When speaking for the camera, President Bush favors iconic backdrops that suggest patriotism (soldiers), religious faith (churches) and, sometimes, wishful thinking (“Mission Accomplished”).
When the president spoke to the nation on the evening of September 15 about his Hurricane Katrina reconstruction plans he did so from Jackson Square in New Orleans. His backdrop for the live TV address was St. Louis Cathedral.
Apart from the power needed to run the cameras, microphone, etc., additional power was used to make sure we could see that lovely cathedral behind him. At the top of the broadcast, commentators said the White House was supplying power for the address, which led me to picture an extension cord running from D.C. to N.O.
Not only was it waste of energy – in a city with virtually none – to light up a church for the telecast, it was a wasted opportunity for Bush to show New Orleans as it really now appears. But he chose a dry, pretty spot instead.
If the president and/or his people had been thinking, they would have quickly set up a couple of work lights and placed him in front of a pile of rubble, not in front of a cathedral lit in a cool, cinematic blue. The bleak appearance, devoid of productions values, might have actually benefited Bush.
By showing him in the thick of the disaster, they could have represented the president as someone not detached from its effects, as he's been accused of being. On the contrary, nothing we saw (versus heard) in the broadcast indicated a city in trouble, much less one that had almost been destroyed. Business as usual. Nothing to see here.
In any future disaster "productions," I hope whoever’s in charge will focus less on the scenery and more on the weakness of the script.