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Oct 19, 2006

Burning Bush -- Congress Edition

(click for full size)

Is Bush poison?

The NYT published a striking photo yesterday of the ceremony in which the President signed his highly touted (and much defended) terror interrogation legislation. (Story.)  If you can find a more bitter image of legislative triumph, I'd love to see it.

The NYT shot frames the moment immediately after Bush finishes his statement and moves from the lectern to the signing table.  Reviewing the text and video, it seems that the tension was there from the start.  I say that because Senator Warner, and, to a lesser extent, Congressional hawk Duncan Hunter, look distant and uncomfortable throughout Bush's statement.

In the video, in fact, Warner offers a case-study in legislative torture.

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman makes a nervous gesture with his mouth almost every time Bush makes a strident statement or lists a debatable achievement in the GWOT.  When Bush asks: "Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it took to defeat that threat?",  Warner starts swallowing, shifting on his feet, then opens his mouth in a disturbed way and stares directly at Bush through narrow eyes.


The most interesting thing, though, is what happened when Bush sat down at the signing table.  Dubya had to actually coax the legislators to move around and stand next to him.  And he had to do it not once, but twice.  As I've discussed before, people are psychologically oriented to overlook these brief social ruptures.  For Bush, however, those six seconds (I counted them), must have seemed excruciating.

As I highlighted a few weeks ago (link), Dubya is carrying around a good deal of anger, and seems to be losing the ability to publicly contain his agitation.

On first pass, one might attribute Warner's flinching to the legislation.  I don't think so, though.  Based on the visuals, Bush was angry coming into the ceremony, all the players felt it (note the affect of the White House crew, particularly Cheney and Pace), and everyone felt thoroughly chastened by it.

Compared to my other example, however, this one is more toxic.  In the previous case, we saw Bush taking it out on the press.  In this instance, we can easily visualize how Bush's anger is alienating him from his co-workers and closest  allies.  (If you watch Warner or Hunter in the video, by the way, or study Gonzales or CIA Director Hayden in this NYT shot, the glances also imply the distain for this treatment.)

Nobody wants to be around someone who is angry and vindictive.  Nobody can feel comfortable around such a person.  And certainly, no one could feel comfortable going out on a limb for someone whose vehemence -- especially in matters of life-or-death, not to mention profound political and historical significance -- could, as easily, be taken for craziness.

And this, in a moment of victory.

Addendum 2:41 PM CEST:

In the category of "words are pictures too," Bush made a curious Freudian slip in his statement.

Near the end of the text, there was a line which read: "With this bill, America reaffirms our determination to win the war on terror."  When he got to "reaffirm," however, he first said: "re-afform."  Maybe he got confused between "affirm" and "reform" -- but the slight confusion might have also implied some recognition, and conflict, over having (in many minds, immorally and illegally) re-formed (or deformed) America's policy on torture and due process.

(image 1: Doug Mills/The New York Times. Washington. October 17, 2006. image 2: screen grab. October 17, 2006./


Bush also derives pleasure from teasing, abusing and putting others down. The anger makes him even more unpredictable. I would stay away from him, too.

I look at it as a lineup photo for war crimes. Maybe some of the subjects were looking at it that way, too.

There was also a point in the address where he says "...America and our allies..." and when saying "America" he briefly gestures with his right hand at himself.

Just looking at the photo at the top of the post, I notice that everyone is looking at the floor instead of at Bush. Theatrically speaking, this is a huge no-no. They should all be leading to him with their eyes. And they are staring at the floor. That's the gesture of shame, isn't it?

Wow. He's lost the ability to lead even them. All he's got left is fear and anger. Dark times ahead.

This is another bit of evidence that shows me that they are beat, and they know it.

This is brilliant analysis! And you hit the nail on the head. Bush is in a dangerous place, with the polls falling, daily, his Party in a mess of endless scandals of corruption, and the real probability that this "law" will be ruled un-constitutional. The whole thing is a charade. A dangerous charade, because Congress has given him the tools to do heretofore unimaginable things to our understanding of what it means to be American. The next few months are promising unsettling things.

Since you strayed to words-as-pictures perhaps I can point out that at the end of the transcript you link to, on the White House website, there is a note indicating applause, in parentheses.

It reads like a script, you can almost see the guy off camera holding up a sign requesting a reaction from the live audience... or a man with a riot gun, perhaps?

On the other hand, the parentheses may just convey the muted character of the support he receives, even from his core followers.

Excellent analysis of an amazing picture and a nice catch with the "reformed" war on terror. Are the expressions the consequence of Bush's anger or because they know how wrong, how morally bankrupt, this legislation is?

Cheney and Gonzales are looking at Bush but their expressions are inscrutable. I read their expressions as mild concern about Bush's stability/competence but basically supportive. Cheney looks like a nasty puppetmaster.

Hayden of the CIA is also looking at Bush with the sour expression of someone unclean, someone who likes to rip off the wings of butterflies. He evidently likes the licence to torture.

But Gen Pace looks ashamed, with his very bad dog body language. And the Congressional folk look bullied, submissive. I would say that they know what they are participating in is wrong, but they are confused. They don't know how to stop the POTUS.

Yes, they are all just following orders.

I was struck by this left-profile view of Bush: I didn't recognize him at first. He looks older, more grave. The second picture, showing the right side of his face, is more typical. I can't believe that I haven't seen Bush from all angles previously, but this stark profile confused me for a moment. Perhaps the details of the POTUS flag behind him are creating an optical illusion.

There really is something goofy about Cheney, see how he's leaning toward Bush as if egging him on, you can almost hear him thinking "Just a few more steps, you can make it!" Puppeteer indeed, PTate.

Is it my computer or has the video been replaced with a series of still photos + audio?

Let me name the few, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Hayden, General Pace, Senator Warner, Senator Graham, Congressman Hunter, Congressman Sensenbrenner, Congressman Buyer, and Congressman Cannon. They all were named, thanked and marked by Bush as co conspirators in allowing this new law to pass.
Even though, at one instant, they may look uncomfortable, let's not be moved by their visual discomfort and conclude that they might have some feelings of remorse. What is on their mind is that this law may result in the fall for the reps and bring the downfall of the ruling party in the Congress, and maybe in the bringing to justice these conspirators one day and their having a special place in the history books. Is that why they are uncomfortable?
They are all guilty! If one of them would have voiced his opposition to the proposed bill, it would have made the difference. None of them did, and that is what matters.

To get through all of this I think the president called on his earlier fraterity days. He should have had a cricket bat with Greek letters on it in hand as the perfect accessory for this event. These boys(I noticed that only males were lined up since they figure to be the "stronger" gender in the public eye) have to stand there while the pledge-master tells the world he did not do any wrong and any accusation otherwise is wrong itself. I'm not sure who he is, but the fellow in the yellow tie seems to have his hands together, almost wringing, frequently. The white-haired, blue tied person definetely looked like he feared a paddling or worse.

Cheney and Gonzales of course were looking on with interest. As soon as the Commander-in-Chimp excreted his mark on the paper with is pen, they essentually escape the hangman's noose. This bill is not only explicitely stating what this administration conceive of their high offices, it also makes the declaration of themselves being out of reach for accountability.

Look at the weight on General Pace during this. He knows how this will come to harm any US forces held as POWs.

Very odd. This was a 'victory' for the White House, but there is nothing celebratory about the event clinching the deal. And deal it was. Still, what is Bush so angry about? He won. But perhaps the grudging nature of the victory triggers his confusion about his status.

He should have gotten Joe Lieberman to stand up there with him.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
They know it but can't help themselves - they like the taste.

...and Gonzo - sorry, I mean Gonzales knows that a pact with the devil is all they really have. Lucifer will one day come to collect.

Credit The Commander in Chief with consistency, "Our enemies never stop trying to come up with new ways to harm our people, and neither do we."

Eg, I think your bang on, how about "Gentlemen please take a seat"

Great post, Bag. America, as we know it has been smothered to death by the greed, hatred and ignorance of these men. Shame. Dishonor. I'm not really pro-millitary, but I think the millitary men and women have been screwed the hardest by these guys. Not only those who will inevitably face horrible torture in the hells of some dictator's jails somewhere, but the memory of the ones who fought and died for this country's ideals have just been pissed on.

How do we now identify ourselves, since there are 2 Americas? I am a proud American, but now that they've stolen our flag and our name, and destroyed our fine constitution, I feel that I want to be identified with the America that was - and hopefully will be again - but not with the America we have now.

I guess I'm an enemy of this state. I'll speak against it. I'll vote against them. What to do about the taxes? God, I hope justice comes about sooner than later and puts these demons down. Is everyone as conflicted as I am? How do we rise above, move beyond? I'm not into violence and distruction, but I'm feeling the pain. I need to see progress, but all I see is the evil growing day by day...

Dark times, indeed. Keep hope alive in your heart. Truth will prevail.

that is an amazing image. thanks bag.

The photo above wouldn't be so obvious if they had just showed the men on the right. They're sort of looking in Bush's direction, and maybe it wouldn't be so noticeable that they're looking down. But the two on the left, looking down at the floor and away from Bush... that's so blatant a sign of disrespect.

I can't believe I watched that whole video... somebody should have cut that speech down to size. And maybe they should have cut out the name Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, because he pronounced his first name - which isn't that tricky - as "Ka-lake".

But I kept focusing on John Warner. I'm from Virginia and never had much respect for him, from the time he briefly married Elizabeth Taylor to help him campaign for office... and then I always heard that he was a drunk. But I have to give him credit for speaking out about the war in Iraq; better late then never. As someone pointed out, though, he's up there on the stage for this farce, so I can't give him too much credit.

Even when Bush mentioned Dick Cheney, Warner didn't even bother to turn his head that way or smile or acknowledge him at all.

(Does even Bush believe himself when he says that he's going to leave behind a "freer, safer, more peaceful world"?)

And that wasn't exactly overwhelming applause when he finished his speech, was it?

After Bush finished the signing, he shook hands with Warner. Then Warner turned his back to Bush as he warmly shook hands with the other men, and Bush just slunk away with no one even acknowledging him.

I've never even heard of Duncan Hunter, but he kept mostly the same facial expression throughout the speech, which was one of skepticism at best.

"As soon as the Commander-in-Chimp excreted his mark on the paper with his pen"

You have a way with words!

Spineless criminals, every one of them.

After many days of the Florida recount in 2000, Bush was losing patience with those pesky voters who were threatening his ascension. In an unguarded moment in front of TV cameras, we were treated to a flash of real anger. Whatever effort it takes him to hide that in public is breaking down. When one is foolish enough to call everyone who disagrees with them stupid, it doesn't take long before they won't come to your party. This fool has been calling other world leaders stupid and we will all pay the price for that. Did the laws of Germany protect the actors from the Nuremberg trials? Perhaps in the backs of the minds of those on-'lookers' is the image of a Chinese court putting them in the dock.

I hear you, Gasho. What does one do when one is more fearful of one's government than of the actions of any terrorist? That's a question a lot of us are living with now.

Notice in the photos, the signage is back. And Cheney's face seems really puffy......from medication? He and the navy man seem to be the only ones looking at W and the navy man's expression is of military obedience sans enthusiasm. Gonzales seems to be staring off into space. The two senators and the general are staring at the floor, which is what we all do when we don't want to be someplace. The general has to be there, CIC and all that. As for the senators, they deserve it, whether they are being blackmailed or threatened, they've played fast and loose with our liberties and they SHOULD look shamed. However, since they are pols, it's probably just another act. Also on the site, one photo shows these same two sycophants as the only two that are clapping at the signing......because W can see them. I swear that Sensenbrenner would have that same tihs-eating grin if he were watching a baby being stabbed. I doubt anyone had to blackmail him into being present. Sorry, 'there' - I don't think he is ever present.

From the WH transcript: "And now, in memory of the victims of September the 11th, it is my honor to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. (Applause.)" How would you feel if you heard the preznitwit say that in the name of your dead spouse, he authorizes torture and the elimination of habeas corpus?

For Warner, Hunter and General Pace this is the equivalent of a "perp walk".

Their Fearsome leaders, Bush, Cheney and Gonzalez, deserve a walk to the Court, as war criminals.

The Torturers.

I read somewhere that God doesn't like Torture.

This is how men look after they gang-rape the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. Amazingly, they all know what they did is wrong.

One gang leader is missing, however: John McCain. He should have been there.

The BAG said: "Nobody wants to be around someone who is angry and vindictive.  Nobody can feel comfortable around such a person.  And certainly, no one could feel comfortable going out on a limb for someone whose vehemence -- especially in matters of life-or-death, not to mention profound political and historical significance -- could, as easily, be taken for craziness."

In other words, nobody wants to be around an alcoholic.

Bush isn't toxic *politically*; he's just toxic, period. I don't even have to watch the video; Bush the alcoholic is sickeningly obvious in these two still images (and I'm not even presuming he's drinking again). The top photograph beautifully illustrates the dysfunctional-fraternity-brother syndrome in American politics (not a clinical concept; I just made it up).

If we think things can't get any worse, they can and will. Bush is in a personal nosedive, he's taking us with him, and we still have two interminably long years to go.

Here at Public Agenda, we’ve created a new tool to track Americans’ opinions on foreign policy issues, providing a basis for political commentary. Similar to the Consumer Confidence Index, the Foreign Policy Anxiety Indicator provides policy makers, journalists and ordinary citizens with the public's overall comfort level with America's
place in the world and current foreign policy.

An essential tool updated twice a year, the Indicator will consistently provide much-needed information on the public’s perception of more than two dozen aspects of international relations.

In a world strewn with violence and highly-charged international issues, Americans are broadly uneasy about U.S. foreign policy. The September 2006 shows the Foreign Policy Anxiety Indicator at 130 on a scale of 0 to 200, where 0 is the most confident, 200 the most anxious and 100 neutral.

Eight in 10 Americans feel the world is becoming a more dangerous place for Americans, yet they're also skeptical about most of the possible solutions, such as creating democracies or global development. Only improved intelligence gathering and energy independence have substantial support, with energy firmly established as a national security problem
for the public.

In fact, the public lacks confidence in many of the measures being taken to ensure America’s security. Less than 33% of Americans give the U.S. government an “A” or a “B” grade for its execution of the following foreign policy issues: reaching goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining good relationships with Muslim countries and protecting U.S. borders from illegal immigration. And these are just a few of the findings of the survey.

These are some of the other startling findings:

- 83 percent say they are worried about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs (35 percent worry "a lot", with an additional 48 percent saying they worry "somewhat.")

- 79 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States and the American people

- 69 percent say the United States is doing a fair or poor job in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world

- 64 percent say the rest of the world sees the United States negatively

- 58 percent say U.S. relations with the rest of the world are on the wrong track

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Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group devoted to public opinion and public policy. The confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index is developed in cooperation with Foreign Affairs with support from the Hewlett and Ford foundations.

People face their chest and shoulder toward whatever has their true focus. Everyone in the picture but Bush is facing their chests away from him; to look at him they have to turn their heads. (Some of that is a remnant of facing the cameras in front, but if he had their true affection, their bodies would swivel to face him.) Bush is walking through the only space in the picture that all of their chests don't face. They want to be anywhere but with him.

They should be ashamed of what they did, enabling this fascist little dictator.

I keep coming back to the expression on Bush's face: The slightly worried brow, the down-turned mouth. He looks sad, maybe bewildered. This is not the face of someone who comprehends what he is doing.

This is the face of a unreflective person, an externalizer, someone who lacks insight into others. He deals with threats by using force. And if force hasn't worked, he just needs to use more force.

So he is doing the perp walk, as Mad_nVT points out, and he feels the pressure. He is troubled, but since his comprehension is limited, the only emotional response available to him is anger and the only behavioral response is to do more of the same.

Bush is indeed giving the man on the far left of the picture "the evil eye" why, I don't know, but the person appears very uncomfortable and completely unable to meet the Chimps gaze.

The man immediately to his right (second from left) seems to be quite aware of what's happening as well, just raising his eyes enough to look at Bush but I'm sure if Bush would have looked at him his eyes would have dropped to the floor.

What I cannot and probably never will understand is, HOW and WHY people still defend Bush ET AL?? Seriously, the guy is an incompetent and a habitual Liar.
In every single occasion (911, Katrina Iraq etc) Bush has failed miserably as a leader.

WHY WHY WHY DO people still even consider voting for a man who has no morals and could care less about the voters of the US? (and I'm not referring to those with an obvious agenda. IE. large business owners and War Profiteers) but the average American. There still seems to be support for the Bush Administration even though there is an endless list of corruption, incompetence, lying and just down right despicable and immoral behaviour.

I honestly believe that these people should be tried and jailed for their crimes against humanity.

"I read somewhere that God doesn't like Torture."

I would have thought this too, but I was raised in the I'd-Like-to-Buy-the-World-a-Coke post-psychedelia Protestantism of the '70s, so we never actually *read* the Bible.

As it turns out, God (like George W. Bush) has been a big believer in torture (presumably because it produces the desired results).

Not to give the CIA any bright ideas, but I Googled "torture" and "Bible" and found this informative quiz:

4. How does God prefer to torture those who somehow become enemies of His chosen people?

A. He breaks their bones and pierces them with arrows.
B. He sends hornets to kill them.
C. He has them eat their own flesh and drink their own blood.
D. All of the above.

The answer, of course, is D.
The rest of the "God's Favorite Ways to Kill" quiz (answers include chapter and verse):

More about torture in the Bible:

What the Bible Says about Torture:

I may *catch hell* for saying this, but for all his press to the contrary, God *himself* has a pretty violent track record.

Well, ready to blow, I've learned through long experience that almost any passage in the Bible can be interpreted to mean what the interpreter wants it to mean. Which is why having a good resource into the original languages, which no longer exist, is so important; it shows the layers and nuances of meaning of words, phrases, and sentence structure.

Yes, in the OT, God is portrayed as quite bloodthirsty and the whole Jesus as the sacrifice tenet of Christianity has given me pause to wonder who is this God I worship. Yet, that is not all there is in teh Bible. There are a lot of other stories, a lot of other theology and those other things shed light on teh bloodier passages. I am also rather suspicious that those particular passages weren't inserted later to explain away a nasty piece of history; God says we're to be pure and set apart, so that's why we slaughtered the Caananites - God said so!

Anyhoo, that's sorta off topic for the pictures; I think Bush is just walking around in a funk of pissed offness and it is only going to get worse. The second picture leads me to think he is gesturing to the guys behind him as if to say, "Well? You want the power now live with the consequences." Although, that would suggest an altogether mature understanding of the circumstances and I'm not sure I'm ready to give that to him.

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