Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, June 18, 2007

  Tragedy as photo-op

Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that television networks, pundits, politicians, and sundry public personalities tend to treat large-scale disasters as if they were abstractions, really little more than occasions for self-promotion, rather than the stuff of personal tragedy? The thought has occurred to me from time to time, I'll confess.

Take the Virginia Tech shootings in April. From the moment the news broke, there was a rancid taste of the Big Carnival about it.

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But the opportunism of the news media was quickly thrown in the shadow by the President's insertion of himself into the picture.

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His "concern" was genuine, no doubt, as were the feelings of all three Cabinet officials put in charge of studying the shootings. You can tell that from the spectacle they made last week of presenting Bush with their hastily produced report.

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Scarcely possible to believe that any adults would stand around grinning about a report on a bloody massacre. Even harder to believe that Margaret Spellings would show up for such a session wearing a pink-bow-second-runner-up kind of contraption around her waist. Mike Leavitt has embarrassed himself enough recently by ignoring the death of Senator Thomas of Wyoming. As for the desperate need of Gonzales and Bush to improve their own public standing, well... The kindest interpretation would be that these pictures were faked in order to embarrass the participants—except that they're official White House photos—or that Borat was involved somehow (but he's nowhere to be seen in the pictures).

A harsher judgment was offered by Whatever it is, I'm against it:

From the grins on these clowns’ faces – Jeebus, just look at Gonzales, he looks like a 5-year old just told he’s getting ice cream and pony rides – I can only assume that the information that 32 people were slaughtered at Virginia Tech less than two months ago was not shared.

It's all just a kiddy's game for these politicians, I'm afraid. Compare the above photos with this scene from a White House Easter Egg Hunt (with two of the same principals).

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Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe fact that Bush felt the need to have himself photographed appearing to read the report he'd just been handed shows what a Big Carnival the Virginia Tech shootings were for the White House. From Bush's canned statement, it also appears that he received only a summary of the report and, unsurprisingly, learned almost nothing new from it. Somebody seems to have used the phrase "information sharing" within his hearing, but other than that the report looks to be a total wash as far as Bush is concerned.

They learned a great deal and today presented me with their key findings. I look forward to reviewing their recommendations in more detail, but a few points are immediately clear: Information sharing among the healthcare, law enforcement, and education communities must improve; those groups must better understand the federal laws related to information sharing; and accurate, complete information sharing between states and the federal government is essential in helping to keep guns out of the wrong hands and to punish those who break the law.

The main point of the Oval Office ceremony, maybe the only point, was to be seen grinning. Every tragedy for this White House is a photo-op. Actually doing something to improve the lot of Americans, not so crucial.

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For the White House, it's a world inhabited by plastic turkeys.

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