Yesterday's images of Bush at the U.N. tell us a lot about what we already know. But they also start to tell us about what we can expect.
We know Condi is the teacher and Bush is her pupil.
We also know Bush is monitored for every word that comes out of his mouth.
Here's where things might start to look different, though.
Before Katrina, the White House could count on two things. 1.) Bush having rigid control over himself and his demeanor. 2.) A press so intimidated, they wouldn't dare challenge (let alone, look through) Bush's mask.
With the damage that Bush has inflicted on himself, however, his veneer seems to be cracking along with his cockiness. Although about 40% of the population seems to be permanently taken in by Dubya's practiced amiability, people who know better describe him as a man who is tempermental, stubborn, impatient and callous -- at least, behind closed doors. The problem (for Bush, I mean) is that the former cheerleader, reeling from the past two weeks, seems to be dropping his guard.
Previously visible only in snippets (usually clamped down by those all too familiar pursed lips), the hurricane battered Bush can now seem outwardly brooding; bored; withdrawn and distracted: and also sarcastic and snide. (And, judging by the hostility coming out of his wife and mother, perhaps the whole family may be starting to show its true colors.)
In spite of this new vulnerability, however, the much larger dilemma for Bush is the potential loss of his free pass from the press. For the moment, the media -- having been beaten into submission for years now -- seems determined not to look away.
Beyond that, you can also almost sense an instinct to punish Bush for the way he has manipulated and humiliated the press corp. When a reader forwarded this last image to me earlier this afternoon, I took it as parody. When I saw it again (this time, among the newswire images), I thought someone from the Daily Show must have hacked YahooNews.
Bush asking Condi for permission to relieve himself? (That's what the caption said.) Take it as stolen evidence that he really can't think for himself.
(And then, how many other world leaders would need two conditional declarations within the first four words about something so definitive, still need a question mark at the end of the sentence, and then have to ask again?)
UPDATE 9/15/05 11:49 am PST: Sorry if you couldn't make out the note. It reads: "I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible (unintelligible)." Thanks to Kevin for this background on the photographer, Rick Wilking, which -- considering Wilking's own trials in New Orleans two weeks ago -- seems to put this photo in clearer context.
(image 1: AP Photo/Susan Walsh. image 2: REUTERS/Larry Downing. image 3: Mike Segar/Reuters. image 4: REUTERS/Rick Wilking. image 5: REUTERS/Larry Downing. image 6: AP Photo/ITAR-TASS/ Presidential Press Service, Alexei Panov. image 7: AP Photo/Susan Walsh. image 8: REUTERS/Larry Downing. image 9: REUTERS/Larry Downing. image 10: REUTERS/Rick Wilking. All images: September 14, 2004. United Nations. At YahooNews)