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July 4, 2007

Poppy, Pooty and Pooch

Bush-Putin-Kennebunkport-6-1

Okay, so let’s turn to the visual bunk from Kennebunkport, or 41 + 43 = KGB, or what The Economist labeled “The Lobster Summit.”

For your 4th of July enjoyment, why not a “top three things wrong with these pictures.”

1. Ultimate Staginess

When you have an already-adolescent President with his job in free fall, it only makes sense to land your psuedo-summit at Poppy’s house.  It’s called regression.

What was particularly interesting about this shot, however, was the “phoniness trifecta.”  First, it centers chaperone Poppy standing watch over things.  Second, it offers us Pooty stooping (rather unsuccessfully) to show the assembled press he’s not just a robot.  Third, it highlights the uncooperative weather, which more than a few news outlets incorporated in various ways as a more truthful metaphor for U.S. Russia relations.

Bush-Putin-Kennebunkport-8-1

2.  No Mrs. Putin

The PR line was that this summit would be a warm, fuzzy, bonding, “my-good-friend-Pooty-who-I-can-see-by-looking-into-his-eyes” family affair.  The NYT, for example, fed it back hook-line-and-sinker.  Not only did their preview show Bush doin’ the gazin’-thing, the first paragraph was thick with the family meme.

… he and President Bush were planning to mix the relaxation of family and fishing…

…On the schedule for later Sunday night was a
family dinner of lobster and swordfish…


The family b.s. comes through nicely in these two snippets from Tony Snow during the White House Press Gaggle the Thursday before.

First off, you get the tone of what Poppy Bush referred to as the chance to: “sit down, no necktie, sit in a beautiful house overlooking the sea, and talk frankly without a lot of straphangers”:

Q Do you have any more about what the program will be of the Presidents this weekend, because yesterday they were sort of a vague, well, they’ll be meeting but there’s not a specific –

MR. SNOW: No, it’s really not a program. Again, you’re having conversations between the two Presidents. This is a chance for them to talk about a whole bunch of stuff. They’ll do it, but again, we tried to make it clear — you know, don’t expect communiques and formal announcements and that kind of thing. This is a chance for them to continue a personal relationship that’s valuable….

And then, quite logically, you get the “family follow-up”:

MR. SNOW: Do you know when the First Lady gets in?

MR. DECKARD: I believe tonight. She comes in tomorrow. But I’ll double-check and get you that.

MR. SNOW: Yes, we’ll get back when we get the schedule.

Q Mrs. Putin is not here; she’s not coming?

MR. SNOW: I don’t believe so. Keep in mind, he’s on his way to South America. This is — he’s sort of stopping here on the way through.

So that was a quick lobster dinner and a quick pancake breakfast, I guess — a “two day” legacy-fest somehow compressed into less than 24 hours.

But that makes perfect sense, since the totalitarian leader — who recently likened Bush’s foreign policy to the Nazi’s — had his own pressing business to attend to with the Americas, fitting in the fish-fry between an arms-dealing conclave with Hugo Chavez in Moscow and major trade talks with superpower-to-be, Guatemala.

To get a real sense of how awkward, forced and breathlessly staged this whole business was, however, click through the BBC “Meet The Bush’s” slideshow of the Pooty arrival.

What’s your favorite?  Was it shot number #1, highlighting the predominance of Poppy?  Or, Laura’s embarrassing fixing of Pooty’s collar right after he stepped out of the limo?  (And what was that about, besides the Bush 41 family lack of boundaries?  …Perhaps Laura was making a little statement about the lack of Lyudmila?)  Or, was it the arrival of the “It girl,” with Condi rushing into the arms of the little dictator?

Bush-Putin-Kennebunkport-3-1

Bush-Putin-Kennebunkport-4-1

3.  More Seeing What You Want To See

Okay, so it’s probably something any of us might have done in a similar social situation.  In this case, though, it also fits a pattern — a character defect — that has put the country in deep water.  It’s called lying.

The question is, did Putin catch the striped bass?  Bush made a big point of saying that Vladimir caught the only fish, while Putin insisted it was a group effort.  You can see as much as Jr. stares at the press and goes rah-rah, anticipating the trophy pic to follow.  The “critical factor,” I believe, is first-nephew, Billy Bush, who was creatively labeled in photo captions as a “fishing guide.”

If politics is mostly PR, a key requirement of the job is to distinguish reality from artifice.  There is no way to prove it, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush really believes (or does, by now) that Putin caught that fish all by himself.

(photo credits to follow)

  • ummabdulla

    I found the BBC side show interesting. For one thing, we’ve been hearing for years how Poppy and Georgie have strained relations, or at least that Poppy doesn’t agree with what his son is doing. On this trip, they’re side-by-side all the time, and it seems like Poppy’s in charge. He’s the one who went to meet Putin at the airport (OK, maybe that’s easier in terms of security), and the caption on the last picture (#8 of the BBC) says: “Although the talks are informal there are important issues to discuss, so Mr Bush Snr has ordered that the two leaders be given lots of time alone.” Is he taking over the Presidency from Cheney now?
    (Poppy obviously loves those salmon-colored pants.)
    And then there’s Laura. In the weird picture (#3) where she’s fixing Putin’s collar, look at her clothes. Who wears pearls with an outfit like that? OK, Barabara’s wearing pearls, but her outfit is a little more dressy. And look how Laura stays back away from the rest of the family in picture #5.
    And then there’s #6, with Condi. She always looks a little off-balance, but it really looks like she’s falling into the arms of her Vladimir… That picture is a classic, with the two Mrs. Bushes in the background there, and the two Mr. Bushes on the side. I think she’s wearing pearls, too; I guess they’re part of some Kennebunkport dress code.

  • margaret

    The last picture of Bush and Putin alone, Bush putting his arm around the shorter Putin, in that dominating, paternalistic manner says the most. Does Bush really believe he is more powerful than Putin? Perhaps, the US still is #1 in several ways, but with China breathing down its neck, and the Russians, well…….the Russians are never done. The Russians know how to win by losing. And, they will be baaaaaack. You can count on it.

  • Aunt Deb

    I wonder why Putin agreed to this. What sort of pictures are playing in the Russian press?

  • paulimorph

    America is not just good. It’s great. I saw it just weeks ago when I was in Russia, where the rule of law is in question, where there is no true freedom of the press, where men don’t live to the age of 59 years old. And I saw it in southwest Kenya, where I operated on a child with a disease in his chest that we had eradicated long ago. The Fourth of July highlights our national pride unlike any other holiday. With family barbeques and fireworks, we celebrate the optimism that drives our country to great heights. We honor the beliefs that have made our nation special like the importance of freedom and equality and respect for inalienable rights, (values that are at risk much more than any of us would like to believe.) Optimism has helped make our country great. As President Reagan said, “There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.” America’s best days truly lie ahead.
    Bill Frist, M.D.

  • arty

    Maybe Bill Frist, M.D., should celebrate the Fourth of July by making another diagnosis via video like he did with Ms. Schiavo.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    I think Frist is right – America’s best days lie ahead, when Bush is gone from office and Frist is gone, too. And the whole crowd of neocons who have taken over and ruined our country and got us into a very stupid war.

  • Bennett

    In the second picture of the post—the one in which the women stand in purdah away from the men—there is a tall, long, grey something in the background. This pic is taken at the Bush’s Walker Pt. summer house, so what on earth is it? Surely not a giant industrial building on the grounds? Is it an enormous protective wall? It doesn’t look like anything else one sees in Kennebunk, which is almost wholly an 18th & 19thC. town, or on the Maine coast. Whatever it is, it is disturbingly anonymous, unwindowed, scary thing as background to these people. Note also how much of the trees it blocks. Most people look at the tree tops, all green and forested; but if you know Maine at all the obvious bit is that the trees are blocked out. The Bushes have shut off nature, so there happy pose in front of this concrete monstrosity looks really grim.

  • Mona

    The whole do is a horror show. The Condi photo did it – can anyone imagine how it would like like from where Putin is standing?

  • Mike G

    America is not just good. It’s great.
    “I viewed a brief selectively-edited video clip of America, and have made my infallible diagnosis”.

  • Mike G

    Pic2 is just strange. Poppy is the dominant figure, with Chimp straining to be included at the edge of the frame. The women are posed awkwardly ten feet away, while a gray Berlin Wall looms in the background.
    I can understand Chimp using the family compound for a working vacation, but having his daddy front and center at the summit just makes him look like a teenager whose parents don’t trust him in the house unsupervised.

  • ummabdulla

    In picture 2, are they all watching the arrival of Condi?

  • ummabdulla
  • Asta

    Laura’s choice of attire (sweats) and disrespect (fixing Putin’s collar) only tells me that the Bush’s should be living in a single wide, not the White House.

  • Asta

    Can somebody please turn off the Italics mode?

  • ummabdulla

    Did that do it?

  • ummabdulla

    Nope…

  • http://spiritspeaks.blogspot.com sravana

    WTF was Laura wearing to greet Putin? Pull-on pants and a too-tight hoodie? Had she just gotten out of the shower? Out of bed? Was she wearing her “cleaning house” clothes, and lost track of time and forgot to change?
    Geezus.

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

    First pic….
    “Spy Like Us?”

  • Janna Tailia

    Enough with the italics!
    We have an infant in the house. All pooping references(so many) are toned down by calling them Vladimir(s). Pooping/Putin, same thing.
    {>_< }
    These men make gangsta rappers look like Beaver Cleaver's family. The only cold war that exists now is between the people and the poiticians ... and their true dogs (the media).

  • g

    Is this the first instance of an American First Lady greeting the Head of State of another country while wearing sweats? Nice.

  • http://casadelogo.typepad.com/factesque eRobin

    The best part of the BBC’s slideshow is without question the captions that read as if they were written by a fourteen year-old putting together a scrapbook or an ad executive targetting children. My favorite: “Although the talks are informal there are important issues to discuss, so Mr Bush Snr has ordered that the two leaders be given lots of time alone.”
    I know this blog is about photos but those captions are unreal.

  • Ben Cronin

    Pearls are only for summer people.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Vladimir Putin thought bubble regarding his American counterpart: Idle spawn of the filthy rich.
    As the pictures show, George W. Bush’s choice of meeting venue is a typical rich kid power play: take the poor Russian exchange student to the family peninsula for a true experience of the bounty of American capitalism. This pathetic pissing contest will not be lost on Putin, nor will it impress him. Without even trying, Putin wins.
    I urge everyone to read an excellent (last) piece on truthout by the late David Halberstam, which was published in the August Vanity Fair called “The History Boys.” Here’s a long but somehow prescient quote from the article, which, by pinpointing GWB’s emotional insecurities and intellectual shortcomings, manages to illuminate his motivations behind the lobster-legacy summit. All that and more in just two paragraphs (which I won’t intentionally italicize if I can help it):
    “Ironically, it is the president himself, a man notoriously careless about, indeed almost indifferent to, the intellectual underpinnings of his actions, who has come to trumpet loudest his close scrutiny of the lessons of the past. Though, before, he tended to boast about making critical decisions based on instinct and religious faith, he now talks more and more about historical mandates. Usually he does this in the broadest—and vaguest—sense: History teaches us … We know from history … History shows us. In one of his speaking appearances in March 2006, in Cleveland, I counted four references to history, and what it meant for today, as if he had had dinner the night before with Arnold Toynbee, or at the very least Barbara Tuchman, and then gone home for a few hours to read his Gibbon.
    “I am deeply suspicious of these presidential seminars. We have, after all, come to know George Bush fairly well by now, and many of us have come to feel—not only because of what he says, but also because of the sheer cockiness in how he says it—that he has a tendency to decide what he wants to do first, and only then leaves it to his staff to look for intellectual justification. Many of us have always sensed a deep and visceral anti-intellectual streak in the president, that there was a great chip on his shoulder, and that the burden of the fancy schools he attended—Andover and Yale—and even simply being a member of the Bush family were too much for him. It was as if he needed not only to escape but also to put down those of his peers who had been more successful. From that mind-set, I think, came his rather unattractive habit of bestowing nicknames, most of them unflattering, on the people around him, to remind them that he was in charge, that despite their greater achievements they still worked for him.”

  • Harold Pomeroy

    That great big gray wall is a security wall. I remember having picnics there when I was a kid. There was a little stone beach in a cove, but no wall.
    Harold Pomeroy

  • Bennett

    It does look like a security wall, Harold, though it also suggests a large technocratic building. Even from the substantial distance of the photo, it seems very, very high for a wall. There are a couple people in front and many trees behind. Judging by these, it’s about 30 or 40 feet high! Jeepers! Do walls like that surround all presidents’ summer homes? Is there a wall like that in Hyde Park? Hyannisport? San Clemente? I doubt it.

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