THE BLOG

Reading The Pictures: Dubya's Presence Of Absence

05/25/2011 12:00 pm ET
  • Michael Shaw Publisher of the visual politics and media literacy site, Reading The Pictures.

bush-speech-library.jpg

Forget that the official White House photo of Bush's grand Iraq speech could aptly be captioned "Deer In The Headlights." My question is, what was Bush doing in that dinky White House library -- which served as a laundry until it was remodeled by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902?

According to the NYT, the setting was chosen: "to create more of a sense of a conversation with an anxious American public." (I guess, as one of the closest rooms to the visitors entrance, that make some sense.) Still, it's almost too easy to critique the library location, as if the room offered physical compensation for the way the Iraq plan lacks rhyme or reason, or is hardly studied in any way.

What was most interesting about this location, however, was where it wasn't.

Where it wasn't was in the Oval Office, where Bush has made so many past promises, the backdrop would have clashed with his credibility. Where it also wasn't was in any other power spot in the White House -- which would have only emphasized how little authority Bush has left.

And then, the other element dramatically missing from yesterday setting was the big flag in the background. Why? Because the White House has so twisted that cloth into a giant symbol of dominance and jingoism that its presence, too, only emphasizes that Dubya never delivered the goods.

For my read of the speech from the Democratic side, see my companion post at BAGnewsNotes.

(image 1: Eric Draper/White House. January 10, 2007. Washington. Via whitehouse.gov.)