the open sky. “morning in mexico?”

  • jt from BC

    UMMABDULLA/CATUS, 33 million Canadians are (laughing) asking the same question about Harper’s getup. Recently this “flack jacket” appeared on a surprise trip to Kandahar where he told soldiers “Canadians don’t cut and run” (sound familiar) there this jacket was unzipped showing a “beer gut”, the local MSM had fun with “this exposure”. He only looks out of place, as an Evangelical and a control freak, he was goo-goo around Bush, I’m giving odds he will be our first PM invited to a WH prayer breakfast. Sadly, “W” now has a parrot to accompany the poodle on political shouting rants about “democracy” and foreign wars.

  • jt from BC

    UMMABDULLA, in the above pic the boy wonder is showing how big his political whoopers are in Canada now that takes time, in you pic the fox is responding in kind but on “Mexican time”. “W’ whoopers are so well know he doesn’t reply.
    Or Harper and Fox are demonstrating their openness while the third amigo’s preference is to pass on this one.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I think we’re seeing W’s “gut out” because he’s not wearing his girdle. It would have shown through the white shirt, causing much speculation about how often he wears one. Ever since I saw The BAG’s pic of W marching to the podium w/Bliar, I’ve been thinking he must be wearing one. A girdle would explain a lot about his normally stiff and uncomfortable-looking posture. And the lack of oxygen to his brain.

  • lemondloulou54

    Baggie, Let’s not forget that even relaxation can be manipulated. The meeting place was certainly chosen to boost tourism. The folks who were reminded of an old postcard are absolutely right on. When I saw the photo of the threesome that ran on the front page of the Times, I picked up the paper and showed it to my husband. I said, “Are the Mayan ruins on your list of must-see sites?” So once again, the Bush manipulators hit the bullseye. . .

  • sravana

    The shirt is called a guayabera (sp?) shirt, and it’s classic Mexican casual menswear. Folks wear them in South Texas a lot, whether or not they’re Hispanic. They are gawdawfully ugly, but cool in the heat… and traditionally worn out, not tucked in. They make even the most handsome of dudes look dumpy!
    Chichen Itza is in a jungle – think v. high temps, and v. high humidity. I’d be soaking wet if I wore a flack jacket in that heat.

  • momly

    Wow, I didn’t know that was Harper. He looks like the guy returned from a fishing trip saying, “It was THIS BIG!”

  • steve talbert

    Bush is NOT wearing a guayabera.. Fox is. you can see the 2 pockets below on his and the vertical pleats. Bush has a chest pocket on his left and the shirt looks silk or something. You wouldn’t have dark buttons on a guayabera shirt. Harper looks totally out to lunch without a clue with that vest. he probably thinks he is in guatamala or columbia and needed protection. I think Bush and Fox relate to each other, so Bush is more himself when he is around.

  • nothingruler

    The extra-long pants certainly enhance the little boy look.

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