A Double-Jump in PrezRhet

I’ve been noticing GWB’s ties over the past week.  I caught
a few minutes of his prime time talk last Tuesday, and I, like so many attentive
citizens in viewerland who talk to the TV, asked for the questions to be
repeated.  *Ask it again, ask it again* What’s the name for the rhetorical
event where the questions force the answers into a kind of orbital of avoidance? 
Other, better informed blogs have already suggested that the President might
have been more direct in his answers.  No need to restate that here. 

I really want to talk about his tie last Tuesday and his tie from the White
House meeting with Sharon.  When I watched his press address last Tuesday
for fifteen or twenty minutes last week, I sensed the orbital of avoidance, but
the flicker of his tie is what really spoke to me.  It was alive. 
Radiant.  A brilliant glow.  And that’s what color television does to
black and white patterns.  It fuses the patterns into a shifting rainbow
shimmer.  I think it’s called spectral "ringing"–the picture can’t
restrict the hue range simultaneously occupying the narrow band.  Farther
apart, black and white stabilize; the television screen can depict them
discretely.  But together, tight black and white patterns render dancing,
colorful cartoon characters–like the one I watched while the President talked
at the nation. Surely, the President’s wardrobe crew understands spectral
ringing.  So what were the consequences? 

Well, at first I thought it must be an inadvertent flub.  I haven’t been
watching Bush’s ties, studying the significance of presidential wardrobes or
anything even close.  But when I saw images from the meeting with Sharon, I
thought I saw the fantastic match in the colors between the Israeli flag and
Bush’s tie.  Accidental?  Who knows?  But it sure seems like it
could be deliberate;  surely the President’s wardrobe crew is more careful
about picking out what he’ll wear for a visible, widely broadcast engagement
than I am about what I wear each day.  And if that’s true, then it’s
possible that his dressers, knowing
these basics
, were deliberate in laying out his

tie, the one glow-shifting on the screen throughout his press
conference last Tuesday.  And for fun, we might speculate about the legacy
of checkered props as sideshow that have been a part of televised
presidential talks since the beginning:

Eight years later to the day, while delivering one of history’s first major televised political speeches, Richard Nixon used a dog as a prop. Nixon was Dwight Eisenhower’s vice presidential running mate, and the speech —
unofficially named after the dog — saved his spot on the ticket. In rebutting
allegations that a group of supporters had created a slush fund for him, Nixon
conceded that he had received one gift.

"It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way
from Texas," Nixon said. "Black-and-white spotted. And our little girl,
Tricia, the 6-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all
kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of
what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it!" ("Web
Team hones
," 3/8/04)

I don’t know, maybe it’s too great a reach to suppose the President’s tie
last Tuesday was purposefully distracting.  But it was distracting
(for me, at least).


  1. While I wasn’t distracted by the press conference tie, I did notice it. You are right that it was ‘stronger’ than usual. That was also the first time I remember seeing the back of his head. He looked like a stronger president from behind than from the front. Nixon had a similar quality. If you just listened to him on radio, he sounded good. But everytime you saw his face, other emotions–for me, mostly negative–emerged.

    Many years ago, as a birthday gift, my wife sent me to a color consultant who did sessions just for men. Each of us has colors that can make us look more alert or less so, more powerful or less so. While all recent presidents draw on this kind of expertise, Bush’s handlers have gone further than any before. They have set designers for appearances away from the White House. And they set up Bush’s walk away from the podium at the end of the press conference to dramatize the leader of the world walking steadily, alone, framed by the doorway. The news media seem incapable of recognizing this kind of framing as propagandistic. They present it uncritically.

    And it seems to have had the intended effects. While the content of Bush’s statements offered no news and very little compelling argument, his physical presence–the embodied message–was quite strong–and his poll numbers went up.

  2. More Tie Talk

    I�ve never paid that much attention to the visual image of the Prez except for his body language when he�s dancing around the truth. Things that impress me, or don�t impress me, are actions in relation to words.

    I recently heard some media person comment on the Prez�s new tie style as being almost hypnotic. Interesting.

    In my opinion, a tie is a useless piece of clothing and I feel sorry for any idiot that is wearing one, even the Prez. Ever since I became a free thinker, a long time ago in a place far, far away, I�ve had negative feelings about wearing ties. By wearing one, a person becomes a captive of something undesirable. Go figure.


  3. One possible reason for Bush’s choice: the silvery, tightly woven type of tie he was wearing was called the Macclesfield necktie, and is very much “the” classic necktie: according to Alan Flusser, a guy who seems to know clothes, “Among the world’s sartorial literati, the Macclesfield necktied continues to enjoy its reputation as the quintessence of upper-class English taste.”

  4. I’m surprised (well, and not surprised, I guess) that GWB’s standing in the polls made a positive turn after his appearance last Tuesday. The political scene these days is filled with so much droning about propaganda, Bush the dimwit, the cabinet and speechwriters puffing up a great gust of confusion in “I never said that (quite that way)” and “I’ll answer your questions (but the details are classified).” So when I felt my eyes gravitating to the spectral glow, it was oddly calming compared with the riff I was feeling at the President’s duck-n-dodge.

    Good comment about the Macclesfield necktie, Mike. I had no idea it was “the” classic necktie; it makes sense that it was a symbolic nod to power and status, a lot like the camera angles and the grand entrance as John pointed out.

    Ties–you’re right, Pops–are impractical articles. And it’s not their silky dangling that bothers me but their knots (too tight!) and the problem that they only work well with collared shirts, which often need ironing, which I don’t like to do so much.

    Unfashionable in KC

  5. I’m glad I don’t have to wear a tie every day, and I don’t much like ironing — but I do enjoy it when I have the opportunity to get dressed up. At the New York CCCC, I’d managed to score tickets to La Boh�me, so I met my date in the lobby of the conference hotel, dressed for opera (well, no tux for me, but best suit and tie; daring red dress for her), and it felt pretty good to be the best-dressed people in that lobby, and to turn those heads. But I’m sure it was more her than me.

  6. I’m stuck with a loud siren in my head that blares without end about how awkward I look in fine clothes. I’m getting better at it, but I just never feel at ease in Sunday best. Especially the shoes. So it’s an unbeatable aura of discomfort that usually accompanies dressing up. From the look on my face, D. tells me, “That’s no tie on your neck; that’s an albatross.” And it is, every time I’m a wedding guest. Enjoyed the entry at vitia.org today, BTW. Been meaning to get over there all week with some comments.

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