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August 30, 2006

Katrina Anniversary: From Tragedy To Farce


… And I’m not referring to the natural disaster of a hurricane, but the man-made disaster of a Presidency.  The White House images from Bush’s second day in the Gulf reveal a shallowness, a self-centeredness and a lack of connection that is now all too painfully visible.

Bush’s appearance in New Orleans is represented by fifteen photos on the White House photo gallery.  Excluding four shots with musicians (including the famous Fats Domino) and one professional football player, there is only one photo of George Bush with regular black citizens.

Of course, we have two by-now reflexive and cloyingly staged photos of a) classroom Laura makin’ sure dem black kids are gettin’ sum edu-cay-shun, and b) a “we are the world” group hug.

We also have a picture of George and Laura at a high school roundtable discussion with what looks like a group of white people (But wait!  The White House photo actually highlights the name card of the partially blocked discussion leader.  Whew, my apologies.  Her name is Hernandez!)  …You’ve also got to love the redundant title of the program this school was the recipient of a grant from.  According to the caption, it’s called: The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative.

Oh, and did I mention the two photos of the Vice President in the thread? 

If you’re into Bush military porn, this is a “must” for any collection.  (By the way, this shot of Chancellor Cheney — on of the best “halo” pics of the year — also supplemented yesterday’s White House gallery featuring Bush in Mississippi.)

Of more than passing interest is the White House isolation shot of Bush at yesterday’s memorial service.  (Although not exactly interactive, this is the one shot of Bush with black citizens).  As a remarkable telegraph, it seems the WH actually featured the worshipful Prez, his hands full, with a look of disgust.

Since Bush’s fundamentalism has been such a primary, if profoundly downplayed factor in his Presidency, I wanted to also include two newsire images from yesterday’s service.

Bush-Crossed-No  Bush-Bowed-No

(click to expand)

Notice, in the “crossed arms” photo, Bush also looks disgusted.  Of course, there’s no way to get into his head, but something must really be under his skin.  Given his practice holding it together during large public events, the show of mood is unusual.

Also, I don’t remember seeing newswire images that so reveal “the passion of the Bush.”  My question is: are these photos evidence that the visual press is more willing to depict Bush as an evangelical, or is this evidence that Bush, in these physical gestures, is somehow also letting down his “secular guard?”

Finally, lets turn to the shot of the Bush’s with New Orleans Saints star, Reggie Bush (who, I believe, actually heralds from Southern California).  Above, I mentioned the self-centered nature of the first couple.  One can break self-centeredness down into two different forms of narcissism, a more purely egotistical version, and a more childlike or “undeveloped” type.

This pic highlights the latter quality in the Bushes.  Diversity and difference is lost on George and Laura.  In their emotional immaturity, the only thing they are able to find in others is that which is already familiar.

(images: Jim Young/Reuters. August 29, 2006.  New Orleans Louisiana.  Via YahooNews.)

  • momly

    Sports Illustrated has an article about how Bush is helping out folks in New Orleans.
    Reggie Bush, that is.

  • momly

    The folded arms and collapsing Bush pictures are intriguing about what is going on in his head.
    The folded arms: not being Roman Catholic, isn’t the usual posture for coming forward holding one’s hands together palm upwards to receive the Host? It’s a gesture of openness and willingness to receive and obey. Bush’s posture of head down, arms crossed defensively over the torso — it just shouts, “Leave me alone!!!”
    The arms bracing the sagging body suggest a huge weight and the need for support. Note how Laura is just standing there next to him; seems to say, “You got yourself into it, now get yourself out of it.” I think Laura is Bush’s internal voice telling him that it is time to come in from outside and to use his napkin.
    Interesting photos…

  • margaret

    The crossed hands is because Bush is not a Catholic, and he is only allowed to receive a blessing from the priest, instead of the Host.
    The whole New Orleans episode is artificial concern, when the evidence is so overwhelming that nothing will be done to help the less well-off, white or black. An interview on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air, yesterday, with an expert from ULA, told me something I did not know: the famous Ninth Ward is not on low lying land. It is on some of the highest land. It is because it’s the property of poor blacks that is being neglected.

  • mugatea

    The hand gestures they’re making at Reggie – hey, thanks for pointing that out, same last name, wow. Me so stupid.
    Is it funny, tho? If Reggie made that same hand gesture at them he’d be wearing a secret agent or two.
    Looks like #17 might be attempting an over the shoulder glance at the First Mams.
    He’s so good at clearing brush in his own yard – it really strikes me as odd that he hasn’t rolled up his dress sleeves and got to work down there – just once a month or something. Americans love that shit. This campaign is flat, uninspired, and empty.
    Oh well, it’s over for now, back to hosting world leaders … like President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.
    Ummm, he’s done many of the same bad things that made us invade Iraq.
    Stranger than fiction.

  • donna

    I cannot imagine Bill Clinton ever looking so disengaged in a church, or in any interaction with blacks.
    This is a farce, indeed.

  • PTate in MN

    I have zero respect for GWB but before we get into a self-indulgent libfest of contempt for him, I wonder how many commenters here spend lots of time with “regular black Americans?” How many have continued to contribute to Katrina relief over the past year? If it just me, then freely cast stones.
    We might wish that GWB would spend more time with “real” Americans rather than rich, sporting or powerful ones, but given the security bubble and stage-managing that surrounds him–not to mention the profound segregation by class & race that exists in the US–I think it is amazing he has even one such photo.
    The picture of LB & GWB with the football players–again, maybe the Bush’s are narcissists (there is lots of other evidence to support that) but I don’t think this picture is particularly convincing. It was a moment and a little joke and the WH photo-op caught it: Standing around talking to football players doesn’t make for very interesting copy.
    OTOH, the pictures of GWB & LB at church…first, I wonder why cameramen were allowed to take pictures during a worship service. That is interesting! I interpret his close-up expression not as disgust, but as the earnest piety of the non-reflective. My reaction was one of sympathy, and if I feel that, I assume the base will be even more accommodating. Still, it is an awkward thing for a fundamentalist President to worship with Roman Catholics–many still regard the RC church to be the whore of Bablyon. Laura isn’t even trying–she’s reading the service leaflet, going through the motions.
    But the pictures of Cheney–jeepers-creepers! The contrast between these pictures (you can just hear the Darth Vader music in the background) and the pictures of Bush is amazing. So, WHO is in charge here?

  • PTate in MN

    by the way, mugatea, “First Mams” is very droll. LOL!

  • NrkeyQueer

    Although I am too young to remember it clearly m’self, I’ve heard tell of a G.H.W. Bush event during his run against Clinton. Everybody knew Clinton “felt their pain”, and they also knew Bush couldn’t name the price of a gallon of milk. At a debate (or maybe press event) Bush The First was trying to highlight his compassion. Eventually worn down by questions Bush eventually sputtered “Message: I Care”. It was probably something written on a memo to him in prep for the event.
    “Message: I Care” is exactly what we have here. A group of people so exhausted and out of ideas that the structure of their message becomes visable to all, exposing its blatantly disingenuous genisis from a mix of focus groups, polling, and consultants.

  • martin

    seem to remember that gorge pulled this ‘peach stone in the cheeks’ pose when he was forced to eucumenically chow down with the papacy in the presence of PJP 2 in rome and was given a bit of a telling off during the early days of the occupation in Iraq.
    there seems to be some sort of trend within alternative info sources at the moment for suggesting that admin is in the, ‘last throes; or even that it is ‘wounded’.
    my feeling is that injured, lumbering beasts are often at their most dangerous! beware

  • Victor F

    I can’t help but think that anything this administration does now is a publicity op. After all these years of conditioning, these “news” images from the WH become something like Presidential trading cards. There’s nothing to them, it’s all staged. No spontaneity, everything is scripted.
    I just see the same frat boy greasing palms to get ahead in business, the same picture I’ve been seeing for the past 6 years.

  • Sarah B.

    At last — some real live “negroes” for Bush to touch!
    What would a trip to New Orleans be without the requisite photo-op of Bush laying his paws on African-Americans?
    Let’s face it, Bush loves to paw people of color for the cameras — otherwise, not so much.

  • Rafael

    I think that pose is one common among born again Christians, the pose they take before they dunk themselves backwards in water. I guess it a reasuring pose for George.

  • virginia cynic

    If I remember correctly the Bush family members were ( and GHWB and his wife are)Episcopalians and the crossed arms pose is the traditional sign in the Episcopal Church that you will not take communion but will receive the blessing of the celebrant. Apparently this was a catholic church so GWB now a methodist could not be given communion since many C churches now say only practicing Cs can take communion. As an Episcopalian I would not even go up to the altar rail in a C Church.

  • Rafael

    But if they are not Catholics, why take the blessing. As far as I know the blessing is not strictly obligatory (never was for me when I went to church), in fact many people didn’t do it for several reasons, like been divorced, not having a recent confession or not going to the church often enough. I’m not kidding.
    Is this a sign that GWB needs to appear/act pious even when he doesn’t have to?

  • Leon

    Bush would have to go up to receive a blessing. Everyone in the church has one eye on him and they would wonder why he didn’t go up.

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