07/09/2007 01:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Reading The Pictures: Bush's Mannequins


If George Bush makes a habit of dropping in on injured soldiers, it's difficult to tell how much he's doing it for himself or the cameras. And, if it's the latter, it's curious why the White House doesn't put more into it.

The last set of pics appeared on the White House photo gallery on the 4th of July -- the day after Bush did his usual thing: playing pin the purple heart on the injured G.I. Walter Reed started out as Bush's destination of choice in 2003. From '05 on, however, the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda became the preferred repository. Following the bad scene at Reed, however (and Karl Rove's philosophy that you neutralize a problem by sticking your happy face in the center of it), Bush has made two trips to Reed in the past three months.

With the exception of that glad-handed visit at the end of March (the upbeat shots and Bush's thorough engagement that day being window dressing for Prez's apology for the abysmal conditions), the photos of these mercy meetings (as I recently teased out at BAGnewsNotes) have trended -- as has the war -- in a dark direction. (Laura, for example, hasn't made the scene in forever.)

In curious contrast to the Rovian obsession with sunny faces and silver linings, these later bedside portraits -- although entirely managed, photographed and edited by the White House before being posted on the White House photo gallery -- more often than not depict a perfunctory Commander-in-Chief alongside a soldier either too scared, traumatized or, perhaps, disgusted or disillusioned to make Bush look much good at all.

Such is the story in the image above.

This shot was ordered second (out of a group of three patient pics) in the latest infirmary visit. (It scored above this shot of a literally pinned and tremulous looking Sgt. 1st Class Andy Allen, but below this perfectly loving shot of Bush with National Guard Spec. Dave Saucier.) Whether or not the "disconnection" of Cpl. Joel Dulashanti of Cincinnati is medically explainable, the scene is striking for its lack of connection, the way George Bush feels free to handle the soldier, and the way Dulashanti serves as an object for the President.

With thousands of American troops having died in this war of adventurism, there is nothing more telling than the White House telegraphing the G.I. as a mannequin.

For more of the visual, visit

(image: Eric Draper/White House. July 3,, 2007, in Bethesda, Md.