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January 14, 2007

Back To The Post Office

Bush-Dunham



“Tears rolled down US President George Bush’s cheeks as he posthumously honored a US marine hero, just 24 hours after ordering the controversial deployment of an extra 21,500 troops to Iraq.  …How I despise the press.”

“Re: The President’s show of emotion, I wonder if the MSM will pick this up.”

“Who is THAT behind him?”

– Selected comments from the Free Republic message board responding to the image above, and the coverage of Mr. Bush presenting the Medal of Honor, last Thursday, to the family of Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

*** *** ***

The most contentious entry that ever appeared on this blog is the one I wrote back in March 2006, titled “New Post Office” – link.

Led off by a White House photo which I added a frame to, I was critical of the unceremonious setting in which the President honored the death of Marine hero, Cpl. Jason Dunham.  The picture, presumably taken “on the fly” in an airport lounge in Rochester, New York, showed the President signing a proclamation renaming the soldier’s hometown post office after Cpl. Dunham.  Next to Mr. Bush sat the Corporal’s local congressman, with his family standing behind.

The discussion thread that followed was notable for at least two reasons.

First, several months after the original set of comments, a troller came on and took rather coarse exception to what he perceived as an insensitivity toward the Dunham family.  Having deleted only five or six comments over the previous several years, given the fight that broke out between the flamer and the “regulars,” I felt the need to remove June’s fourteen comments (as well as ban the troller).

The other notable fact, and the reason the policing seemed particularly appropriate (and why, I believe, it elicited such intensity), is because a frustrated Mrs. Dunham, the mother of the honored soldier, was one of the contributers to the original thread.

So, why the history?

Well, as it turns out, it was Cpl. Dunham, represented by his family, who was honored with the Medal of Honor on Thursday — yes, one day after Mr. Bush’s “Iraq Escalation” speech.  And, THAT young man obscured by the President (in this same photo, although slightly more cropped at top and bottom, leading Friday’s Drudge Report, and even larger and even more tightly cropped on the front page of the International Herald Tribune) is Cpl. Dunham’s brother.

The shot of President Bush is a keeper, isn’t it?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned here at The BAG, it’s that, with a little orientation, we can all begin “reading” political images, and to appreciate the power and impact of the media gaze.  In fact, it seems even the Dunham family was so edified by the New Post Office post.

If you read her comment, one thing Mrs. Dunham took from the image and the critique — given just a single pained response by a commenter — was the fact that her family was smiling.  As she writes:

We will note that should we again be in the position were our picture will be taken for public print we will know not to smile.

And in fact, in the Medal of Honor photos I reviewed (I would guess about two dozen, including this one with General Pace, in which Cpl. Dunham’s sister is clearly feeling the pride), the family holds extraordinarily close to the word.

If the Dunham family came into the Medal of Honor experience just a little more media savvy, however, what can we say about the President and his people?  (It’s a lot, I’m afraid — and it’s not very innocent.)

Of course, I can’t wait to see where you go with it.  For my part, however, I’m most interested in the timing of, and past precedence for Thursday’s photo.

Considering that Corporal Dunham’s Medal of Honor was approved by President Bush back on November 10th (a day significant both as the Marine Corps birthday, and what would have been Dunham’s twenty-fifth birthday), it’s interesting the award ceremony didn’t take place until this past Thursday, January 11th.

Yes, of course, the President has one of the busiest schedules in the world.  Still, as only the second Medal of Honor awarded in the whole Gulf War campaign, and after having had to wait an unheard of two-and-a-half years for the award legislation to finally make its way through Congress, why make the Dunham’s endure those extra two months?

In that light, and considering the politics, does anyone else find it interesting this ceremony was looking for a calendar spot during the same period of time the Administration was dramatically plotting, plotting, plotting over exactly when to finally offer up the latest kick-start to Bush’s badly-hobbled Iraq campaign?

More telling to me, however, is the staging for “The Tear” — whether Bush’s emotion was genuine, or not. In this case, the real question is why Rove didn’t wait until the State of the Union Speech to uncork Bush’s emotional portrait (that yes, the MSM sucked up like a vacuum cleaner).  I mean, it was only 13 more days.

In this case, there were three reasons.

One was desperation.  With Bush’s Iraq strategy and his political standing in tatters, he needed the boost right away.  Second, Bush’s “latest plan” received such a build-up, the biggest bang for the buck was to frame “The Tear” in immediate proximity to “The Speech.”

And third, who likes reruns?

The White House could have easily feted Cpl. Dunham as part of the the State of the Union exercise, then honored the Dunham’s during the speech.  Except, the highlighting of a deceased soldier’s family, and the ensuing cut-and-paste of the media narrative to elicit specific national concentration on Bush’s visual reaction is something the White House has already done the last two times.  Here is the ‘05 edition,  and here (which I even made note of in the first couple paragraphs) is the ‘06 edition.

Vol3No16-Legacywatch

(BAGnews Cartoon.  September 24, 2001.)

So, please.  Let the freepers despise the press for noting the timing along with the affect, but remember, this is not a Presidency we’re watching — it’s a TV show.  (Why else would the signature photo signify Bush superceding the family — and demonstrate why Cpl. Dunham, himself, was essentially lost in the coverage?)

As for the Dunham family, I appreciate their grace in the face of the politics, I honor the horrendous sacrifice they have suffered for their country, and I wish them peace as they move forward.  Light years from an airport lounge, last week’s setting is what they originally deserved.

(hat tip: John)

(image: Jim Bourg/Reuters. Washington, January 11, 2007. Via YahooNews)

  • margaret

    After someone dies, it is natural to be angry at the loss. The family of the young marine projected their anger onto you and the posters who criticized the President. It was, in my mind and yours, I certain, that it was misdirected, ad should have been directed at the President who created the conditions under which their son lost his life. The heroism of young Dunham is truly, a great, humanitarian act, but one wonder what kind of positive change he could have affected in the world had he lived and been able to use this compassion for his fellow man towards helping people.
    Bush’s tear may be sincere, or it may be the result of dry-eye syndrome, which could explain that it came out of the outer corner of his eye, instead of the inner corner. And, that it came out of only one eye.
    I agree, that the White House staff and Administration cannot be trusted to be straight with people; that things are staged to their benefit, and timed for maximum political impact. Bush’s tear(sic) and timing will not change any body’s mind that this war was, is, and ever shall be, horrific and totally unnecessary, and that that patriotic young marine who sacrificed his life lost an opportunity to soar in everyday life as a living example of how men ought to honor and serve their fellow men.

  • http://kscakes.blogspot.com/ Ksue

    “Bush’s tear may be sincere, or it may be the result of dry-eye syndrome, which could explain that it came out of the outer corner of his eye, instead of the inner corner. And, that it came out of only one eye.”
    So THAT’S why it seemed so very weird and disingenuous to me! My first thought when seeing that picture was, “who in the world can cry out of only one eye?”
    It looked like a bad Hollywood makeup job, to me. And the timing of the ceremony stunk.
    My heart goes out to the Dunham family – I can only begin to imagine the pain they continue to endure.
    But I burn with anger at this President who continues to force other families to endure the same — for no good reason other than to support his own arrogance, hubris and ego.

  • http://kscakes.blogspot.com/ Ksue

    Sorry — I have no idea what I did to make my comments show up in italics. Eeeek!

  • Casey

    I believe his tears, just like his dad’s a couple of weeks ago, are real: their whole world is collapsing in on them. I think the condition is called “transference” or something like that. You know how, for months or years after the loss of someone dear like a parent or spouse or son, the most stoic among us are given over to immense sorrow at (relatively) inappropriate times?
    These Bush people have a lot to cry cry about; would that they’d do it in private. I mean, what’s worse — being sent off to die in a criminally stupid war, or being found out as the stupido who did it?

  • http://pranna.com Gasho

    I saw this photo on the front of the papers, through the little window in the newspaper machine on the sidewalk – like a lot of Americans probably did. This provided no context – only image. It was obviously the day after the speech, so that became the context.
    Seeing the shot on the newsprint made it look more matte, less crisp, and accentuated the bloodshot eyes.
    “It’s crumbling”, I thought. The pressure is finally getting to him and it’s bursting through into view.
    Now that the picture is on the Bag, the emphasis seems to be on the ‘fakeness’ and ’setup’ quality of the tear… I prefer thinking that the demon is getting his due – that he’ll have a complete breakdown and struggle for the rest of his days in an attempt to deal with his karma (or in preparation for his day of judgement). The world’s justice system needs to rip his human status away from him and treat him like the demon he is and prevent his evil pre-emptive war policy from becoming legitimized. Tears for what he has done. Tears before facing the judge. Tears before the guillotine.
    If this is all a TV show, what expression would Rove put on his face when his head is in the basket?

  • Dr. William Dyer

    Part of the cause for the president seeming to be shedding crocodile tears for me his sideward glance in the photo. The photographer capturing the eyes having a narrowed, darting look sorta frames the impression. You may feel the family learned from last photo-op, but the tears may be the Whitehouse’s response. In an effort to undo the cavalier attitude of the last time, they over emoted on this one. By producing tears over this family’s loss, the Whitehouse may have thought it would win over people similar to the way they thought low gas prices would mean Republican wins in Congress. This administration has before demonstrated its low opinion of the masses and acted on them accordingly.
    The primary picture of the event, the one above, is more about the president and his reaction to the story instead of say the family. If this is his reaction to such heroism, then why president is not more frequently balling his eyes out is mystery to me. I mean this cannot be the only story he has heard of someone losing their life in an effort to save another person(s) especially when there are ~600,000 dead Iraqis in addition to American loses.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    sociopathics simply do not have the capacity to empathize with the other; insofar as the self they usually exhibit either self-pity or victimization/persecution = anger response.
    you keep thinking that, at some point, somewhere way down deep, they do have the same humanity not unlike the rest of us others ~ of “shame” or “guilt”, or even non self-directed sorrow, but alas, they don’t, because they can’t.
    and so i conclude that Mr. Bush (and perhaps his father, only a few days ago) here mourns something ~ some loss of some thing having to do with him self, not them others. What? We can only speculate.
    fwiw, my best guess is that not unlike the de facto “unknown” to him other soldier, he sees him self sacrificed : but despised, not celebrated
    …and mourns his loss, thus.

  • tina

    The discussion in Salon has concentrated on whether The Tear is real, or a little squirt of glycerin–as we have noted it is coming out of just one eye and not the inner corner at that. Similar to the earlier discussion about whether his “surge” speech was really live or the best of several prerecorded takes.
    I was interested until it occurred to me that it doesn’t really matter. This is all a carefully planned setup whether The Tear originated in Bush’s tear duct or not. Bushco. are totally dishonest and deceitful whether or not Bush got more than one chance to give his speech.
    I am sorry for the Dunham family’s loss and also for the way they have been dragged from pillar to post by Bushco. for the last several years.

  • tina

    Is anybody else reminded of those old Keep America Beautiful ads they used to have on TV, the one with the Native American standing by a littered highway?
    I think Rove took his cue from this very famous and effective ad. Except the Native American chief didn’t have totally bllodshot eyes and swollen blood vessels in his nose.

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

    So it took 3,000+ American service men and over half a million to elicit one single tear.
    Damn!

  • PTate in FR

    Emotions other than sadness can evoke tears: Bush looks angry to me. Like Condi the other day, it looks to me like he’s feeling very, very sorry for himself, and pissed-off with those of us who just don’t realize how brilliant he is.
    I missed all the follow-up to that conversation last March… I wonder how Mrs. Dunham found out about the Bag conversation? I wonder if she will tune in to this one? Based on what she wrote, she seems like a decent, loving person who wants to believe well of the world. I am very happy that her son was awarded a medal of honor and finally received appropriate recognition of his sacrifice. Certainly the manner of his death is worthy of that honor, and I am sure the honor is a comfort to his bereaved family.
    However, do they really imagine they are a private family allowed their private suffering? Don’t we wish!!! Soldiers don’t die private deaths. It goes with the public service and patriotism. Soldiers, especially those who die heroically, become public emblems. Their names are inscribed on plaques. Their mourning families are crammed into the media category, “families who grieve for fallen loved ones” and trotted out to sell newspapers and presidential ambitions. I’m glad they don’t feel used because as far as I can see, GWB regards them as props for his own little victory parade. The timing of this event is too peculiar. The President needed some heroes to demonstrate the glory and nobility of this war and how dare anyone suggest that these young men died in vain!!
    What Bush & Co fail to comprehend is that one can be 100% convinced that the Muslim extremism is the defining problem of our time AND be fully convinced that Bush’s execution of the WOT is making the problem worse.

  • Aunt Deb

    Usually, when people cry in public, they wipe their eyes. Or look downward. This may be what Bush is doing, looking aside. But it’s simply not possible that he was unaware that he was being watched and photographed. Unlike the Dunhams, he’s a political person and has lived in the media’s eye for many, many years. So, even if the tear is genuine ductile elimination signifying sorrow (never regret!), he’s milking it for all it’s worth.

  • lytom

    There is no sorrow in that face. The wettness of his cheek does not mean he grieves. His face and mind seem somewhere else…
    He is in the denial of the reality, there, as much as when he says “They could try to stop me….” the face shows contempt for the rest, for the people who do not support his stand. Contempt for the constitution and human rights. It is scary to know that he is ready to push any buttom, ready to decide the fate for countless others who do not matter to him. He is alone and mad!

  • truthseeker

    Terrific analysis and historical pick-up by The Bag. Maybe the most important point he made was that ‘the tear’ became the message, not Cpl. Dunham’s medal and deeds. That’s what this guy is all about, folks.
    OTOH, some of the recent posts have brought out the emotional/medical health of our dear leader, which led me to wonder about whatever drugs he might be on. Don’t some psychotropics make one more emotional, or less able to control emotions? I figured it’s either that or an onion in the mouth. My guess about ODL and crying is that he learned when his sister died that crying was not an acceptable response for a Bush scion. He probably hasn’t cried at anything since. Certainly not for anyone else!
    The ugliness of his soul is beginning to be evident in his face, with or without tear.

  • http://www.correntewire.com/bush_even_projects_with_his_christmas_presents lambert strether

    I think you could be missing the Christianist dog whistle. “Bush wept.” Compare John 11:35. Of course, only the Republican Partei would be shameless enough to try to turn Bush into a suffering Christ figure.

  • echo

    Is anybody else reminded of those old Keep America Beautiful ads they used to have on TV
    Posted by: tina | Jan 14, 2007 at 10:25 AM
    Yes.
    This was my first impression.
    The tear was sincere.
    We feel shame for the pain visited upon this person.
    We caused this pain by our action/inaction.
    This person’s authority is unquestionable.
    How could WE do this to our country ? For shame.
    .
    .
    .
    I am refering to the Native American of course.
    You don’t think that this was intended to imbue the president with the gravitas and pathos of the original now do ya ?
    Now allow me one more trip to cynic’s world :
    When a tear rolls down my face and almost reaches my mouth, it becomes itchy and I can’t help but wipe it away. I get the feeling he wanted to , noticed the photographer, and left it there until he was sure they got it.
    It may not have been ’staged’ in advance but it was definitely there/snapped/performed ( take your pick ) for effect.
    It WAS his FIRST shed tear. If he were in weep mode, both eyes would have shown signs of liquid by the time one tear reached the side of his mouth.
    btw, I dont get my jollies by assuming the basest motives in others. I consider this an exercise in a free thought, Holmsian way.

  • Phredd

    Poppy used to tear up sometimes when he was prez. I remember thinking a couple of times that he must be ill, because you know how people in a weakened state are sometimes unable to control emotions? It wasn’t attractive or empathy-inducing, as I recall. (Being in the context of his own legacy, as I recall.)
    I agree with MonsieurGonzo in that bushboy doesn’t have the capacity to feel empathy. He is a sociopath or psychopath, whatever. If the tear is actually real, (IF, brother, IF) it is a tear shed for his own self-inflicted predicament.
    I know a family who lost a loved one in the 911 atrocity. Every year on September 11, they are invited to some kind of ceremony in Washington with bushboy. The family used to go. But they stopped going because it always turned out to be a bloodless photo op for bushboy. They’d all be lined up, bushboy would step up, shake the hand while looking at the camera, and then go on to the next family. They did that for three years, and then stopped going.

  • echo

    I think you could be missing the Christianist dog whistle. “Bush wept.”
    Posted by: lambert strether | Jan 14, 2007 at 05:58 PM
    Excellent point.
    It boggles the mind.

  • ummabdulla

    The International Herald Tribune had a photo of the tear on its front page, and so did my local paper. (Although if I remember correctly, it was a different shot, more from the front, and cropped closely so that not even his whole head was seen.) It certainly got picked up by the media.
    Crying does seem to have become more acceptable for men, though. Muskie’s 1972 presidential campaign was destroyed after he was said to have cried during an emotional defense of his wife, whose character had been attacked in the press. Poppy Bush has done it a few times, and the Prime Minister of Lebanon was noted (and ridiculed by some) for crying often in public during the Israeli attacks last summer.

  • http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews/2006/11/going_begging.html#comments Blake Incarnate

    “with a little orientation, we can all begin “reading” political images, and to appreciate the power and impact of the media gaze. “\\
    This is true. This site is like grad school.
    …And I remember the funeral Clinton attended. He was walking away, laughing with a friend when he noticed the camera and immediately morphed into grieving, forlorn, heartbroken mode. Like a light switch. Both of these images, Bush and Clinton, showcase the superficiality, I would love to see Bush have something genuine to grieve about, like Jenna coming home from Iraq as a quadrapalegic. The stonehearted B*tard.
    .

  • TBH

    Bush’s thought bubble: “Dangit. Shimano says it’ll be three weeks before I get those new cantilever brakes.”

  • PTate in FR

    truthseeker: “Maybe the most important point he made was that ‘the tear’ became the message, not Cpl. Dunham’s medal and deeds. That’s what this guy is all about, folks.”
    Succintly put, thank you.
    lambert strether: “I think you could be missing the Christianist dog whistle. “Bush wept.” Compare John 11:35. “
    A brilliant insight: Or consider another Christian dog whistle, Isaiah 53:4: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”
    In other words, it is okay to send out sons and daughters to die in an unjustifiable war because, see, Bush cares. He wouldn’t do this unless it were absolutely necessary… therefore we have no right no criticize.

  • mugatea

    I had never seen the “New Post Office.”
    Dag.
    I miss Asta.

  • KansasKowboy

    Bush is faking it. Look at his eyes. They are saying. “are you getting this?”

  • KingElvis

    He’s feeling sorry…for himself.

  • lima

    nothing to say here. too obvious. on the other hand, this is one show that closed right after the first night.

  • Lt. Bighorn

    My first thought was also the classic “weeping Indian” PSA.
    Watching that old commercial again, that tear looks more realistic than I remembered it. Certainly more realistic than Bush’s crocodile tears.
    Thanks for the link to the post office controversy. I appreciate Mrs. Dunham’s intervention because it brought into the stark light of emotion into the way that Bush and his gang of war criminals ruined other people’s lives. The Dunham family, like thousands of others, have to struggle to find meaning in the senseless death of their loved ones.
    Jason Dunham was a hero, a brave young man who sacrificed his life so that others might live. He volunteered in a desire to serve, but tragically was used as a pawn by a bunch of selfish, greedy, unprincipled warmongers and criminals.
    For Jason, his family, and the hundreds of thousands of other innocent victims of this unnecessary war of choice, I pray for the day that Bush, Cheney, and their accomplices are arrested, shipped off to The Hague, tried in the ICC, convicted, sentenced, and condemned.

  • dasher

    RE: Blake Incarnate’s remarks about Clinton and the funeral. As I recall the story, Clinton was photographed laughing and smiling with someone shortly after a funeral service that he attended (if I recall correctly, it was a funeral for a Congressman – perhaps even a retired Congressman, and not someone who had been personally close to Clinton).
    He did NOT immediately change his demeanor for the cameras, he was simply “caught” laughing and smiling at/after a funeral (like this has never happened before at any funeral!).
    He was excoriated by the usual RW idiots, commentators, pundits, etc., when the photograph was published.
    It was an example of the typical “Clinton can do nothing right” syndrome, and it is time it stopped.

  • dasher

    I just did a little google searching, which refreshed my memory. The funeral in question was Ron Brown’s ( who WAS personally close to President Clinton). The film shows Clinton walking with a group of people after the funeral and both laughing and appearing to wipe tears away – again, like that has NEVER happened to anyone at a funeral.
    Rush Limbaugh (who else) was the first one to tout this as Clinton’s hypocrisy, which became, as was common at the time, and all too frequent even now, ‘conventional wisdom’ for the MSM.

  • Paul

    Although I’m very sad for the loss the Durhams have had to endure. I honestly think I would not, could not, accept any “prize” from this absolutely disgraceful and immoral Administration.
    In fact, if it were my son who was taken away from me so that these people could line their pockets, I believe I would have gone all the way in the ceremony process until the final award and then have told the President personally what I thought of HIM and his Crusade for Power.
    Say what you like about my character for actually admitting I would “politicise” my child’s death (Honour) but that is exactly what Bush & Co. are doing.
    This man, George W. Bush, this despicable man, will indeed burn in Hell!

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