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
(PDF), were deliberate in laying out his
checkered 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).