Machine' Politician Exposed By Photos
by Gene Weingarten
First, don't panic. There is probably a good explanation for the
mystery of the photographs, something that does not threaten
the enslavement and/or extermination of mankind.
There has to be a benign explanation. I just haven't found it yet.
The first photograph appeared in The Washington Post on Dec. 18.
In it, the president-elect stands behind and to the side of Condoleezza
Rice, his nominee for national security adviser. George W. Bush is
slightly out of focus. His head is cocked to the left and tilted slightly
backward, his mouth downturned in a perfect cartoonish crescent, the
way a first-grader might draw a frown. His eyes are squinty.
The next photograph appeared in this paper two days later. In it,
the president-elect stands behind and to the side of Alberto R. Gonzalez,
his choice for White House counsel. George W. Bush is slightly out
of focus. His head is cocked to the left and tilted slightly backward,
his mouth downturned in a perfect, cartoonish crescent, the way a
first-grader might draw a frown. His eyes are squinty.
It is not a similar pose; it is an identical pose. It is not a similar
expression; it is the identical expression.
Both photos were sent to me via e-mail by Post reader Adam Shannon,
and at first I suspected chicanery: that as a joke, Shannon had altered
one or both of them in a Photoshop process. But no, Post archives
confirmed that both had been published.
Then the third photo appeared in The Post two days later:
The president-elect stands behind and to the side of Ann Veneman,
his nominee for agriculture secretary. George W. Bush is slightly
out of focus. His head is cocked to the left and tilted slightly backward,
his mouth downturned in a perfect cartoonish crescent, the way a first-grader
might draw a frown. His eyes are squinty.
Identical. Different tie, identical pose.
Now I suspected chicanery of a different sort. Could The Post have
violated its own hallowed standards for accuracy by ginning up these
photos from old stock, to cover for lazy or drunken photographers
who missed their assignments? Or something?
Then the fourth photo appeared. This was in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Bush, with his new EPA chief, Christine Todd Whitman. Cocked head.
Backward tilt. Crescent frown. Squint.
Then, The Baltimore Sun. The New York Times. The Washington Times.
Bush, with his nominee for treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill. Squints!
Frowns! First-graders! Tilt!
Then, El Nuevo Herald in Miami. °Ceños! °Cortaduras!
°Estrabismos! °Cabezas inclinadas!
I felt I was losing my mind.
Adopting a background pose of requisite gravity is evidently a tricky
thing for a new president: In 1993, when Bill Clinton had to appear
beside his new nominees, this very newspaper commented how similar
the president-elect looked in the photographs: It was the birth of
his famed lip-bite pose. But those photos were fraternal twins of
each other. These new ones are clones. What could explain this?
It occurred to me that it might not be Bush in these photos at all.
The president-elect is a busy man these days, forced by circumstance
to collapse his interregnum into a few weeks. Perhaps he hasn't the
time to attend all these ceremonial events. Perhaps what we are seeing
is a stand-in, one of those cardboard cutouts you can pose with on
the street around the White House.
I telephoned J. Scott Applewhite, the Associated Press photographer
who took that first excellent picture of Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
Is it possible, I asked him respectfully, that he was fooled by a
"A cardboard cutout?"
Yes, I said hopefully.
"It was Bush," he said.
"I am absolutely certain. Otherwise, I wouldn't have said it was
Bush in my caption." Hm.
I asked: How is your eyesight?
"It does the job," he said, a little stiffly.
I admit I was pressing, but I was desperate. The only alternative
scenario I had was the one I did not wish to visit.
Adam Shannon, the Washington communications consultant who first
brought this matter to my attention, had a theory of his own: The
Bush we know, the Bush we see, the Bush at the debates, the Bush on
the campaign trail, the Bush we elected, the Bush whom J. Scott Applewhite
and others have been photographing, is "an animatronic robot."
"It's a fusion of a servo-motorized biofidelic shell and a sophisticated
artificial intelligence module," Shannon theorizes.
What we are seeing in these photos, he postulates, is "a machine
that has defaulted into standby mode." At a press conference in which
attention is directed elsewhere, he said, the robot would "go into
a temporary shutdown state in which it assumes a preprogrammed pose
while waiting its turn to reactivate and begin speaking."
Let's follow this through to its logical conclusion. The most powerful
human on Earth is not a human at all but a machine under the control
of an unknown master with technological skills far beyond ours, programmed
to carry out God-knows-what for the benefit of God-knows-who at the
expense of you-know-very-well-who? Oh, man.
Desperate for an alternative explanation, I went to our photo files,
and found a picture of George W. Bush at around age 7, holding his
baby brother Jeb. If you look at this picture just right, you can
see the hint of the same downturned mouth, the same squint.
What could this mean?
I brought this new evidence to Shannon.
"Can you authenticate the age of this supposedly old photo?" he
"See, if you were going to create an animatronic robot to run for
president, you would have to go back and establish a documentary childhood.
So you would have to build and photograph Mini-Me's. This is probably
a Mini-Me. Same default posture."
Washington Post - by Gene Weingarten
Wednesday, December 27, 2000