Presidential Isolation

I love the White House website. They can release any official images they like to the public, and this is the one they choose. And this is a White House that employs over two thousand people to implement its public relations strategies.

Let’s go through this in a bit more detail:

1. The tiny little figure near the end of this impossibly long table? That’s Bush. you know, the guy who’s supposed to be running things around here. Presidenting is a big job, by God, and to do it right, you need a … munchkin?

2. Not only does Bush look tiny, he also looks far away. There’s a technique in painting called atmospheric perspective, which means suggesting distance by rendering objects in a grayish haze.  Now, this room can’t be more than thirty or forty feet long, but
doesn’t Bush seem slightly obscured by a sort of misty veil? He’s so far away, you can barely hear see the expression on his face. was this intentional?  Was he having a bad case of the smirks that day, and the press office wanted to conceal it?

3. Finally, the press in the foreground, made huge and threatening by the fisheye lens the photographer was using. They surround the table, surging forward like savage dogs ready to pounce on this poor, beleagured, tiny little man.  The look so much more alert and engaged than Bush, who languishes in the misty reaches of the other end of the table. He scarcely looks able to defend himself.  He barely looks like he cares.

It’s often said about Bush that he isolates himself from the outside world, avoiding the news and discouraging dissenting opinions. Certainly, when he speaks in public, he very often does so in front of a military audience, who are required to be respectful of his office if not his leadership. The White House Press Office is aware of this impression of Bush as a semi-recluse, and has made some effort to discredit it. But they don’t do themselves any favors by publishing this kind of image. This is Bush portrayed exactly as his harshest critics envision him, aloof and impotent, lost in the fog while the nation looks to him for a way out into the clear air.

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