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Jan 11, 2007

The Situation In Washington


What's that mantra in real estate: location, location, location?

In light of Bush's latest, most important (and most disappointing) Iraq "trust me" speech, what seemed most notable was the setting. To put the event in physical and political perspective, compare these two iconic images.  The first captures Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi at the White House on Tuesday following a pre-speech sit down with Bush.  The second is the White House's own, singular visual of Bush delivering the speech yesterday in the White House library.  (Full death warmed over image here.)

In my mind, the juxtaposition offers a wonderful, if subtle snapshot of Washington's new power balance.  If Rove stuck Bush in the library hoping for a sense of intimacy, history or thoughtfulness, the placement only highlights how out of place and out of character the President appeared.

In contrast, compare Bush's "situation" with the shot by A.P's Charles Dharapak (a slight variant of which also appeared in the NYT news analysis on the speech).

In reality, the photo was taken outside the front entrance of the West Wing, where members of Congress typically meet up with the press.  In light of the strength and confidence Reid and Pelosi are exuding these days, however, the image conjures more the feeling of the famous West Wing colonnade, traditionally the President's bastion off the Oval Office. (For some "big shot" examples, try: 1, 2, 3).

Such is the state of things that, even in Bush's (supposedly) bigger moments, Reid and Pelosi seem closer to the power than the President does.

For my read of the Bush's "situation," see my companion post at Huffington.  (Feel free to discuss both here.)

(image: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press. January 10, 2007.  Washington.  Via YahooNews)


I am also enjoying the colors in these pictures -- Pelosi all red, Reid with blue and red striped tie, the blue stripes bigger of course, and Bush, red eyes, blue tie.

I'm confused -- where is the Dharapak shot? The NYT link has the two images above...

Nice take, Bag. Death warmed over. So small, so insignificant a "person" is such a significant position in our government. How did we come to this? Like watching a trainwreck, horrible, but you can't take your eyes off the event. Everything that is going on is about himself, too. His legacy, his chapter in history, the family name, the dynasty. That is what is unbelievable. Our nation, serving an individuals agenda. Jeez, we should flush that "dynasty" down the Thames like they did so often in Europe. Like a drowning man who would pull down everyone and anything around him to save himself. I feel that the forces are too great. This is all going to have an unexpected ending, sooner rather than later.


What struck me about the background is the bizarre angle: the blank wall vs the bookshelves. What is that about? Not only is the blank wall a boring beige, the little tiny light in the little tiny lamp leads my mind to a comparison of Bush's uncluttered little tiny brain. And the books? That only serves to remind us of his vaunted lack of intellectual curiosity and his uneasy relationship with books. Also, why is he standing? It's the stance of someone appealing for favor, not a position of power. The classic seated behind the desk posture or even the comfort of sitting in a club chair exude power and confidence. Bush's posture and the angle makes Bush seem slight, rather than playing on his physicial size and strength. If they really wanted to use the library as a new and unique site for presidential address, they should have had him sitting in a leather wingback chair completely surrounded by the books with a nice reading lamp over his left shoulder. That would have worked much better IMHO.

W looks like a puppet. Literally.

I LOVE Nancy's outfit! I think the wrap looks both classy and warm. My eye is drawn to her of both of these pictures, I suppose because of the color but maybe because she is new and fresh?

Yes, Pelosi & Reid have the power of the people.
Pass the peas.

This was such a blue tie event.
Whenever he needs to suck up to everyone, old-blue-tie comes out.

btw, senior Bag, I think the fluidity of the site and subject is much of the draw. The comments here rock and can be as addictive as reruns of Melrose Place, but they are satellites to the planet Bag.

It's your Bag.

Red is such a huge power color on women. Glad to see Nancy wearing it so well.

So good to have women in decent outfits in charge in Washington again!

Very few women can wear such a vivid red and not look washed out. It's not a very close up picture, but it seems Nancy carries it off, looks very classy and the shawl is lovely. Reid: sorry to say, HATE the tie. I can think of a hundred better styles. It looks like an old school tie that never got thrown away. Bush's is much, much better. But at least Reid is not wearing his clothes like he is about to get buried in them, as Bush is below. Bush's shirt looks so starched it may crack if he bends over.

Besides that Bush looks terrible, really the worst I've ever seen him. The black suit is an undertaker's, or, as per my statement above, the person's in the casket, or as BAG said, death warmed over (forget the warm part, BAG). I hate him when he smiles but that empty frown and vacant face are even worse. And this expression for a major speech? And that dark yellow-lit (worst color for lighting human skin)gloomy room, even it is a library? Somebody's losing their mind at the White House. I think Bush may be so wan that they used this lighting in a misguided attempt to keep him from looking totally washed out.

I personally think Bush is drunk or high in this picture, he looks totally out of it. He's just not there. I think lately he has been frequently either drunk or overmedicated in public. I wonder if a substance abuse problem is the reason so few people are allowed to get near him. I wonder a lot of things. Some people find it unthinkable that a drug addict be running (or not) the United States of America. They just can't envision such a total collapse of the controls (the media scrutiny we have come to rely on when making decisions for elections). I can envision it and think it is happening. Look for an Israeli-led air strike against Iran, as an absolute minimum. There is no one in the White House who can stop it.

A really nice post, thanks, Bag.

A couple of things that struck me: The tabula rasa of the white background in the Reid-Pelosi shot, as well as the physical intimacy of Reid & Pelosi. They are comfortable with each other, listening to one another--it suggests an entirely different approach to leadership than we experience with Bushco.

We examined negative images of Pelosi a couple threads ago--here she comes across as powerful and self-contained.

Bush's expression is about as bleak as a human face can be: he could be announcing Laura's death. I actually feel pity for him. He is like a tragic hero in play by Sophocles: the tragedy unfolds from flaws in his character. Still, I want him out of office, because I prefer to think of the US as a democracy not a literary exercise.

The other picture on the WH website is also worthy of comment, the one of Cheney in front of the arched windows, looking like the High Priest. The combination of the two visuals again communicates clearly who is in charge.

Also, the polka-dots on Bush's tie? Yes, they're fashionable. But they're NOT strong. They're not reassuring. They're not serious. They're polka dots.

Bush, in the library, with a candlestick.

Love the coment croatan except bush hasn't got a Clue.
I think the lighting, location, expression ( an almost mona lisa quality - do I see a hint of smirk?) is intended to create a somber, "not thinking about anything but this " atmosphere. I think it is very hard for bush to think deep thoughts or hold deep feelings for very long. So setting helps. Everything the handlers do is intentional - this shot no exception.

...polka dots? ...bizarre angles?

It's a puzzle. I guess if we're not part of the conspiracy, it'll just be a mystery.

The contrast is amazing. Reid and Pelosi look thoughtful, engaged in their conversation, talking about ideas, looking for solutions. W just looks terrified - terrified that 'we' will catch on to the fact that he doesn't have a clue. Of course, we already have, as evidenced by the other picture. Heh.

I don't know but to me Bush just doesn't look loke a person that can think.... just look at him....and what's with the freakin tie?! does he choose these on purpose, that's a pimps tie... which doesn't go with a suite :))) Pelosi is great and I'm expecting a lot of things from her this year, cause I've bought some od her stocks:)

I'm more comforted by the pic of Pelosi & Reid. Just like 'JO' above says...'thoughtful, engaged in their conversation...'

Bush has never been in the library before. He's worried about the books flying off the shelves - ya know, the 'ole struck by lightning for lying thing.

I believe that in the years to come we will find out that potus was suffering from presenile dementia. Of course, I'm not making a video diagnosis but he reminds me of so many other people ive seen with it.

I agree that Pelosi & Reid look (and hopefully act) well together. That he was (reportedly) not her first choice, speaks to her adaptability and consensus-building abilities. Perhaps we know so little of her because we lefties have been rubbing our hands with the oiliness of republican crimes and misdemeanors. I'm looking forward to watching her work.

As for Bush, did anyone notice his stumble about 5 minutes into his speech. He mis-spoke a word and couldn't recover then just went on to the next paragraph. On drugs? I'd vote yes. But then, so was Kennedy. So was Renquist. For all we know, they may all be on something. But as I watched him, I was thinking, who is making him say these things? It has become so obvious that he's just a paper-doll-president.

About Bush in the library. Don't his handlers realize we will make the connection to "My Pet Goat" and the beginning of his blunders? Is Rove on drugs, too?

I hadn't thought of that connection, truthseeker. When you pointed it out, I found myself thinking that the more accurate analogy is to the scapegoat in Jurassic Park. Our eyes are on Bush but the action is already taking place in Irbil and southern Iran.

I think that the number 3 shot from the the WH website where Bush and Chirac are speaking in the West Wing colonnade is the most telling. Here you have Chirac talking down on Bush (something that rarely happens) and Bush not taking it very well. I can only imagine Chirac with a full French accent:

"Listen, you petulant child. That is not how the world works. I will only say this one more time...."

MG take it away!

Bush in a library, but he doesn't really's a joke, right?!
It's the first time I notice how different the left side of his face looks so different from the right side. The two sides of Bush.

They used the library because Cheney was having his Wednesday night poker game in the Oval Office...

Congress got us into this mess, and contrary to what most of us (both in and out of Congress) may think, Congress DOES have the power to get us out.

The resolution that gave George W. the “power to use force” was obtained through skilful trickery and deception (motivated by NeoCon ideology and arrogance).

Those who have the power to authorize the “Use of Force” also have the power to RECIND that authority. The sooner our Congress awakens to this facet of THEIR power, the sooner this National Nightmare will end.

And it better end soon… before he starts wars with Iran and Syria.
George W. is a “Rogue Executive”, and he needs to be corralled.

The asymmetry of Bush's face is especially striking in still, posed photos like these. Here his right side looks severe, just short of confrontational; his left side looks lost. And the downward pull of his mouth on his left is eerie in these moments. The setting looks peculiarly art-directed to me. They put him at an angle to the wall such that the bookshelves recede with a diagonal; maybe somebody once learned that "diagonals say action", maybe that was the only way to get both the cozy fireplace and the legacy-conscious scores-o-books into the scene. That, and also the splashy warm rays of light coming from just over his head -- so subtle! -- and also he gets the balance of the salmon-colored interior of the bookshelves on one side, and the red-skies-at-night painting on the other. They complement his tie nicely.

I told my son today at lunch that Bush looked like a dead man walking. I saw that opera a few years ago and haven't been able to forget it.

Comparing the two photos, one could say that Bush's setting is isolated and dim and musty. Reid and Pelosi are in broad daylight; she's wrapped up, so I assume the weather is brisk; one thinks of invigorating, of a breath of fresh air.

I haven't seen any TV the past few days, and my newspapers kind of missed it because of the timing; yesterday's morning paper talked about what Bush was going to say. So did he give the speech standing up, in that library? Is Rove still around, or is he using his "genius" for some other prospective candidate instead of the lame duck President? If he's still involved, he seems to have lost his touch. Maybe he guessed that this setting would show Bush as the insider and them as the outsiders, but it doesn't work that way. In that photo, Bush's head melts into the background, while the focus is on the bright white shirt and blue tie.

Just looking at the photo, though, he looks younger or something... also thinner. Sort of a preview of what his statue in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum will look like.

While watching this speech, I kept thinking about Kafka. The odd play of the almost sulpher-yellow light and shadow on the backdrop, the bookshelves receding in a slightly off-kilter angle in that stark room, the look of grim idiocy on Bush's face; it was, in my mind, a Kafka moment.

In contrast, the photo of Reid and Pelosi seems so light and easy. Pelosi looked lovely in her bright red shawl, with the wind blowing her hair. They could have been two friends out for a walk.

Several of other posters have commented on the library setting, which prompted me to take another look. What struck me this time was how symbolic the background is, a coded representation of our President's split brain/personality.

On the left, a more or less blank wall. The left visual field is under the control of the pattern-seeing, emotional right hemisphere: GWB isn't getting the big picture and has shut off his emotions. On the right side, a wall of books. The right visual field is under the control of the linear, detail-oriented, verbal left hemisphere: Our incurious President is being driven by ideology. He thinks he knows all the details. He talks, talks, talks, but--with his right brain emotions shut off--he doesn't comprehend.

It's as if the photographer were trying to send a secret message.

You usually can't see his eyes, but this shot his eyes are wide open and reveal the vacuum inside, literally it looks like there's nothing in there.

"Deer in the headlights" is spot-on.

The darkness and shadow play with Bush is unsettling, almost like a haunted house. It's transitional but gives the feel that it's leading in the direction of further darkness. Even the picture over his shoulder embodies the darkness. The purple-ish tie with its pastel quality is maybe meant to represent a more light-hearted tone emanating from Bush, but instead it comes off as weak if not desperate.

For those who can review the video of the speech, his body language at times was like a whipped dog, but notice if you will the first time he uses the word "nukuler", there's a quick grin and eye twinkle flash and the rigid stance softens for just as second, as if he was thinking, "yeah, I'm *still* pronouncing it just the way *I* want! - In your face!"

The man's a catastrophe on two legs. My thoughts the moment this person is relieved of duty wil be the hope that "our national nightmare is over."

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