The Kansas Photo Op

In a particularly powerful episode of one of my favorite television dramas, The West Wing, President Bartlett flies down to Oklahoma following a particularly devestating tornado leaving countless people dead or injured, and their homes ravaged. As the drama unfolds, we know that Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, is only supposed to stay for a short time, and in fact is advised by some of his staff not to go at all, fearful that the trip may be seen as less the actions of a caring head of state, and more like an embattled president going for a good photo op.

What happens is something kind of remarkable. So stricken with grief and empathy at the sight of the aftermath, the fictional president stays far belong what his staff has told him was an acceptable amount of time, not sleeping, and just talking and providing comfort. Around him the country he governs is moving on, probably in need of his guidance, and yet he stays.

In a way, this is the very embodiment of an ideal president, caring and genuine, and as we are caught up in the fantasy side of the drama, we easily overlook the fact that there are other duties the president is ignoring in favor of the care and solace he provides the devestated survivors. We give him a pass if for no other reason than because behind the closed doors where cameras cannot go, we know this is no photo op.

Unfortunately, such idealism is, in fact, fantasy, and most definitely something we shouldn’t even bother to expect out of our real president. Sadly, Bush is in it for the photo op.

By the time you read this, you will most likely have already read some article or another about how today Bush went down to Greensburg, Kansas in order to “comfort,” and to “listen.” You’ve also most likely heard about how Governor Sebelius has taken him to task by stripping her of resources through the National Guard, and put them in Iraq.

Undoubtedly, you will have heard about how Tony Snow blasted right on back, part of his case being that Iraq and Greensburg are completely seperate issues.

Before I move on to my general point, I just wanted to stop here to make an observation. I think it’s interesting that the Tony made the case that these are seperate issues, and I wonder if this is kind of how Bush really sees things. I say this because, of course, they aren’t seperate issues, not at all. If a butterfly flapping its wings in New York can cause a tsunami to hit Tokyo, then you can bet your sweet bottom that our efforts in Iraq have an effect here at home.

This comes from an interconnectivity concept in looking at our nation and our world, a concept born out of the logical precepts of cause and effect; if/then statements. For instance, if Bush draws upon troops and resources from the National Guard to support efforts in Iraq, then those troops and resources will not be stateside to assist with natural disasters and widespread emergency. See? Interconnectivity, and it plays throughout our entire social system.

But if you are willing to suspend this bit of logic, ie. hop off the logic train for your own purposes, then, yeah, I can see at least some of the things that Bush is doing during his tenure as making sense. Iraq is a “seperate issue,” therefore should have no bearing on what’s going on here at home, thereby freeing him up to continue the flailing war for as long as he chooses, or at least as long as he is president. Education is just that, education, it’s a “seperate issue,” and therefore he doesn’t need to worry about the repurcussions ten, twenty, fifty years down the road when he fumbles the ball on his No Child Left Behind initiative.


Back to our original story.

You’ve probably read or heard most of the salient points in the political maelstrom that Greensburg has become, so I won’t inundate you with too much more. However, there is this one little sentence that just bothers the hell out of me:

“In front of a house missing its roof, Bush paused to briefly grab a chain saw and start it up for photographers and reporters accompanying him, the Associated Press reported.”

Above all else, this bothers me. It leaves me empty, hollow, or at least, it leaves me with the impression that our president is. In one fell swoop, it would almost seem as though El Presidente has taken a trip of compassion and turned it into little more than a ribbon cutting ceremony.

After everything, Kansas was just another photo op.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook