Furious George

It’s video week at waka waka waka. My friend Jess sent me this clip, which is a prickly discussion between Matt Lauer and George Bush on the subject of torture. Here are two men who obviously loathe one another; they are trying as hard as they can not to attack each other physically, and just barely managing. They are standing almost toe to toe, and while Lauer is trying awfully hard to be deferential (you’re always “one down” when you’re with POTUS), W is right up in his grill, jabbing away with his index finger in a way that would certainly get my Irish up. It’s hard to believe this is the President of the United States being interviewed by one of the nation’s foremost news anchors; the whole thing seems more like two ill-tempered dads getting into it at a little league game.

Related content from Sphere

2 Comments

  1. duncan says

    What a remarkable video. This is the sort of thing that I would usually only see on the Jon Stewart show (and I did – he showed some clips tonight) – after all, who watches the Today Show? – but even the Jon Stewart clips don’t capture the tenor of the interview, nor the power of the complete exchange.

    There’s quite a bit that’s remarkable about it. Among other things, modern media consultants generally wouldn’t allow any subject to be interviewed, standing, by a taller man. Moreover, when the two are confrontational, as here, it’s even less likely that they’ll be standing, as sitting generally affords more individual space and tends to mask difference in height. The only conclusion one can come to regarding the format are that either this interview wasn’t properly vetted by the White House apparatus (less likely), or that they assumed Lauer would be a puff interview (more likely). In the latter case, kudos to him for standing his ground (both physically and figuratively).

    It’s actually rather unfortunate that they’re standing. It’s kind of a trompe l’oeil because Lauer is taller and calmer; when Bush starts to become defensive, Lauer appears as a bully. I say that this is unfortunate because as a viewer, interpreting body language, when Lauer seems to bully Bush there’s a psychological imperative to sympathize with the subject. I think the actual content of the interview – which in my interpretation consists of Lauer asking probing questions about torture, and Bush offering vague platitudes about safety – is quite powerful. If they had been in comfortable chairs, I think the message would have been stronger. The tension distracts a bit. But regardless, this is a terrific interview and reminds us that from time to time, the non-satirical press can still perform its role as a check on power.

    All that said, the original point of my comment was, hooray for youtube. There’s just about no chance that I’ll watch the Today show – but where and when great video like this shows up, I’m happy that I can see it.

    Posted September 14, 2006 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Duncan,

    Thoughtful comments – thanks for dropping by. I agree, this was really quite an extraordinary clip.

    All that said, the original point of my comment was, hooray for youtube. There’s just about no chance that I’ll watch the Today show – but where and when great video like this shows up, I’m happy that I can see it.

    And… ahem … just how did you happen to hear about it?

    Posted September 15, 2006 at 11:35 pm | Permalink