Nothing like a great production!

  1. As you probably know, I have a musical theater background. I appreciate well produced plays, musicals, concerts, etc.

    One thing I've noticed from this current administration is how well all of the president's television exposure seem well produced. . . to capture the hearts and minds of the American public. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. Since the dawn of television, past administrations have done the same thing. Except this current administration seems to be taking the concept of a well produced television "bite" to new heights.

    I've copied a New York Times article for you to read regarding this issue. I know that for me I need to give myself a "reality check". . . this is just television! Television is a powerful media. Music, background scenery, lighting, etc, all come into play with a well organized production. It's all useful tools to help build an image.

    Of course you probably know that I think the "Bush's Image" trying to be conveyed is hollow. For me, no matter what "smoke and mirrors" the Bush administration's hired hands try to utilize to help win my heart and mind to the administration's "ideals". . . I still can't agree with them. From economics to environment to taxation to even how the war with Iraq was handled, I disagree with their "ideals" and their plans of action.

    But I give credit where credit is due. It is well produced hollowness.

    And shallow.

    Here's the May 15th, 2003 New York Times article.


    Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights

    WASHINGTON, May 15-George W. Bush's "Top Gun" landing on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln will be remembered as one of the most audacious moments of presidential theater in American history. But it was only the latest example of how the Bush administration, going far beyond the foundations in stagecraft set by the Reagan White House, is using the powers of television and technology to promote a presidency like never before.

    Officials of past Democratic and Republican administrations marvel at how the White House does not seem to miss an opportunity to showcase Mr. Bush in dramatic and perfectly lighted settings. It is all by design: the White House has stocked its communications operation with people from network television who have expertise in lighting, camera angles and the importance of backdrops.

    On Tuesday, at a speech promoting his economic plan in Indianapolis, White House aides went so far as to ask people in the crowd behind Mr. Bush to take off their ties, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported, so they would look more like the ordinary folk the president said would benefit from his tax cut.

    "They understand the visual as well as anybody ever has," said Michael K. Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief image maker. "They watched what we did, they watched the mistakes of Bush I, they watched how Clinton kind of stumbled into it, and they've taken it to an art form."

    The White House efforts have been ambitious-and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.

    For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.

    And on Monday, for remarks the president made promoting his tax cut plan near Albuquerque, the White House unfurled a backdrop that proclaimed its message of the day, "Helping Small Business," over and over. The type was too small to be read by most in the audience, but just the right size for television viewers at home.

    "I don't know who does it," Mr. Deaver said, "but somebody's got a good eye over there."

    That somebody, White House officials and television executives say, is in fact three or four people. First among equals is Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer who was hired by the Bush campaign in Austin, Tex., and who now works for Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Mr. Sforza created the White House "message of the day" backdrops and helped design the $250,000 set at the United States Central Command forward headquarters in Doha, Qatar, during the Iraq war.

    Mr. Sforza works closely with Bob DeServi, a former NBC cameraman whom the Bush White House hired after seeing his work in the 2000 campaign. Mr. DeServi, whose title is associate director of communications for production, is considered a master at lighting. "You want it, I'll heat it up and make a picture," he said early this week. Mr. DeServi helped produce one of Mr. Bush's largest events, a speech to a crowd in Revolution Square in Bucharest last November.

    To stage the event, Mr. DeServi went so far as to rent Musco lights in Britain, which were then shipped across the English Channel and driven across Europe to Romania, where they lighted Mr. Bush and the giant stage across from the country's former Communist headquarters.

    A third crucial player is Greg Jenkins, a former Fox News television producer in Washington who is now the director of presidential advance. Mr. Jenkins manages the small army of staff members and volunteers who move days ahead of Mr. Bush and his entourage to set up the staging of all White House events.

    "We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see," Mr. Bartlett said. "Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don't have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators. So we take it seriously."

    The president's image makers, Mr. Bartlett said, work within a budget for White House travel and events allotted by Congress, which for fiscal 2003 was $3.7 million. He said he did not know the specific cost of staging Mr. Bush's Sept. 11 anniversary speech, or what the White House was charged for the lights. A spokeswoman at the headquarters of Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, Iowa, said the company did not disclose the prices it charged clients.

    White House communications operatives in previous administrations said many costs of presidential trips were paid for by whoever was deemed the official host of a trip-typically a federal agency, a city or a company. Trips deemed political are paid for by the parties.

    "The total cost of a trip is ultimately shared across a wide spectrum of agencies and hosts," said Joshua King, who was director of production of presidential events in the Clinton administration. "To get to who really pays for presidential events would keep a team of accountants very busy."

    The most elaborate-and criticized-White House event so far was Mr. Bush's speech aboard the Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat in Iraq. White House officials say that a variety of people, including the president, came up with the idea, and that Mr. Sforza embedded himself on the carrier to make preparations days before Mr. Bush's landing in a flight suit and his early evening speech.

    Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the "Mission Accomplished" banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot. The speech was specifically timed for what image makers call "magic hour light," which cast a golden glow on Mr. Bush.

    "If you looked at the TV picture, you saw there was flattering light on his left cheek and slight shadowing on his right," Mr. King said. "It looked great."

    The trip was attacked by Democrats as an expensive political stunt, but White House officials said that Democrats needed a better issue for taking on the president. A New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll conducted May 9-12 found that the White House may have been right: 59 percent of those polled said it was appropriate, and not an effort to make political gain, for Mr. Bush to dress in a flight suit and announce the end of combat operations on the aircraft carrier.

    But even this White House makes mistakes. One of the more notable ones occurred in January, when Mr. Bush delivered a speech about his economic plan at a St. Louis trucking company. Volunteers for the White House covered "Made in China" stamps with white stickers on boxes arrayed on either side of the president. Behind Mr. Bush was a printed backdrop of faux boxes that read "Made in U.S.A.," the message the administration wanted to convey to the television audience.

    The White House takes great pride in the backdrops, which are created by Mr. Sforza, and has gone so far as to help design them for universities where Mr. Bush travels to make commencement addresses. Last year, the White House helped design a large banner for Ohio State as part of the background for Mr. Bush; last week, the White House collaborated with the University of South Carolina to make Sforzian backdrops for a presidential commencement speech in the school's new Carolina Center.

    "They really are good," said Russ McKinney, the school's director of public affairs, as he listened to the president.

    Television camera crews, meanwhile, say they have rarely had such consistently attractive pictures to send back to editing rooms.

    "They seem to approach an event site like it's a TV set," said Chris Carlson, an ABC cameraman who covers the White House. "They dress it up really nicely. It looks like a million bucks."

    Even for standard-issue White House events, Mr. Bush's image makers watch every angle. Last week, when the president had a joint news conference with Prime Minister José Mariá Aznar of Spain, it was staged in the Grand Foyer of the White House, under grand marble columns, with the Blue Room and a huge cream-colored bouquet of flowers illuminated in the background. (Mr. Sforza and Mr. DeServi could be seen there conferring before the cameras began rolling.) The scene was lush and rich, filled with the beauty of the White House in real time.

    "They understand they have to build a set, whether it's an aircraft carrier or the Rose Garden or the South Lawn," Mr. Deaver said. "They understand that putting depth into the picture makes the candidate or president look better."

    Or as Mr. Deaver said he learned long ago with Mr. Reagan: "They understand that what's around the head is just as important as the head."
    Last edit by Ted on May 16, '03
  2. 54 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    Maybe this explains why I haven't been as influenced. I read and listen to the radio. Hardly watch TV even when my husband has it on.
  4. by   Mkue
    I appreciate their talent and creativeness.

    Good article.
  5. by   SmilingBluEyes
    me too---- I am a reader and radio listener. did not even see bush's great landing on the carrier, but heard everyone whining about it. i have no problem with the Commander-in-Chief flying and landing on carriers as he wishes....and if the media chooses to spin it 6 ways from Sunday (to the favorable or NOT), well we can make up our own minds as to what we think of Bush and his administration.
  6. by   SharonH, RN
    I can't say as I blame Mr. Bush for his techniques; after all they work so very well, look at all the people who reacted to his grandstanding as if he landed on the moon. He managed to convince a large majority of the population that his war was necessary to combat terrorism(so much for that theory!), free Iraq(-a group of people that most people could previously give less than a darn about , now all of a sudden their "freedom" is the most precious thing to them) and rid us of weapons of mass destruction which have yet to be found.

    I'll tell you this: it took some big gonads for a man who (1)used his family connections to avoid active duty military service by finagling a spot into the Texas National Guard, and (2)then "fast-tracked" his way into a second lieutenant commission and (3)who was suspended from flying and didn't even fly his last two years in the guard to "fly" onto that carrier like that as if he were one of the boys who had also risked his life in service to this country. But hey, it worked and if it works I say go for it, shrub. Eventually the people will figure out that you're all smoke and mirrors. (I think.)
  7. by   pickledpepperRN
    We can make up our minds IF we still have access to both sides.
  8. by   pickledpepperRN
    If you are not concerned with the possible monopoly of the media imagine a millionaire owned the press and the airwaves and chose only to publish liberal views. Below is an example of what we should be able to read but not ONLY the one view:
    COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez

    Here's a scenario: An elite unit has tracked down a suspected terrorist to an apartment where he's visiting a friend. A decision must be made. Because of the number of occupants, sharpshooters may not be able to get a clear shot. To nab him, the officers will have to raid a crowded and hostile complex, in which case the criminal may have time to escape. They can wait and try to take him out as he drives away. The best option, however, seems to be to fire a missile at the apartment.

    Several missiles are fired, killing the target and an associate. Seven innocent people are also killed, including children and elderly men and women. The missiles set the complex afire, and dozens of other apartment dwellers are injured. Officials are jubilant and declare the operation a complete success, but do apologize for the collateral damage.

    This is reality in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In Israel, officials declare that such operations are necessary in their effort to prevent suicide bombings that claim the innocent lives of Israeli civilians. There is "no moral equivalence" between lives intentionally taken by terrorists and lives accidentally taken in this war to protect the homeland, they argue.

    If this were an isolated incident, perhaps one could cede this logic. However, such operations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are undertaken virtually on a daily basis. In one sense, they evolved from the practice of "collective punishment." A deadly bombing or shooting occurs inside Israel and the IDF strikes back at Palestinians -- regardless of guilt or innocence, as long as someone pays. This still occurs, although now, the killings are not simply random. Israel has proclaimed these extrajudicial executions "targeted assassinations." They're not without controversy, but given the times we live in, label the target a terrorist and military death-squad assassinations have now become policy. They resemble gang drive-bys in that it's the innocent who wind up paying the highest toll. This explains why the IDF has killed almost three times more Palestinians than suicide bombers have killed Israelis in the past several years.

    The United States is not silent about this matter. In fact, it has begun to emulate the same policy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The logic is simple: If it's not wrong for the IDF to engage in such operations, why would it be wrong for the U.S. military to do the same? That may be the reason that the current administration has not denounced these IDF military death-squad assassinations, because doing so would prevent the U.S. military from doing the same in our own permanent wars.

    This policy is related to the idea that in wars, we count and identify our own casualties, but there's no need to even count the casualties of our enemies.

    Because the "war on terror" has no borders, it seems inevitable that similar U.S.-led operations will visit U.S. shores.

    In this permanent war on terrorism and during this time of "pre-emptive wars," through the Patriot Act, we've already ceded many of our constitutional rights, allowing indefinite secret investigations and illegal detentions -- primarily of Arabs/Muslims. (We've even created new categories of prisoners without status or rights at Guantanamo.) We've seen operations at home not seen since World War II. In many nationwide raids designed to find terrorists (such as Operation Tarmac), none have been picked up, though these raids have managed to terrorize and instill fear in entire (immigrant) communities. The public response: As long as it's not us.

    Extending that logic, it's just a matter of time before a missile is shot at a vehicle or at a house in the United States, killing a "suspected" terrorist. Everyone in the vehicle or home will be determined to be his "associates," justifying the carnage.

    The incredulous will say: "No way. That will never happen here." Yet, because this administration has condoned it in the Middle East, a moral underpinning has been created for it to happen here. It would be a short hop to create its legal basis (Patriot Act III?).

    There was a time when such practices would have been deemed morally reprehensible and completely unacceptable. And indeed, many say that it's precisely because we live in different times that we can no longer live by our old morality. We disagree. There is a moral equivalence to all life. The creed must remain "All life is sacred," not "Some life is sacred."
    Universal Press Syndicate 2003

    Column of the Americas is posted every Friday and archived under "Opinion" at

    Would that be OK with you?
    Should it be censored?
  9. by   Mkue
    Originally posted by SharonMH31
    I can't say as I blame Mr. Bush for his techniques; after all they work so very well,
    Many other Presidents both Dems and Republicans have used similar strategies for reaching the American people in the past.. i.e. aircraft..etc.. I think Ted is trying to point out that with the technology that we have today we can lift images to new heights.
  10. by   sbic56
    I think what Ted is trying to point out, is that with the technology and production skills available, we have the ability to create the desired effect and call it reality.
  11. by   donmurray
    Exactly. All you need is to dress the part, and you too, can climb into a modern warplane, recall the skills you last used 30 years ago (before they grounded you) to fly it, and then land it on an airstrip which moves up and down 30 feet or so as it steams away from you at 25 knots! Suddenly you are Top Gun!
    Strains most people's credulity just a bit!
  12. by   SharonH, RN
    Originally posted by sbic56
    I think what Ted is trying to point out, is that with the technology and production skills available, we have the ability to create the desired effect and call it reality.

  13. by   molecule
    tomorrow night the BBC will air a program which asserts Jessica Lynch was 'saved' in a hollywood type commando show.
    STAGED and EXAGGERATED to strengthen American support

    BushII knows for many Americans effect is reality, especially with a press which has become a pipeline for direct feeding.....
    truth is what BushII says it at eleven o'clock
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    Remember the commercial with Fred Astair dancing with a vacuum cleaner?
    ANYTHING can be done in post production.

    "According to Iraqis interviewed by the BBC, Lynch's care was good, considering
    that the war that raged outside. She was given blood transfusions, some of it
    donated to her by the medical staff. She was assigned, the BBC reports, the only
    "specialist bed" in the hospital and one of only two nurses on the floor.

    Dr. Harith al-Houssona said he attended to Lynch the entire time.

    "I examined her," he told the BBC. "I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh
    and a dislocated ankle. There was no (sign of) shooting, no bullet inside her body,
    no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident. They want to distort the picture.
    I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."

    The BBC report also alleges that the U.S. rescuers did not come under fire, as
    military spokesmen claimed - and that they knew they would face no resistance. A
    waiter at a local restaurant said he told the U.S. advance party the Fedayeen had
    all left, the broadcast reports.

    Dr. Anmar Uday, another doctor, told the BBC he was surprised by the helicopter
    assault when the Americans must have known there were no soldiers in the

    "It was like a Hollywood film," Uday said, according to the BBC. "They cried,
    'Go, go, go,' with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a
    show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and
    shouting, breaking down doors."