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December 26, 2006

Blazer Boys


Take #1by Chris Maynard

This was the White House press office’s paltry offering on Saturday, on what must be one of the slowest news days possible; the ork week’s gone and Christmas is still two days off. You’ve got to give them credit for trying though; just the day before being hauled to the wilds of Camp David, both Gates and Pace were doing the photo slog in Iraq.

Now Mr. Gates seems to be wearing the same blazer he brought to Baghdad (looks a lot like John McCain from this angle, doesn’t he?), and the General has dipped into his civvies for its twin. The President has (is this common ground or what?) come up with the same, although it lacks the spiffy brass buttons of his subordinates, perhaps a gesture toward his subtle streak of personal integrity, a man not accustomed to taking the easy way out.

But once we look more closely, the grouping falls apart. Of the four hands we might see from this angle, three are tucked away. Well, maybe the air is a bit nippy, or just maybe, their hands, especially Bush’s, are empty. This goes well with his posture, the slightly canted “I’m really paying attention to what you’re saying” look of a Dale Carnegie graduate at a cocktail party. When you have no light to hide beneath a basket, carry the basket anyway. No one will look.

Somehow we’re supposed to believe that away from the glaring eye of the public, these guys will be able to figure it all out for us in total privacy. But remember, of course, that they’re on a woodsy hiking trail that’s paved. That’s a fire hydrant in the left corner, not a weathered tree stump. All they need is a skunk ambling across the background.

The General has his ball-point pen neatly stuck into the spiral binding of his note pad. Are these guys ready for wilderness survival or cursory note-taking? Behind our backs are not Chip and Dale, Bambi and the gang of penguins from that bird movie but a bunch of Secret Service agents, directors of this and that and all their hangers-on. But it’s okay, world, they’re working hard.

Perhaps it’s the demands of the 24-hour news cycle that demands this constant flow of meaningless treacle. Maybe people watching these scenes on television somehow are more secure, or connected, or just better informed, but it’s doubtful. Watching a magic box with a moving picture of three men in blue blazers moving their lips is just that, and no more.

Their lips could be moving because they’re telling guy jokes, or tricks for telling Sunni from Shiite, and we’d never know.


Take #2by The BAG

Seeing him parrot Bush’s body language in this latest White House pic (unless it’s somehow the other way around), I continue to worry about Gates’ capacity (personally or politically) to exercise much of his own independence.

(image: Eric Draper/The White House.  December 23, 2006.  Camp David.

  • ummabdulla

    Bush looks very old, and the trees are bare in the dead of winter… it’s not a very inspiring scene.
    I’m glad Chris mentioned the paved trail and fire hydrant; I didn’t notice that.
    Is there someone whose job it is to decide what everyone should wear for each meeting/photo op, and then send out the orders? Suit jackets with no ties – does that say “still working seriously, but just a little relaxed”?
    And where’s Condi? Isn’t she spending Christmas at Camp David? What a pitiful life she has – no family and apparently not many friends.

  • Darryl Pearce

    …this picture makes me think of Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Day“…which many (on both sides of the Iraq War issue) have taken to support their (mutually-opposing) views.
    How typical! That man can use his free-will to use the same thing and come to complete opposite conclusions.

  • lowly grunt

    Does removing your tie make you seem “relaxed” and “informal”?
    Anyone remember how Gary Condit never wore his suit jacket? He was always carrying it around; made me think it was the only one he had and he didn’t want to get it dirty. I know, Gary WHO?
    It’s interesting how the tall dude being “gone” from the second picture doesn’t really change it that much. Bush wasn’t paying attention to him in the first one and even less so now. Must be hard to be a spook.

  • nezua limón xolografik-jonez

    Funny. I think, immediately, of the Coen Brother’s film Miller’s Crossing.

  • readytoblowagasket

    “Somehow we’re supposed to believe that away from the glaring eye of the public, these guys will be able to figure it all out for us in total privacy.”
    Actually, according to several recent polls, Americans don’t believe these guys are able to figure it out in total privacy, especially if the solution involves a troop surge.
    And the newly empowered Dems (Biden, Kerry, Dodd, Clinton, Reid–sort of, Skelton, etc.) are actively voicing opposition to a plan for a surge in troops. Since the Dems now have the final say in how the war is financed, it doesn’t really matter if Gates parrots Bush or vice versa. Bush and Gates have little choice but to stand around with their hands in their pockets, like two teenagers whose driving privileges have been revoked by their parents.
    To me, then, the most striking thing about this photo is how noncommittal it is.

  • marysz

    Even though Gates is mimicking Bush’s body language, Bush still seems to be backing away from him–Bush’s head is bent in a way that looks skeptical. Even though Gates is trying to get through to him (and present himself to Bush in the most non-threatening way possible) Bush still can’t “hear” what Gates has to say. This shows just how hard it is to get through to Bush. The General on the right is basically shut out; he’s just the water (or should we say paper) carrier. But of course, they won’t hesitate to scapegoat him later on if they need to save their own skins.

  • thirdeye pushpin

    Their eyes all appear to look past each other, however the general direction of looks goes to Gates. There is also a tree as a dividing line between Gates and Bush. I think this is the exit strategy. Gates gets the blame Rummy should have had with the military looking at the same suspect to blame.
    These guys look like the trees that will get chopped down in winter, speaking of which bush;s grey is majorly enhanced by the light. It seems to reflect vacant senility more than accured wisdom in my eyes.

  • Bob

    Compare Pace now, to what he looked like before he took the job as chief military liar for the Bush regime. His nose was only half that large.

  • Cactus

    Barren trees.
    Barren old men.
    Barren ideas from barren brains in a barren landscape.
    Barren blazers over barren hearts in barren men.
    Barren expressions with barren eyes and thin barren lips.

  • Rafael

    Strange that you say “barren men” since men are by definition barren, they can’t have children. But they can take them, sacrifice them for the “greater good”, but if everybody dead, who cares for the greater good?

  • ummabdulla

    I can’t stop giggling about Bob’s comment…

  • Cactus

    Men have been telling women for centuries that, since we create life, we should just stay home and create life while they go out and create governments, laws and empires.
    Well, when (some) men cannot create such governments, laws and empires, but rather destroy same, shouldn’t they be called barren?
    Especially if they are foolish enough to be photographed amidst barren trees. Oh, where is that Rove genius when they need him?

  • putnam

    Bush seems to have a look of complete distaste towards Gates. How could this guy presume to tell Bush anything about Iraq, how could this guy fill Rumsfeld’s shoes, who the hell is this guy and is he really going to come to all the planning sessions and say things? How long can Bush stand to tolerate this interloper?

  • Vanna

    We’re s’posed to think YALTA. Wintry day, momentous decisions. You know. All that stuff. Too bad we couldn’t have Bush in a wheelchair or a mustache or two.

  • brolga

    For a more comprehensive photo from the same event at Crawford – and even more despairing set of body languages – see
    What is so hazardous about the ground at Crawford that everyone needs to be looking at were they are putting their feet?

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