11/14/2006 11:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading the Pictures: Say Goodnight, Dick!


Get ready for the unscripted version of the George and Dick show.

As I mention in a accompanying post at BAGnewsNotes, the Democratic landslide has shattered the Administration's capacity to conduct government by photo op. Beyond the new legislative and political constraints, sharing power now means also sharing the media space.

The shot above is something of a kick-off.

With Bush still prefacing Nancy Pelosi's name with "Congresswoman" half the time -- and apparently still seeking stage direction -- how curious to see the Speaker in the special guest chair in the Oval Office. Sending out ray beams of satisfaction, Pelosi -- like Harry Reid in my companion post -- orients her upper body toward Bush not just for picture protocol, but because she's now that much closer to the power.

The most interesting figure in this shot, however, is the biggest loser in last Tuesday's election.

Of course, it is completely typical to find the Vice President this visually detached. Before the election, the isolation typified his constant egotistical need for a separate (ideological, as well a physical) vantage point. Here, it's still that, conveniently abetted by how the furniture is arranged.

With the Democratic landslide, however, Cheney's "stand-offishness" now takes a tragic twist. Like some strange self-fulfilling prophesy, his detachment is all of a sudden a literal one, as opposed to strategically self-imposed.

With the loss of the House and the Senate, Cheney has been denied his major operational base (not to mention, puppet master control over those two empty suits -- Hastert and Frist -- that Rove, then DeLay embedded at the top of those chambers). Combined with the take-down of Rummy, and the Pentagon take-over by Poppy, Jimmy, and Bobby, one realizes (as, obviously, he's realized) that Dick has lost any further ability to screw with America's military and defense assets.

For all these reasons, this photo-in-a-photo is a real bookmark.

Of course, there's no way to climb inside Cheney's head -- and who would want to! -- but that gaze couldn't be more expressive. With his new friend from San Francisco in the house, Dick locks onto that camera like it might be there to rescue him. Regarding the rest of the expression, we have the just-suppressed, trademark smirk, yes. But there's something else, too. It's in the eyes.

I'd call it a settling, if disgusted recognition that he knows he's toast.

For more of the visual, visit

(image: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. November 9, 2006.