Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
August 15, 2008

Is Bush Hitting The Sauce … And Does The Distinction Really Matter At This Point?

Bush-Stumbles-Olympics

I’ve clearly felt that Bush let down his guard after the ‘06 elections, and that this stretch has been defined by increasingly immature behavior and disinhibition.  What I haven’t been able to decide, however, is whether Bush has been hitting the bottle and/or the medicine cabinet.

Overall, I think Gawker did a decent job of editing a series of Bush Olympic images focusing not just on Junior’s strange behavior, but also the suspicious gash on his forearm and the facial flushing associated with potential alcohol abuse.  A particularly interesting thing to study in the shots from last Sunday’s swimming event (seen above), by the way, are the expressions — both of a concerned and a possibly humoring/co-dependent quality — from daughter Barbara.

Where the Gawker series doesn’t help, however, is showing photos from multiple days with the intimation that Bush might be drunk or hung over throughout.  (In this video interview with Bob Costas within hours of the swimming event, Bush doesn’t seem out-of-it at all.)

Focusing specifically on this image, and the series of Sunday night photos at the swim stadium, however, the drinking argument fits to the extent Bush lost his balance on the way into the arena, perhaps after having an extra share of dinner cocktails.  What lends weight to the argument, also, is just how much help he required.

If he stumbled with his full wits about him (okay, go ahead and joke), would he have really required the whole crew of secret service guys? (It’s probably also helpful to study this longer view.) But then, maybe the fact the whole crew was ready was because they had been counting the drinks in the first place.  (If Bush was drunk, however, it’s strange to consider that Laura, who does seems more zombie-like lately, or at least Barbara, behind him, wouldn’t have been more clued in.)

In terms of Bush’s escalating disinhibition, two of the most vivid examples I’ve captured in the past four or five months involved the WH Correspondents Dinner in April and the NATO summit last March.  As to suggestions of drinking, specifically, there was that weird analogy about three weeks ago in which Bush characterized the economy as drunk and hung over.  And of course, there were those suspicious photos shot during the G-8 Summit in Germany a year ago.

All in all though, the significance of the image — just like the significance of the suspicions — has more to do with what this photo does speak to, which is the widespread recognition of George Bush, even perfectly straight, who can barely maintain and the George Bush who can barely deal.

(image:  Rick Rycroft/AP. National Aquatics Center. Beijing 2008 Olympics.  August 10, 2008)

  • KansasKowboy

    Drunk or sober there is no excuse for George Bush.

  • GeorgeF

    Just for the beer at the G8-summit: remember that German beer has a lot more alcohol than US-brands (which is called here “mare-pee”). Does this explain possibly his ’stomac-problem’?

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    A roomful of averted eyes. What is everyone not looking at?

  • jean

    Laura doesn’t even seem aware of difficulties with her husband. As if she has divested herself of any concern for him. The daughter (in the linked pictures) seems much more involved.

  • http://lancethruster.blogspot.com LanceThruster

    The SS (Secret Service) all have to look of, “Great. Who gets to change his diaper this time? Did somebody remember to bring a change of pants?”

  • KansasKowboy

    Has someone finally cut the puppet strings?

  • mjfgates

    Drunk or no, the man’s being dragged three different ways by three different people. No wonder he’s having trouble getting up. I would too.
    Laura’s “got to keep Photo Smile turned on or I’ll DIE” look, though.. that is creepy.

  • bystander

    It really is an interesting photograph, in that GWB seems to have all of physical strength/integrity of an overcooked noodle. I’m taken by how deeply he seems to sag into those offering physical support. This doesn’t look like a minor loss of balance, or a mere stumble, to me. This looks more like serious disorientation in physical space. Remove those helping hands, and I don’t think you’d see him sit down awkwardly; more like you’d seem him go flat out on the ground.
    I don’t “get” Laura. Never have. She seems totally disengaged in almost every photo I’ve ever seen with her in it. Could be it’s just the photographs I happen to catch, but she always seems somewhere else. If a frame of mind – as reflected in one’s affect – could ever be labeled otherworldly, Laura’s would be it for me.

  • http://lancethruster.blogspot.com LanceThruster

    “I don’t “get” Laura. Never have. She seems totally disengaged in almost every photo I’ve ever seen with her in it.”
    Stepford Pickles.

  • jean

    Maybe she is deeply regretting her marriage. I get the feeling she is withdrawn totally from him. It will be interesting to see if she divorces him after he is out of office, face, you know…(but maybe the Bushes won’t let that happen). I cannot imagine that marriage.

  • Cactus

    I think Laura is the tip-off. She knows exactly what is going on and what condition he is in and she wants no part of it. She wants out — in more ways than one. I think if he had actually simply slipped, she would look much more concerned. My guess is that she knew well what was coming.
    As to the averted eyes…….these are secret service guys (and whatever others) who do not want to see their president drunk. The only way to do that is to not look at him. How could they? If you are trying to get a guy out of the bar so he won’t drink any more, you don’t look him in the eye. You also don’t put hands on the belly of a sober president.
    As for Laura, I’ve seen people like that before. They can’t talk about the horror of their life or that of their family so the only way to meet the world is with a plastic smile. I can assure you it disappears as soon as no one is around. Perhaps she is withdrawn from life itself.

  • LanceThruster

    “As to the averted eyes…….these are secret service guys (and whatever others) who do not want to see their president drunk. The only way to do that is to not look at him. How could they? If you are trying to get a guy out of the bar so he won’t drink any more, you don’t look him in the eye. You also don’t put hands on the belly of a sober president.”
    Good points. Wasn’t the one British officer that was the most helpful to his Majesty in the movie “The Madness of King George” the one that was ultimately penalized for it?

  • Karen

    That doesn’t look like Barbara behind G. Bush.

  • http://artsmeme.com Deb

    Come on, give him a break. I’ve become an alcoholic over the last eight years too.

  • boom

    http://www.dependablerenegade.com/dependable_renegade/2008/08/wavin-an-walkin.html
    other times Bush appeared tipsy at the Olympics. To me, it’s strange that no reporting has been done on this.

  • boom

    i wear heels and often need a hand under my elbow or around my waist if I have to navigate stairs, especially if I’ve had some wine….I’m pretty sure it’s never taken 5 strong men. I didn’t previously notice the hands on the Presidential stomach…..that is most telling how seriously impaired our Supreme Leader is

  • Jean

    I understand Laura Bush – she’s married to an alcoholic. When you can’t divorce ‘em and you’ve given up on trying to get them to sober up, you just ignore them. She’s been with this guy for too long to be shocked or appalled by his behavior. There won’t be any reporting on this, just as there was little reporting on the DUIs, drugging and drinking before he was given the presidency.
    Too bad that in this day and age he’s too stubborn and self-righteous to get help – there’s plenty of it out there.
    Sad for his kids.

  • truthteller

    Maybe she finally understands the death and destruction he has wrought on Iraq and the great harm he has brought to this country today and for generation to come.

  • grassrootsorganizer

    Laura has the same look on her face and demeanor of Pat Nixon. For the same set of reasons.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/index.html MonsieurGonzo

    guilty by reason of rhetorical question: old writ j’accuse! => newspeak j’accuse?

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/index.html MonsieurGonzo

    Mr. Bush is guilty by reason of rhetorical question: old writ j’accuse! => newspeak j’accuse?

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com Stan B.

    The true drunken anti-Christ being lowered from his gilded cross…

  • stevelaudig

    In this photo Laura looks ever so much like Jack Nicholson in the role of the Joker

  • expatasia

    That is definitely not his daughter sitting behind him. It is so clearly not her that some credibility of this site is lost. Take a look at the woman in the picture and then look at the real person: http://cellar.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=10637&d=1164226267

  • Books Alive

    The photos with daughter Barbara are in the first external link. More that one day’s worth of Bush-at-Olympics shots are in the collection, as you can see by Bush’s two different shirts.
    The cropped photo doesn’t show Barbara. On this day of the stumble, she’s wearing black. On another day, a grayish top. Bush wears different shirts, Laura seems to be wearing the same suit.
    Careful reading, and viewing the links, is almost a must here!

  • rapier

    Random thoughts:
    Long ago the pretzel choking incident suggested Bush had some rather strange things going metabolism wise. It was explained he had unusually low blood pressure. At the same time he is in exceptional condition with his huge appetite for aerobic exercise. Currently bike riding as running it too hard on the legs. The stories are out there as to how competitive he is with his mountain biking. He rides hard and takes pride in beating down younger men, it is claimed. At the same time he crashed a Segway. That takes some doing. What it all means only a few Doctors may know and they may never tell.
    It should be noted that when young he was found, presumably. to be fit to pilot fighter jets. To say the least some congenital tendency to blackout doesn’t square with that.
    His occasional seeming drunken affect may or may not be a separate issue. This fall, who knows? I won’t be shocked if I live long enough to hear the stories about how the Bush’s were under the influence of a cornicopia of pharmaceuticals with varying degrees of psychoactive properties. I will be shocked if it turns out he has been drinking.

  • expatasia

    Thanks, Books Alive, for the explanation. Still, the reference to Barbara being in the picture follows the paragraph leading statement “Focusing specifically on this image” and then the focus on that image is reinforced by suggesting the longer view. An indirect reference to a picture that was 5 or so images down in another link was kind of sloppy.
    But I’m quibbling, I know.

  • bluinky

    freefall in parnassus

Refresh Archives

Random Notes