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December 28, 2006

What Goes Around Comes Around



Ah, the quiet of late December!

With the re-circulation of Bush holding hands with an ailing Ford, perhaps Rove has some second thoughts about this December ‘05 photo op in Rancho Mirage.  Not that any one picture or any one story makes that much of a difference, but today, this file photo only helps fire the side-by-side comparison.

Of course, there was no way Gerald Ford could have passed away – - especially in the middle of the Christmas/New Year dry well — without generating an ink factory worth of comparison with George Bush, especially on the foreign policy front.  But, leave it to Bob Woodward, White House mole and deep throat fancier, to draw Ford directly into the public referendum on Bush and the Iraq war.

Woodward spent four hours interviewing Ford in July with the agreement that the product could not be revealed until after his death.  Of course, you can find Ford’s comments swirling all around the blogosphere today.  As usual, however, what The BAG is most interested in is the visual politics, and is how the pictures offer their own words.

From the hand-holding shot, it’s just a short jump to the image accompanying the Woodward story (“Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq”) placing “38″ in the Oval office alongside future Iraq invasion co-conspirators (then Chief-of-Staff) Don Rumsfeld and (then Rumsfeld assistant) Dick Cheney.

Says Ford on Rummy/Cheney/Bush:

“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction…. And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”

Says Woodward on Ford on Cheney:

“He was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Ford said. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell’s assertion that Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”

Although a visual parallel across time is inherently slanted, its emotional “evidentiary” quality often claims a veracity that overrides qualification.

And in this case, what we see here, dropped in our laps in the middle of the Iraq debate (even if someone forgot to tell the Administration there is/was a debate), is: a man in the Oval Office who actually faced up to a terminally ill war (surrounded by the guys who started the current one);  the model of a non-threatening and relatively non-egotistical man as Oval Office occupant; and, the suggestion of how a Commander-in-Chief might have actually kept these two military neophytes out in front of him, bridled up as subordinates.

(image 1: Larry Downing/Reuters.  Rancho Mirage, California.  April 23, 2006. Via YahooNews. image 2: David Hume Kennerly/Ford Library/A.P.  April 28, 1975. Via

  • Gary

    Fascinating sartorials in the older picture. Rumsfeld and Cheney are the fashion followers of the era with wide lapels both. Then Rumsfeld has slanted pocket flaps and Cheney a shirt darker than his coat and tie. How conformingly non-conformist. Ford, on the other hand, is the only one wearing a suit, and one of classic proportions and details, as is his collar tie. Ford looks like the President that he is, the others look like two-bit henchmen. But then, they are.

  • Gary

    As for the picture at top, Bush looks nearly dottering in his posture and pose. And compared to the solid, if aged, stance of Ford, it looks like he almost can’t stand still long enough for the picture to be taken. One can imagine the lack of patience Bush might have with a slow elder. 0.

  • KingElvis

    WWII generation = Ford
    Ford was actually a pacifist toward Germany (America First anyone?) before the war, even though he was swept up in the US WWII triumph along with Poppy Bush -and McGovern.
    Boomer Generation = Cheney/Bush.
    They were generically pro-war(profiteering) in the 60’s – but fight in Vietnam? – notsomuch. Now as they age, they seem to whine and cry “I wanna WWII too Daddy – I wanna be a big man like you were!”
    Cheney’s smile – even in his 30’s (never trust anyone over 30) is already a thinly vield sneer. Ford’s smile is forced and incredulous – like “THIS guy is the future? Uh oh.”
    Even as they turn 60 the boomers’ talk a big game and then whine (and blame the: press, left, U.N., voters, congress, Iran) when they lose like the spoiled brats they have been, are, and will always be.

  • Darryl Pearce

    …we are all Prospero now.

  • Rafael

    Interesting if you compare the Ford shot with similar shots of today. In Bush’s shots he always appears distant, as if people where taling around him but not at him, while Ford may not be exactly on the joke, but like a father watching his son, he has the “watch it Bob” posture. Cheney and Rummy may have cajoled and manuplated during his administration, but he was clarly in charge.

  • Tina

    Rummy and Cheney as young men with hair…..I’ve often wondered what that was like. They were as repellent then as they are now. They look like bratty know it alls. And Cheney is already sneering–it’s not just the stroke!
    Such people should never have gotten their hands on power of any kind. They are used car salesmen.

  • ummabdulla

    I don’t often compliment Bush, but I actually think it’s nice to see him holding hands with an elderly man. I guess that won’t generate any controversy itself – not like when he held hands with the Saudi King Abdullah.
    That second picture is really interesting… I realized who Rumsfeld was, although he looks so different now. But I would have never guessed who Cheney was. Are they in the Oval Office? I don’t remember seeing a globe in there lately; at least it shows some interest in the rest of the world.

  • ummabdulla

    From Bob Woodward’s article: “After Saigon fell in 1975 and the United States evacuated from Vietnam, Ford was often labeled the only American president to lose a war. The label always rankled.”
    That reminds me of something I read yesterday about Bush (in “Behind Bush’s ‘new way forward’” by Sidney Blumenthal): “Winning means not ending the war while he is president. Losing would mean coming to the end of the rope while he was still in office. In his mind, so long as the war goes on and he maintains his will he can win. Then only his successor can be a loser.”

  • Cactus

    I wonder if Ford knew something back then……something that made him a bit wary of these two men. Note the arms folded across his chest as if protecting against something. As for the other two, Rummy’s eager elbows out says. hey, notice me, I’m right here, ready to serve you. He’s trying to take up more space than he is entitled to. Interestingly, this is also a common position for W’s arms. Remarkably, Cheney’s stance is a bit more tentative, with one hand slightly closing into a fist in front of his waist. He’s the junior one here and not comfortable with it. I wonder if he already thinks he should be running the country………
    ummabdulla, that same passage caught my attention, too. And that W’s only identity left is as the CIC and as military leader he rules by issuing orders. The war is the reason for the war. All of which leaves him vulnerable to manipulation by the neocons and the Saudis. I thought it was a good observation by Blumenthal.

  • thirdeye pushpin

    What strikes me in the top photo of Bush with Ford is the sincere look of excitement in Bush’s eyes. He seems happy to be with Ford, as the old man. I wonder if there are any photos of 43 with 41 where he has that look of excitement. I get the feeling 43 was never validated with warmth; and is still trying to prove himself to dad. Ironically, Ford offers warmth, and posthumously boundaries
    handshakes, hugs, raising thugs, the joys of republican fatherhood

  • lowly grunt

    I saw that top photo over at Dependable Renegade the other day and was struck by how W just seems to NEED an older man to hang onto. I think he is a giant, walking Freudian slip.

  • KansasKowboy

    I don’t get why Bush has to hold hands and kiss the guys? When I am with an elderly person and walking with them, I usually hold them by the arm to help support them as they walk. I don’t hold hands with them. I don’t even hold hands with my wife. Of course she gives me hell about that. I know that in other countries or cultures it is not uncommon for men to kiss and hold hands, but that is not the culture in the U.S. And I am not some kinda chauvenist. I am a very liberal and open minded person. I know that gays hold hands and kiss and all that, but that is because they are gay. And I am okay with that for them. But it bothers me when Bush does it. Maybe that is because he is pretending to be some kinda compassionate conservative, modern, wordly guy. Contenental we used to call them, but he isn’t all that.

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