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5 posts categorized "The Week Bush Lost New Orleans"

Nov 13, 2009

The Ed Watch -- #1: Cool Equipment


Who's Ed Montgomery, you ask?

He's Obama Ambassador to Detroit, otherwise known as the Executive Director of the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers ... and a one-man spin machine.

In this first installment of the Ed Watch, we see Ed listening to a question from a reporter after a press conference at Detroit Edison on October 29th. Ed was there to highlight an $83 million government award to Detroit Edison's smart energy grid program.

We're bringing you the picture because the economy is in trouble, we've got some serious problems with global warming and the economy in the Great Lakes region, Ed looks great, and that's some cool-looking equipment behind him.

(photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images. October 29, 2009 in Detroit, MIchigan)

Sep 24, 2005

The Weeks After New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#4)



Hurricane Rita Approaches Landfall
September 23rd, 2004

Slightly more than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina lays waste to New Orleans, a new hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast.  Not to be seen as "out of touch," the President and his PR team realize he needs to appear fully engaged.  The day before the new hurricane is to make landfall, the President makes an appearance at FEMA headquarters, then proceeds to NORAD's Command Center in Colorado Springs.

In the face of intense stress and a daily stream of no-longer-predictable events, the normally well scripted and well rehearsed leader now regularly appears distracted and irritated, or wary and exhausted. Facing not just inescapable problems, but overt scrutiny, one has to wonder how well he (as well as other members of his team, for that matter) are holding up.

(The other entries in this series are available here.)

(image 1: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters. FEMA headquarters/Washington. September 23, 2005.  From Yahoo News.  image 2: Eric Draper/White House.  September 21, 2005.  Colorado Springs.

Sep 14, 2005

The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#3)


Katrina Disaster -- Day 3
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

As the Gulf Coast disaster spins out of control, most of us see this picture (taken by Mannie Garcia of Reuters) and conclude that the President is out of touch.

However, in light of the incompetence that follows; the time lines that will document that incompetence; and, especially, the accounts that will emerge of President Bush's actions, access and state of mind over these days, it will become evident that this picture says more (and that other versions will say still more).

For example, Garcia's shot reveals Bush in his "Commander In Chief" jacket with the large presidential logo on one side and his name and title stitched on the other.  Realizing he had better start looking on top of things -- and with the New Orleans fly-by already arranged -- isn't his clothing the one one prop he has to work with?  As a man of gesture -- in lieu of the real thing -- the jacket is meant to remind that he's somehow in charge.  (Unfortunately, the picture turns out to be so damning, nobody notices the jacket -- which suggests that the only person assuaged by the attire is probably Bush himself.)


The "out takes" (by which I mean, the wire photos that didn't circulate widely because they weren't as "fit" as Mannie's) suggest even more, however.  Bush's expression in this home run photo by AP's Susan Walsh might turn out to be one of the more revealing portraits of the Bush presidency.  Sadly, it is reminiscent of the "My Pet Goat" photo taken on the morning of 9/11.  In this case, however, the "Oh my God" is replaced with a look of "What the hell do you expect me to do about it?"  Clearly, its a rare glimpse of Bush without the mask, or the script, or the teleprompter, or the Rove or Cheney, or the transmitter -- and he knows it.


Of the many "out take" images, this one is also interesting -- if not somewhat more associative.  (I guess it would be too easy to say it's literally a guy in the dark.) 

What is unique about this shot is that it's the only one that manages to depict Bush and New Orleans at the same time.  Because we can see that he sees it, this photo (more than the others) serves as a visual indictment of Bush's absence from a situation he is clearly responsible for. 

Just as powerfully, however, what the image also represents is the extent to which Bush remains encapsulated in his own confined world.  The image reinforces the understanding that Bush remains walled off at all times, with only the most distant and fragmentary perception of what is going on outside.

Finally, I cannot emphasized enough how absolutely staged these images are.

Of course, that might seem obvious upon making the statement -- especially if you share my politics.  Because of the assuming nature of a photo, however (with its suggestion of reality and its emotional draw), it is always going to pull for acceptance of the spin. 

On the other hand, it is much harder to take the President's posturing at face value when you can see evidence of the stage and the actor, one pose after another.  At that point, you can see that this is simply a photo shoot, and the President, rather than being somebody at this critical moment, is trying to look like someone instead.

(By the way, my last "contact strip" below shows Bush's actual view of the Superdome -- three and a half days before it will ultimately be evacuated.)






(The other entries in this series are available here.)

(image 1: REUTERS/Mannie Garcia. Air Force One of New Orleans. August 31, 2005. At YahooNews.  image 2: AP/Susan Walsh. Air Force One of New Orleans. August 31, 2005. At YahooNews.  image 3: AP/Susan Walsh. Air Force One of New Orleans. August 31, 2005. At YahooNews.  filmstrip 1-5 (all August 31, 2005.  All from YahooNews):  1. (Mannie Garcia/Reuters) 2. (AFP/File/Jim Watson) 3. (Mannie Garcia/Reuters) 4. (AFP/Jim Watson) 5.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh/ Canadian Press) 6.  (AFP/Jim Watson) 7. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 8. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 9. REUTERS/Mannie Garcia 10.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 11.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 12. & 14. The Superdome (AFP/Jim Watson)13. The Superdome. (Mannie Garcia/Reuters).)

Sep 04, 2005

The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#2)


Katrina Disaster -- Day 2
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Still Tuesday.  George is backstage at the Naval Air Station in San Diego holding a "Presidential guitar" given to him by country music singer, Mark Wills.

By the time I see this shot in the afternoon, I am profoundly aware of the cataclysm on the Gulf Coast.  The image itself has gone viral, rounding the liberal blogosphere as evidence of a President fundamentally out-of-tune with reality.

Filled with horror from the Gulf pictures, I see all kinds of dynamics in the shot.

First, it's hard not to register Bush's care-to-the-wind attitude.  If he's aware of what's transpiring in the South -- even if he's feigning non-chalance -- I expect to see more tension in his body.  Instead, he's just casually looking off.

Second, I am fascinated by the way Bush relates (or fails to relate) to Wills.  Of course, as has been noted many times at the BAG, one must be careful about drawing too many conclusions from any one instant in time.  The interaction between these two men, however, seems indicative of many fundamental problems with Bush.

For instance, it seems Wills (like other Presidential advisors) has instructed Bush on a procedure, and has been thoroughly specific as to how to properly carry it out.  Bush, however, seems to ignore both the adviser and the advice.  In response, Wills (like a Richard Clark, or a Joe Wilson, or a General Shinseki) sees Bush "getting it wrong" and and tries to remediate Bush's handling of things.  (Notice the concentration and precision Wills directs to the execution.) Still, Bush remains oblivious -- even though his hand, in playing a G chord, is set one fret too high.

Continue reading "The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#2)" »

Sep 03, 2005

The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#1)


The Katrina Disaster -- Day 2
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dubya is in San Diego likening his private war to WWII.  The occasion is VJ Day -- the 60th anniversary of the victory over Japan. 

Bush still has a few days left in his five week summer vacation.  Even so, it is his third Iraq speech in two weeks, coming immediately on the heels of the Iraqi constitution debacle.  Of course, it is also shadowed by the distraction caused by grieving mother and anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan. 

In his speech to a sea of white-clad officers at the North Island Naval Air Station, Bush ignores the hurricane  -- even though tens of thousands have already filed into The Superdome; New Orleans is already 80% submerged; and his Republican cohort,  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, has already appeared that morning on The Today Show declaring that the Gulf Coast has experienced "catastrophic devastation."

Continue reading "The Week America Lost New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#1)" »

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