Reading The Pictures: <em>Bush And Maliki Have Each Other For Breakfast </em>

Do the presence of the flags and the placement of the chairs suggest the White House knew in advance (patience being what it is) that it was this or nothing?
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The reality of what transpired this week between George Bush and Iraqi President Maliki is one sorry picture. And for once, that's not a metaphor.

The objective facts, served on a platter by every news outfit in the business, are as follows:

After an hourlong breakfast meeting with aides at the Four Seasons Hotel, followed by a 45-minute one-on-one session, Maliki and Bush appeared together at a joint news conference.

Those facts, however, don't do justice to the poverty of the encounter.

Recall first, the ill fare already digested by Thursday. Setting the table was the leak, just two days before, of a classified White House memo doubting Maliki's leadership. In response, Maliki humiliated Bush by failing to honor his reservation for day one of the two day get-together.

Often tin-eared when it comes to these details, the MSM wasn't completely oblivious to the atmospherics. In this unvarnished behavioral observation regarding yesterday's press briefing (link), the NYT related the following:

The two leaders barely looked at one another during the news conference. And when Mr. Bush, at one point, asked the prime minister if he wanted to continue taking questions from reporters, the prime minister swiveled his head toward the president and shot Mr. Bush an incredulous look.

"We said six questions, now this is the seventh - this is the eighth - eight questions," Mr. Maliki said.

To understand how slight and tortured this affair was, however, take a look at this photo which the White House actually dared post to its photo gallery on Thursday. Among my questions:

...Were these two men really so out-of-step with each other, they couldn't move more than twenty feet to a formal meeting room?

...Was the possibility of finding a more suitable spot so remote that Maliki's translator had to put his papers on the floor?

...Was the White House so desperate to show these (distant) heads together that they were willing to profile breakfast remains?

...And, do the presence of the flags and the placement of the chairs (I mean the two cushy orange ones, not the two that seemed dragged from the table) suggest the White House knew in advance (patience being what it is) that it was this or nothing?

I know that the Administration's credibility on Iraq is near bankruptcy, but this photo seems no better than dirty laundry.

For more of the visual, visit

(image: Eric Draper/White House. Amman, Jordan. November 30, 2006.

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