Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
December 4, 2006

Having A Senator’s Head

Webb-Vs.-Bush-

“If you accept somebody’s invitation, you’re expected to respond in socially acceptable ways. Why go to be rude? Is it so awful to be polite?

– Stephen Hess, “The Little Book of Campaign Etiquette”

“[D]iplomacy is what’s supposed to stave off wars and other violence.”

–Miss Manners

I thought the media was done fronting for Bush, but apparently not.

If you missed the story, the President asked Senator-elect Webb the other day how his son, a serviceman in Iraq, was faring.  Instead of answering “Just dandy,” however, Webb took the opportunity to express his desire to “get them out of there.”  Not taking kindly to the response, Bush crisply informed the Senator he had answered a question he hadn’t been asked.

This late in a presidency that has almost completely derailed (not to mention, racked up stratospheric debt, poisoned international relations, and forsaken thousands of innocent American lives), apparently anything less than complete deference toward the President constitutes a gross breach of etiquette.  Or, so says the NYT.

A matter of etiquette?

Given Bush’s physical bubble and profound state of denial, Webb’s action wasn’t about manners so much as it was about reality, and responsibility.  Webb has been taken to task for confronting Bush in a social situation.  But if Bush can’t be gotten through to, especially in formal political situations and interactions (which we know are constrained to the point of asphyxiation), then what’s the recourse?

As much as The Times wishes to attribute Webb’s response to rudeness, given current circumstances, who is to say it wasn’t primarily a patriotic reflex — as well as a profoundly paternal one.  (The war being as abstracted as it, perhaps its hard to appreciate Webb’s kid is not off screwing around in South America, but fighting for Bush’s folly in Iraq.)

Look, however, how The Times visually pushed its point in the Week In Review.  First of all, the composition places Webb’s head a couple of pixels higher so the Senator appears to be talking down to his “superior.”  (The fact the Webb image looks off in the distance when the actual situation, in context, would call for looking someone in the eye, also conveys a cheap shot.)

The sleaziest move, however, is the made-up reaction they cut-out for Bush.  I never imagined the political discourse could become so slanted and juvenile.  I mean, what else could be said here on behalf of an otherwise venomous Junior, but:  “I hate you, Jimmy.  You hurt my feelings!”

(photo illustration: unattributed. December 3, 2006nyt.com)

  • weisseharre

    “&theBlandp(r)ae’don”

  • Corinne

    Bush knew that Webb’s son was almost killed in Iraq, according to this diary at Daily Kos:

    “I had the opportunity to chat with Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va 8th district) in private before he publicly addressed the group. I recounted how proud I was of Webb’s actions in front of Bush, and recounted the speculation on whether Bush could possibly have known about the incident with Webb’s son. He said, without hesitation:

    “Not only did Bush know about it, he was specifically briefed on the incident before meeting with Webb, and was cautioned to be extra sensitive in speaking with Webb about his son.”

    Just to make sure, I said: “Wow, I guess not too many people know about this,” and he said: “That’s right they don’t, but I know it’s true, and there are lots of things people don’t know about that would surprise them”
    So there we are folks. The right wing columnists of the ilk of George Will call Webb a “boor,” uncivil, etc., while in reality, it is there hero, George W. Bush, who is now revealed to be the boorest of the boors, the lowest of the lows, the crudest of the crude.”

  • Doctor Jay

    Honestly, I don’t know what’s impolite. Wanting your son home safe and sound is a basic human emotion. Even if he hasn’t just had a very close call.
    And another thing. How many times do politicians answer a question that is different from what the reporter asked them? Do they ever give a direct answer?
    My take is that Bush tried to put a dominance move on Webb, and Webb refused it. Bush’s question is sort of like asking the dog to “speak”. Webb’s response was to break the frame and answer Bush as an equal, which is rude, but so was the dominance move, in the first place.
    Someone who has more of an authoritarian orientation might well feel that because The President asked you to sit up and speak, you should, no matter what.

  • PT

    My issue with the “rude” pundits is that they are taking Webb to task for something that they themselves should have been doing for the past 6 years – bringing up the things that are awry and making them public. If they had been doing the job they say they’re doing we would have been free from this bully 2 years ago.

  • catfood

    If I saw only the disembodied heads I wouldn’t assume Webb was (supposedly) at fault. His gaze is clear. Bush, on the other hand, appears petulant (and drunk). This article epitomizes the level of professionalism I’ve come to expect from the NYT.

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

    What? Bush can’t put up with some “sharp elbows“? Or illegal uppercuts?

  • stevelaudig

    “The smallest deviation can upset the perceived order.”
    Bush was the agressor by asking in the first place. It was an impolite personal question badly phrased. It should have been something like “I hope your boy is doing fine in the difficult circumstances there.” A bland well wishing rather than an interrogation.
    But the “order” is not “perceived” it is a generated, known to be false, identity. It is projected and created and any flutter of the breeze of fact and reality has the potential to crash the Potemkin village that the political leaders generate by their self-reinforcing delusion. Certainly these actors get panicky when there is an “emperor has no clothes moment” it threatens their entire identity.

  • catfood

    On a completely irrelevant note, does anybody else think that Webb resembles James Cagney?

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Webb is a better man than I. He only thought of slugging the bastard, I probably would have taken a good swing before the SS brougt me down.

  • lytom

    What is the protocol on the printing of false information?
    The NYT, the top of the MSM, has done so much damage in helping the propaganda campaign for the war on Iraq. Besides that, the NYT, has been the major supporter for the farce of the emperor bringing “democracy” to Iraq.
    It is foolish to think the NYT is going to change and do a turnabout.
    It is irrelevant what the NYT thinks is the etiquette, just tell it to the people in Iraq! Heads wrapped in absurdity is the best NYT can do!

  • margaret

    Dr. Jay, “Webb’s response was to break the frame and answer Bush as an equal“:
    Bush and Webb are equals. Bush, as President, is only “first, among equals.” That’s why he’s called MISTER President. Don’t you ever forget it! Bush has, and that’s his problem!

  • http://molly.douthett.net momly

    Dr. Jay, you are bang on. It is an issue of dominance with Bush. He is like one of those little yappy dogs (here I am back to dogs again)who yip at everything until someone turns around and woofs back. They then run screaming away from the one who had the nerve to call them out.
    I am glad to hear that someone else has dared to pee on the bush. (heh)

  • John R.

    Dr. Jay -
    Exactly. Bush has never answered a question that makes him uncomfortable. Webb is answering the question he is asked – “My son wants to come home like all the other troops”. And Bush is the master at ignoring decorum.
    All these horrible daily deaths and The NYT is calling Ms. Manners. Sheesh.
    PS – I really apprieciate this site – thank you!

  • http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews/2006/11/going_begging.html#comments Charlie C.

    Why hasn’t anyone ever demonstrated their stones and enacted a true James Cagney moment yet? What fortitude does it take reach out and smack the bastard. To break the spell, destroy the facade, pull the curtain back on the great and powerful Oz.
    That action would immortalize, memorialize the perpetrator. It would be replayed around the globe for time eternal. He would be instantly cannnonized as a Saint. Is it really a crime? Or is is just a simple misdemeanor assualt. And what would the penalty really be, 60 days in jail — worst case scenario.
    My God, I would in an instant. Fake the shake and poleax the snake. In all the tens of thousands of handshakes, — no one has yet cracked the bloke in the kisser. What a flock of sheep.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/error27/ error27

    The quote from Little Miss Manners was taken out of context. I bet she would actually have some interesting things to say about the exchange if she were asked.
    Here is my view.
    Good: Bush how’s your boy?
    OK: I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President.
    Bad: That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?
    OK: That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President.
    The correct answer for Bush would have been something like, “My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope all Americans will be home and safe.”
    If you visit someone’s house your expected to be polite. If you invite someone to your house you’re expected to be polite. Being polite doesn’t mean you can’t show anger.

  • lower_case A

    Bush was the one to show a ‘gross breach of etiquette’ in my way of thinking. However, to expect anything more from this disturbed little man would be delusional.

  • ummabdulla

    “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President”
    That’s uncivil? I guess it depends on the tone he used, but he didn’t swear at him or threaten him or anything; he basically said what his whole campiagn had been about… Bush must really be isolated if something like that seemed so rude to him. Imagine his reaction if he read the comments at this or other sites!

  • g

    I didn’t read all of Will, nor did I read the Times. But what exactly did Webb do that they’re saying was uncivil? Are they reacting to his AFTER THE FACT comment about wanting to punch Bush? Well, if so, he still wasn’t uncivil in Bush’s presence, he was perfectly fine and only later spoke of his reaction.
    Or do they think his response to Bush’s question was uncivil?
    Because if they do, that’s very revealing. Webb’s manner wasn’t uncivil, so are they saying his supposed “incivility” was the CONTENT of what he said? Are they saying the prefered civil thing to do would be to LIE and not tell Bush that he wants to get his son home?
    And is that what’s supposed to pass – in the critics’ world – as a lawmaker’s relationship to the executive, to pander and hold back in speaking honest truth about issues as important as soldiers serving in war?
    I agree with the above poster, Bush was pulling a dominance move and he didn’t like it when the other dog didn’t cower before him, but what the fuck is with Will and the Times?

  • Cactus

    PT: I hope you are not referring to THE Rude Pundit.
    g: yes, they are reaching, and then some. The right is disappointed that Allen lost because they/he/?? saw him as a Pres. candidate in ‘08. Besides, ANYTHING anyone on the left does, the blathering heads must chew on as if it were gristle in a $40 steak. As a friend of mine used to say, ‘don’t let it getcha down, just consider the source.”
    Also, the fact that the beloved NYT is piling on here, is just more evidence that they are no friend to progressives. And for all those who had high hopes for the incoming democratic majority, I hope you were watching the hearings today……………

  • plum

    Sort of ironic that a man who has spent so long not bothering to answer questions — Why did the US invade Iraq? Why so tardy on Katrina aid? Why no progress on climate change? And so on and so forth — is actually peeved when someone pulls the same trick on him.
    But then, today’s conservatives aren’t about conservatism; they’re about wanting to be the new aristocracy.

  • TF-MA

    My what a difference six years makes in regards to deference to the presidency. The gang at the NYT hurled spit, shit and snot at the previous president and felt not only entitled but also ennobled to do so.
    I fucking HATE hypocrites and nothing, NOTHING exemplifies this epidemic of fascist Do As We Say moral whoredom as the media’s kid glove treatment to this unworthy, indecent, careless, self-entitled, Gawd damn toothache of a man, George Walker Bush.
    It is beyond comprehension that this patron saint of ball breakers and provocateurs still enjoys this level of deference in light of his crudeness, cruelty and authoritarian bullying. The useless, corporate media has turned us into one vast, helpless, neutered, enabling spouse of a drunk and nary an Alanon meeting in sight.
    Oh well, one good thing – the media IS the architect of its own irrelevance. At least a lot more Americans have caught on. Senator-elect Webb should be commended for his restraint. These are the memes that need to be countered with a hard, bitch slap to the lying Beltway Bloviators as often as it takes – you know how stupid they are.

  • http://www.healthfoodnet.info/index.html john

    http://www.4carloancalculator.com
    mortgage calculator, online calculator, auto loan calculator, car loan calculator, car payment calculator, automobile loan, mortgage rate calculator, loan payment calculator, free mortgage calculator, auto payment calculator, interest only loan calculator, interest only calculator, percentage calculator, loan amortization calculator, mortgage amortization calculator, auto finance calculator, car loan payment calculator, calculation loan, auto loan payment calculator, car loan finance calculator, yahoo auto loan calculator, vehicle loan, loan calc, calculate loan payment, calculate car loan

Refresh Archives

Random Notes