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November 30, 2006

At The Threshold

Bush-Jordan

As a shrink, one thing you have ample opportunity to do is observe good actors.

Among us, and well represented in the ranks of society’s most important and influential, are people who might be warm, easy-going or magnanimous on the surface, but are actually quite unfriendly, ill-at-ease or selfish in true character.

With such people, the social environment (a meeting room, a dinner table or even a stop light) can mostly serve like a stage upon which, in an automatic way, this outer self is necessarily unfurled.

Although we often sense when someone is trying too hard, being phony, or otherwise putting on an act, what we rarely notice is the change process, that quick “behavioral dressing-room” maneuver from unmasked to masked.  In a psychotherapy office, when you’re trained to look for it, where these transformations (in manner, expression or attitude) are often most observable is at the doorway — the threshold of the stage.

Given the tense, desperate build-up to the two day Bush-Maliki meeting in Jordan yesterday, and the fact Maliki stood Bush up until the second day, one can only imagine the humiliation involved.  At the same time, one easily understands the steep, immediate and mandatory face-saving reflex that makes it all seem “business as usual.”

Once fully on stage last night with King Abdullah (playing chaperone and make-up date), and then on back on today with the recalcitrant Maliki, Bush met the customary marks with his seen-a-thousand-times TV face and Southern charm.

Bush-Malkiki-Jordan

In what could turn out to be one of history’s most imaginary dog-and-pony shows, however, check out Bush at the threshold.

The concern, the worry, and the anticipation of the act reveals a situation so unstable, backstage is running into front stage, and it’s enough to remember just to fit on the mask.

(image 1& 3: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/A.P.  Amman, Jordan. November 29, 2006.  via YahooNews.  image 2: Jim Young/Reuters.  November 29, 2006. Amman , Jordan. via YahooNews.  image 4:  Emilio Morenatti/A.P. Amman, Jordan. November 29, 2006.  via YahooNews.)

  • Doctor Jay

    With regard to the photo of Abdullah and Bush, the body language is quite odd. Abdullah’s posture seems sheepish, sort of a “Gawrsh, I don’t normally get to stand in front of all these flags.” Bush is slightly into what I call the “Stumpy McBush” routine, where everything gets all kind of rounded – his arms, and back, and it even will sometimes seem like his legs get a little bowlegged. His chin is thrust out, his suit doesn’t seem to fit him well, and his expression seems like he wants to be somewhere, anywhere, else.

  • margaret

    Bush’s posture in the picture on the right and on the bottom of your post reminds me of Aristophenes’ young prince in The Frogs, who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions. Coupled with the anxious expression, searching eyes, it looks as if he is looking for a way OUT.
    This post also reminded me of a video played on the internet during the 2004 campaign, when, in New Hampshire, or one of the major primary states, John Edwards was revealed, waiting to go on, in a corridor at the venue, face, serious, set, no trace of the lovely smile, but a hard expression, tense, concentrating and ready. When he came out, he was focused, incandescent, charming, connecting with everyone in the room who spoke to him or asked questions.

  • Kitt

    That’s not how I see King Abdullah; he’s certainly not sheepish. Please….Abdullah is by far more sophisticated than Bush could ever hope. (The first photo specifically he seems to be giving Bush ‘instructions’ or something akin.)
    tIt’s not Abdullah anyway who is of interest. Check out the body language in this photo of Maliki and Bush at Reuters.
    I watched the news conference with Bush & Maliki early, early this morning since I’m on MST. Bush was his ever-usual arrogant, belligerent self.

  • http://www.dock.net/fuming_mucker/ Darryl Pearce

    …cheerleading is hard work. At times like this I don’t envy Bush his position. I just wish for a more …considered …foreign policy.

  • ummabdulla

    I almost feel sorry for him, because there is no way out of the mess he’s made. No good way out, anyway. It’s pretty telling that he has to meet the Iraqi Prime Minister in a neighboring country in the first place. Even King Abdullah doesn’t seem thrilled to be seen with him.
    I looked at the photo that Kitt mentioned; Maliki is doing all he can to avoid shaking Bush’s hand, but I guess he knows that it has to be done…

  • http://molly.douthett.net momly

    When I was a kid, we had a Welsh Pembrook Corgi mix dog named Fanny. She was a great dog; loyal, friendly, obedient. She also “herded” our other dogs which our toy poodle did not care for at all — mostly because she usually got rolled over and poodles hate to have their dignity marred that way. Our other older dog, a mutt, would just tolerate it until he snapped and then he’d bark at her and she’d quit for a while. But not for very long because the herding instinct is strong in a Corgi even one that only had other dogs to nudge into line and crowd through a determined line of movement.
    When I looked at the last picture of Bush and Maliki ( I think) coming around the corner, the expression on Bush’s face and the crowded, herded posture of the other man made me think of my dearly loved and departed Fanny. (Okay, laugh at that sentence if you must.) Fanny and Bush both seem to be moving on instinct; I must keep these stray sheep in line so I’ll bump, crowd, and nudge them in the direction I want them to go until they do it.
    I only hope for our sake that when Maliki or other world leaders get enough of the herding instinct from Bush and snap at him the way Tippy used to snap at Fanny that someone from the press corps is there with a camera to catch it for us.

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

    That final pic of Bush and Maliki reminds me of the famous one at the dedication of the Clinton Library – you know, the one where W is elbowing past the man of the hour (Clinton, who was recovering from his heart surgery), in order to be the “big” “man”. I’m not surprised that he did this to Maliki, after M. snubbed him the day before… but, geez, what an insecure looney-tunes W is! Everytime I think that he can’t go any lower, he does. Again and again.

  • http://molly.douthett.net momly

    Dependable Renegade has some interesting pics on her site that made me think of this site.
    I just LOVE the internets! Don’t you???

  • Gary
  • Kitt

    [Posted by: momly | Nov 30, 2006 at 11:12 AM]
    I just LOVE the internets! Don’t you???
    Totally OT!
    Yes! So I can read at home, at work, and even at the library in between home and work! ;)
    Seriously, I’m amazed at the ignorance of some at the wealth of information on these endless series of tubes (via Sen. Ted Stevens). It’s like they think it’s all porn, music videos, and games.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    interesting how you attempt to visually FRAME “good leaders” with good performers
    Ref: Virginia Postrel : The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness
    …as if, to know someone is to de-code so many tics and tells. i suppose if we, like you ~ abandon the foundations of The Talking Cure, reducing it to what, Rx ? then it would follow that a blind psychiatrist would be entirely impotent ;-)

  • limapup

    Yeah, he’s a has-been-actor. The only cheers he gets are those staged. What a sad puppet he is.

  • vetfordean

    This is another Bag News Quality Moment. It catches the shrub pushing his way ahead of his host, a real King, to find the lime light. It captures the “deer in the headlights” moment when junior isn’t completely sure of what’s ahead–even though his bubblemanagers stage 99% of his showings. It displays what has become loathsome to me–the gummy, smirkin grin, set off in this scene because little w finally has a shorter man over which to loom (but a larger human being). Bushie’s real impact on people is highlighted by Maliki’s slumped resignation at being part of this faux drama.

  • vetfordean

    This is another Bag News Quality Moment. It catches the shrub pushing his way ahead of his host, a real King, to find the lime light. It captures the “deer in the headlights” moment when junior isn’t completely sure of what’s ahead–even though his bubblemanagers stage 99% of his showings. It displays what has become loathsome to me–the gummy, smirkin grin, set off in this scene because little w finally has a shorter man over which to loom (but a larger human being). Bushie’s real impact on people is highlighted by Maliki’s slumped resignation at being part of this faux drama.

  • http://www.keirneuringer.blogspot.com Keir

    ummabdullah: never feel sorry for that man. He hasn’t done a thing in his life to deserve anyone’s pity.

  • Jackal

    Notice how Bush has once again “shouldered” his way in front of King Abdullah and Maliki as if this were some sort of race.

  • Kitt

    Notice how Bush has once again “shouldered” his way in front of King Abdullah and Maliki as if this were some sort of race.
    I know a couple have said this, but Bush is a bit close to that guard as they come out of the room. Perhaps Bush is attempting to not ‘hit’ the guard. OR it could just be the angle of the shot. Abdullah knows where he is going and begins to turn to the right, whereas Bush doesn’t and doesn’t clue in so it looks as though he’s overtaking Abdullah when he’s actually going to walk forward as Abdullah veers a bit to the right.

  • Cactus

    Bush does not take well the thwarting of his goal seeking activities. We have seen time and again where someone crosses him, his temper flares and he lashes out. Isn’t this the defensive reaction of one who is insecure at his base? One would think that Barbara would have inured him to such insecurity. On the contrary, one senses that he immediately returns to the state of a neglected but willful child, stomping his foot to get his way. Sometimes I wonder if we are all being forced to mourn the death of his sister.
    Bush has had nothing but frustration for weeks, now. I have a sneaky feeling that the ‘resignation’ of Rummy was forced upon Bush by his handlers (daddy’s boys?). Rumor has it that he really did think the republicans were going to win the election. Then ‘his’ VP is summoned to Saudi Arabia by the prince (and no US flags in sight!). Next he is patronized by the young king of Jordan and snubbed by ‘his’ puppet premier in Iraq. The stress and anger shows in his face; he’s never had to learn how to hide it. Maybe bullies never do.
    I wonder if the abundance of US flags at the meeting with Maliki were to make up for the lack thereof in Saudi Arabia. Or maybe to prop up his confidence.
    In the first third of top photo, he almost looks effeminate. But maybe it’s just the insecurity. DoctorJay’s comment about his posture is insightful, he often walks bow-legged, but I’ve never seen this Connecticut cowboy on a horse. Hmmmm……. He also sticks his elbows out from his body, which serves to round them. But doesn’t it also make him look bigger and tougher? One of the Reuters images Kitt referenced is almost the mirror image of The Bag’s selection of Cheney’s photo yesterday: Bush is straining, overly so, to shake hands with Maliki, but he is not looking him in the eye, as one would expect. Also, the star on the flag behind Bush looks like a dunce cap on his head.
    momly, I love THIS internet, but not the one with all the Shakespeares on it.

  • ummabdulla

    Keir, you’re right – thanks for reminding me.
    In that bottom picture, he does look like he thinks he’s in a race.

  • charlietuna

    If you want to see some even more strange body language from chimpy mcflightsuit, check out this video:
    http://thumbsnap.com/v/RmqqIXeI.gif

  • GeorgeF

    For those, who read German: There is an interesting Interview with Mr. Yasar Qatarneh, Director of the centre for conflict-avoidance in Amman in “Der Spiegel” (just type “spiegel.de). Quatarneh sums up the results of the Bush-Maliki meeting as “none”.
    And in addition in the same volume is an article about the expulsion of the Christian minority from the Iraq – a real slap into the face of those, who believed, the invasion could strengthen Christianity over there.

  • Kitt

    Here’s the Interview with Mr. Yasar Qatarneh, Director of the centre for conflict-avoidance in Amman from Der Spiegel. They have an English site as well.

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