Thursday, December 07, 2006

Politi-flicks: Before Our Eyes

Once when I was a boy at the annual summer fair in Altamont, at that time a mainly rural town near us in upstate New York, there was a flimflam man performing for a group of men. He was at their level, not on a podium or stage, darting in and out amongst them from the little semi-circle he'd carved out with his pacing, this out of town act. The men were entranced, they found him funny, maybe a farm kid who knows their life, but got out, moved around, is now their entertainer.

I can't decide if he had a microphone or just a strong enough voice and cadence to not need one, but what I've always remembered is this one gag he did. He asked the audience, "Have any of you ever seen pasteurized money?"

They're farmers, they know about pasteurization, but of course no one knew. They were on the edge of their toes to get to the punchline.

The performer, more of a barker than anything north of con man, asked for a dollar and pretty quickly someone coughed it up. Then the performer opened the bill wide and waved it by the volunteer's face.

"There you go, right past your eyes..."

The men all laughed and the guy pocketed the bill. Maybe he could think of it like a tip, but we all knew he had just found his mark and played him for a buck.

For a few years, particularly around the 2004 Presidential Election, I thought of George W. Bush as an olde tyme snake oil salesman. He'd be in front of his canned groups and they'd be loving it. That aggressively "down-home" diction, that cloying yet effective appeal to common sense all the while framing it for the audience, finding his true calling as a high-tension pitch man, just one taste away from the bottle, Praise the Lord. Amazing for a kid from New England blue-bloods, but no matter how many folks saw through the snake oil, there they were on TV laughing and applauding along, buying it.

Like the flimflam man of that long ago Altamont Fair, they were so happy for the attention, they didn't care what he was getting away with.

This week, with the release of The Iraq Study Group Report, it's all Past Your Eyes.

Watch an Administration crumble away, right before your eyes.

As it does daily, BAG news Notes has decoded a photo, this time of El Presidente sitting beside group co-chair Lee Hamilton, the paperback edition in W's hand:
If Bush's M.O. is all about resistance and denial, and the Iraq Study Group "manifesto" is effectively an in-your-face repudiation of the Administration's Iraq campaign, is it any wonder Bush holds the book so it can't be opened, with the cover facing away?

You can watch the full newsclip of the official presentation in "Bush Taken to the Woodshed?" but I do have to warn you that you're watching the snake oil salesman trying to adapt his shopworn lines ("The country, uhhh, in my judgment is tired of the pure political bickering...that happens in Washington..."), the only ones maybe he knows, to a devastatingly new situation, one where he is totally obsolete.

Half the time he seems to finally know it, but he falls back on the salesman role. The oddest visual is the way he uses the book as a prop, seizing on it around 1:38, a lifevest floating by. See if you get the same sense I do, that his instinct is to brandish it like he knows it's the only product he's got to sell, but so not the one he ever imagined he'd be stuck selling.

It's his Presidency, right before our eyes, going right past his.

As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

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