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Thursday, February 03, 2005
Bush Speech Hits a Snag!

The careful scripting and choreography of President Bush’s State of the Union speech Wednesday evening seemed to peak with what the paid media suggested was a symbolic unscripted moment; a hug between Janet Norwood, the mother of fallen Marine Byron Norwood, and Safia Taleb al-Souhail, a representative of the Iraqi people.
Seconds after the hug, however, cameras caught the real symbolic unscripted moment as Ms. Al-Souhail’s bracelet (shown in the inset photo) became snagged on dog tags held in Mrs. Norwood's hand.
Seared into my mind was the fleeting image of Mrs. Norwood’s eyes and panicked fingers as she attempted to extricate her dead son’s military identification from the snare of Ms. Al-Souhail’s symbol-drenched wrist jewelry.
The President too, from the jig is up look in his beady eyes, seemed to recognize that the planned unscripted moment had been upstaged by a real unscripted moment but he, as trained, soldiered on.
The post speech paid media, as if to prove the real unscripted moment’s power, gushed shamelessly over the allegedly spontaneous hug while quickly scampering over the bracelet/dog tag snag if it was mentioned at all.
As Thursday unfolds it will be interesting to see if this symbol redolent of quagmire, The Snag, gets further play.

Later Thursday

Dog tags (lower right) in Mrs. Norwood's hand

The Snag fix seems to be firmly in place at Thursday's midday in most of the domestic media.
Here's the relevant paragraph from a particularly gooey Associated Press file in the Boston Herald:

Pain etched lines in Norwood's forehead as she held a woman who won the freedom to vote in Iraq's election on Sunday. Norwood finally let go, took her husband's arm and rested her head on his shoulder.

Then, the sometimes contrarian television critic Tom Shales in the Washington Post:

Janet Norwood hugged the Iraqi voter (one finger purple as a symbol of having voted), and they seemed to get briefly entangled in each other's jewelry as the applause went on.

And here is Canadian commentator Joseph Planta:

Mrs. Norwood bent down to hug al-Souhail. It was a long embrace whereupon Mrs. Norwood, clutching her son's dog tags, got them caught on al-Souhail's sleeve.

Sleeve or bracelet...there seems to be mild disagreement over the Iraqi bit that snagged the dog tags but these misperceptions just add to the overall quagmire symbolism.

Photos: Reuters, AP

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