Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
May 30, 2007

George’s Flat Tire


(click for full size)

With this three-week-old White House shot in mind, I found the pic above — posted last week on TIME's White House Photo site — particularly poignant.

The other day, a commenter on The BAG asked why so many interpretations these days — even concerning more neutral imagery — evokes war and militarism.  Without speaking directly to the point, those thoughts do surface for me again here — even though Andrews Air Force base could simply be seen as a runway for Air Force One.

It's the flat tire on Bush's bike, though, that "speaks" most loudly.  The scene, admittedly coupled with the White House link above, suggests a portrait of someone rough on everything he puts his hands on.

h/t: Chris

(image: Christopher Morris / VII for TIME.  posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2007.

  • weisseharre

    Toxic Wheelfish Intimacy: “…admittedly coupled with…everything he puts his hands on.” (No kickstand,no dance.(Don’t they/they shoot horses(?))

  • dr. timmy

    I agree with weisseharre. Toxic Wheelfish Intimacy, indeed!

  • Cody

    I don’t see this so much as a “roughly handled” picture. What struck me was the isolationl. WH photo has a smiling Bush, it’s bright out, the bike seems larger, without any problems.
    Now however, we see a broken bike all alone. Bush’s opinions on the war and environment (always a bit odd ’cause he’s such a big biker, huh?) have pushed the others away. Finally, the context: not only is the bike isolated, it is COMPLETELY out of its element.

  • mugatea

    Bike tires are often deflated on air trips. Anything with air in it changes at high altitude and back again. A bike with air in it’s tires before a flight might need new tubes at the end of the flight, or it just ages them faster. Not to take away from the image. I agree with your observation on the picture and think Chris deserves some credit for getting such a symbolic image. I think it shows more that Bush/Rove’s game is past full time … this image wouldn’t have seen the light of day six years ago. Did he even ride a bike six years ago? No, he was running then – knees went bad. The bike is a representation of an aging man who can’t run like he used to. A jogger’s wheelchair.

  • donna

    Maybe if it was an actually wheelchair, he could start suffering like the troops who come home without their limbs. Laura and her “No one suffers more than George and I do”. Gah, that still pisses me off.

  • Megan

    There’s no where for him to ride to – it is all the same no matter where he rides. Bleak empty pavement in all directions, not a warm friendly destination anywhere.
    Also, I didn’t see this as militaristic. I read all that pavement as a reflection of his environmental policies.

  • TSop

    This guy has the anti-midas touch. Everything he touches turns to crap.

  • Victor F

    Does the president take care of his own bike, or does he have a crew fix the flat for him? If he’s such an enthusiastic rider I’d think he’d know how to at least inflate a tire or change a tube. I’m sure he’d be more interested in doing that than all his presidential work.
    I kind of thought the bike being on an air force base suggested that’s what we were going to have our soldiers ride to battle if our oil supplies dry up.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq ran a sophisticated sting on US troops… The guerrillas knew that a rescue team would come out to the [helicopter crash] site…. And, they knew that yet another rescue team would come out to see what happened to the first…
    the mouse teaches the cat how to catch it
    interesting that Mr. Bush and the WarCons, Western media pundits depict themselves and their troops as “being on the offensive” in IRAQ when, in fact the AngloAmerican Occupation Forces’ posture is entirely (Zone) Defensive and, (incident) Rapid Reactive.
    imho, this: ‘a static Occupation that is somehow on the offensive moving’ is perhaps the most bizarre delusion that many Americans, most of their political leaders and even some members of the Officer Corps, themselves ~ profess to be ‘What Our Troops Are Doing’ Over There in IRAQ.

  • Darryl Pearce

    Gee…, I’ve had the same mountain bike for …twenty years.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I love this photo. It’s beautiful, minimalist, and to me, a very smart and funny swipe at the Prez.
    The impossibility of a bicycle standing by itself, defying Gravity, Newton, and Einstein. The absurdity of its riderlessness, parked precisely in the middle of nowhere exuding such purpose! But it is disabled: the kinetic fixed in space and time, a mode of transportation that can’t go, a mountain bike without a mountain in sight, a bike on a runway (huh?), the useful made useless (yet still fixable!), all that air and not a molecule in the tire. So many associations, so little time.
    I can’t stop looking at it, like Duchamp couldn’t stop gazing at his spinning Bicycle Wheel. Brilliant.
    You’re off your game, Gonzo. A bit grumpy lately.

  • Cactus

    Guys, the W did inflate the tire himself……that’s why it’s flat!
    An abandoned bike on the tarmac of an AFB used for AF-1 jets, in the early morning darkness. I can think of nothing more incongruous, except perhaps, the current occupant of the WH.
    AKA, the bike, which has been abandoned and ‘broken’ is a stand-in for the broken policies of this admin. What this spoiled little brat does continuously is to play with his toys, break them, then abandon them in a fit of temper. He broke our constitution, he broke Iraq, and when congress told him to clean up his mess, he broke them. Now he’s on a roll and we may never be rid of him.
    But, hey, that’s just MY nightmare.

  • Doxieone

    You know what I immediately see?? I see a broken bike that Bush refuses to be involved in the fixing it phase – he is leaving it for someone else to fix. It’s not ‘his fault’ the bike broke,it wasn’t supposed to go flat.
    Thus the bike represents Iraq fiasco. It was not supposed to be a failure ( have a ‘flat’). It’s someone else who has to take over to get it proper order again – surely not him.

  • lytom

    bike and deciderer
    Great machine, expensive, undeserved, not understood, misused, abused, pushed around, disposable, owner deserted, empty pedals,…
    Expensively maitained, priviledged, protected, guarded, supported and guided, wired for thoughts and words to project, held by strings and backed by the 28%. Out of air, needs to be restrained and put in the place. Has first place – hated most in the world.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    off my game, eh rtbag? huh. prolly the jet lag ?
    BAGman says: “ceci n’est pas une vélo
    well, duh. ceci n’est pas des “nouvelles”, non plus :-/
    grumpy too, eh? yeah, well i get here and get all self-loathing, all pissy-pithy (not to mention bloathing ~ none of my heels fit, and Alice has been too busy going ga-ga over Ségo to water my plants). btw, the bike? Made In China.
    => “the most important thing about being a man is not being a woman
    let’s argue; something; jesus! check her pulse! adjust her medication! either light up or leave me alone {grin}

  • readytoblowagasket

    let’s argue; something; jesus!
    Some images are good for let’s argue, others are better for let’s play.
    What I meant was it’s been so lonely without you here. ;~)

  • Michael

    I’d just like to say something about the other picture, the one linked to, with W holding his bike up and saying something inane in the caption.
    See those socks? Those are the socks a rich man uses when he puts on tennis shoes. Those aren’t the white socks normal people wear when doing athletics; they probably cost as much per sock as my shoes do (guaranteed; I buy cheap shoes and W doesn’t do cheap clothing, that’s beneath him.)
    Why can’t people see this stuff?

  • southy

    Doxieone has it right, I believe. Cody’s thoughts seem more telling than their straightforward interpretation. Lots of metaphors in this image:
    “Bike tires are often deflated on air trips. Anything with air in it changes at high altitude and back again. A bike with air in its tires before a flight might need new tubes at the end of the flight, or it just ages them faster.”
    They got me thinking about what’s happening to equipment in Iraq. Rundown, aging before it’s time, the entire US military presence hobbled by sand and heat. Bike with a flat tire on the tarmac/Humvee broken down in an Arab desert. Bike ultimately abandoned by its leadership (paucity of vests/stop losses/Walter Reed/a scary two to one support staff to front line personal ratio–that last being the most telling, and the most secret). Also, a simple bike as Green Zone comes to mind, broken, isolated, altogether out of place, not belonging, access/support only provide by air. Post War Czar pic, or I’d add it.

  • Paul

    “It’s the flat tire on Bush’s bike, though, that “speaks” most loudly. The scene, admittedly coupled with the White House link above, suggests a portrait of someone rough on everything he puts his hands on. ”
    Bit kind don’t you think? This Smirking Fool would have gotten nowhere if it weren’t for his Dad.
    George Bush is not particularly bright and he constantly and almost consistently BREAKS/DESTROYS/RUINS and to use the colloquial meaning of the word in it’s truest form… Fucks everything he touches.
    The man is a fucking disaster.
    But back to the photo…
    The Photographer knowingly or not, did a great job capturing Bush’s Green/Environmental credentials.
    The Bike represents the Green image (alternative to driving to work), but it’s lonely (no one is using it) and has flat tyes (the Enviromentle policy’s of the Administration)
    Like the unridden bike with flat tires is the Green Policy’s of the US Government.
    A lot of show but no go.

  • Coach Outlet Online
Refresh Archives

Random Notes