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July 11, 2007

Bush, Cleveland And Norman Rockwell


I don’t get it.  I really don’t.

With the roof caving in on George Bush’s Iraq policy and Senate Republicans defecting in droves, the man goes to Cleveland and delivers, for the umpteenth-and-a-half time, the same paranoid, vague and self-deluded rationale for the war and its perpetuation (“we just got there”) we’ve been hearing for years.  And what does the newswire offer?  Well, mostly the above.

The failure to record the facial and gestural reactions during the Iraq portion of Bush’s speech was not just a lost opportunity, but a perfect example of the disconnection between the media and the public.  If you watch the speech, you’ll see what a friendly vibe Bush had going with members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (a well-organized hybrid chamber of commerce/ economic development organization).  That is, until he got to Iraq.

How often do we get a chance to see Americans in direct (if non-verbal) interaction with the President?  Here was one chance.  I mean, Americans aren’t stupid.  We just get treated that way when a lackadaisical visual media doesn’t do more than offer what it’s fed.

The following are screen shots The BAG collected from the White House video (thanks much!) of the Iraq portion of Bush’s speech.  The first two, in particular, serve as counterpoint to the “have some cheesecake with your Norman Rockwell” above.





(click for full sizes)

White House transcript and video here.

(image: Amy Sancetta/AP. July 10, 2007. via YahooNews. caption: Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership laugh along with President Bush as he addressed the group in Cleveland.)

  • PTate in FR

    Good call with the Norman Rockwell comparison–that man in front, in his brown jacket and blue shirt, has aged a couple years but could have stepped out of “Freedom of Speech”. Which, given the record of Bushco, is just too sad and ironic.
    What intriques me is that Bush is blurry. Yesterday, we saw him reduced in scale, and here he is out of focus. The Times abstract one too–there the questioner is a black cutout, an everyman. Bush looks defensive, and the audience behind him looks like a jury.

  • Asta

    Is it just me or does Bush look more and more like Pat Robertson with each passing day?
    Bush missed his calling, he should have been an evangelical preacher, particularly if he and God talk to each other all the time.

  • whazzmaster

    Wow, I’m usually a lurker, but I have to come out and say that comparisons like this are why I keep coming here every morning. This is great; thanks so much!

  • Gahso

    Oh, Bag – How do I love thee?
    This is a stellar post. The media’s choice of shot, shown in the first image is creepy and absurd. It reminds me of the audience in the game show portion of the movie “Requiem for a dream”, where everyone has unrealistically huge smiles and out of proportion laughter.
    Is this proof that Rove still has his hands on a few of the controls? “Tell a few jokes, Bushie. Do a little self deprication – that’ll give us some smiles I can cram into the media.”
    The rest of the shots are really really damning. This post will serve as evidence (exhibit# 8,453,552) of the media’s complicity in this horror show.

  • Ellen

    I watched this live and noticed the audience faces when the topic turned to Iraq. It IS too bad that the media did not pick up on this..but oh well, what do we expect?

  • Hariman

    Great post: flat out nailed it. Note also that the expressions can’t be dismissed as merely the serious tone one rightly takes when talking of war. We know how that looks, and this ain’t it. Here we see polite, barely successful suppression of skepticism, discomfort, embarrassment, and similar reactions of a reality-based public.

  • John Lucaites

    I think Michael has hit on something very important here. But I also think that we miss something equally important if we disregard the NYT image as just an instance of Abstract Expressionism or if we don’t attend to a fuller array of possibilities made available by the media. I’ve blogged on it a bit at No Caption Needed, but I think that some of the other images available suggest more ambivalence than some of these other images suggest. I’d be interested in folks reacitons.

  • Robert Crush

    Frankly I have to wonder when people are no longer going to just sit there and listen to Bush. Eventually one of them is going to stand up and yell “Liar!” at the top of their voice. It will not win friends in the Chamber but it might wake Bush up just a little.
    This silent protest that we see in the background is the equivalent of the saying “when good people stay silent evil wins”

  • jmac

    Perhaps Bush is blurred to cover his smirk. At some point even the press has to be tired of it.

  • Guillotine Them All and Let God Sort Them Out

    These people look like they’re going to vomit.
    And who can blame them?

  • LiberalTyrant

    Frank Luntz is keeping it unreal. They’re all very good method actors and should get Oscars for not mass vomiting all over mr. chimp in a suit.

  • J R

    Greater Cleaveland Partnership = GAP Ad

  • Jack Jett

    I agree that Bush is looking like Pat Robertson…but he also looks drunk and/or hungover.
    I am starting to feel there is no way out.
    jack jett

  • Craig in Chicago

    Well I think you must have Photoshopped those other photos to make the audience look serious. Who wouldn’t have a good laugh over the news that Americans will continue to die in a pointless, endless war that drains our economy and destroys our reputation as a free and compassionate country? That’s knee-slappin’ stuff!

  • Steve

    I could not agree more with this:
    “Is it just me or does Bush look more and more like Pat Robertson with each passing day?
    Bush missed his calling, he should have been an evangelical preacher, particularly if he and God talk to each other all the time.”
    And I’ll raise you this: I believe I read somewhere that Pat Robertson was a long-time advisor or associate to George Herbert Walker B*sh. I have long suspected that ol’ Pat Robertson threw a leg over Babs, about 60 years ago, and we’re stuck with the result. Now, since “Poppy” always was kind of a wimp (despite his fighter-pilot days) it wouldn’t suprise me if he raised the devil-spawn of Robertson, unawares, much like a catbird gets other birds to raise their young, as their own.
    It would also explain how Jeb seems moederately intelligent, but “W.” is obviously borderline retarded, even allowing for brain damage induced by cocaine and alcohol abuse. “Poppy” was at least semi-coherent in his speech, and seemed unretarded, if not very bright. Obviously, “Poppy” is way more intelligent than his “son,” W.
    I wish this theory would go viral, and be talked of everywhere–I think it would make W. become even more unglued, which might speed the Dems’ resolve to bite the impeachment bullet.

  • Cactus

    It occurs to me that The W frequently appears IN FRONT of his audience, rather than facing them. I wonder if this is because he wants the world to see that there are actually, really, people who (if not approve of him) will listen to him. Actually, I think it’s rather rude.
    Also, I heard somewhere that this audience was by invitation only!

  • g

    Cactus, he hardly ever appears when the audience isn’t by invitation only.
    Steve, your speculation might explain something things, but it’s toooooooooo disgusting to think of!!!

  • naomi dagen bloom

    call me desparate but the woman in white in the lead photo has what appear to be two pointed, white pieces of fabric growing from her headband. the devil in white with suntan?

  • error27

    I really like the Norman Rockwell picture as a picture. It’s so American like Coca Cola adverts from the 50s. Is the lady in white wearing a nurses outfit?? I love the tie-less guy. Where are you going to find such a brilliant demographic? And they all have such beautiful expressions…

  • Lt. Bighorn

    I find it interesting that the audience is in focus, but slightly B*sh is out of focus in every picture, and nothing but a blur in the first one.
    He is becoming insubstantial.
    People are smiling and laughing at his joke in the first picture, but the woman in white is looking heavenward: “How long, O God, how long must we suffer?”

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