Since before Elizabeth Bumiller came up with the term for the Times, I was a fan of Sforzian Backgrounds, the news-manipulating slogans created by Scott Sforza, a key member of the White House’s advance scenery and production team, for just about every public appearance of George W. Bush. [After giving up hope for a commentary track from Sforza himself, I wrote my own interpretive post for Bush’s trip to Africa last July.]
And yet this week in a rare press conference, when he was asked about one of his Sforzian Backgrounds, Bush said, ” The ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.”
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall is rightly shocked, shocked, that Bush is trying to pin the background on the military. I hope the unsigned report in the Times is a placeholder for an impending Bumiller story. In the mean time, I’ll call George W. on his transparent lie: his advance men are ingenious. [And they were behind the banner.]
In her first report on White House stagecraft, Bumiller reported that these advance men spent days “embedded” on the Abraham Lincoln staging the speech. “Sforza and his aides choreographed every aspect of the event.”
Sforza positioned the audience/crew in the background according to their uniform color:bright turtlenecks on the fighter wing (a favorite Sforzian spot, by the way),
Army standard [thanks, Dan!]Navy service khakis in the front row. And to help them blend in with the troops, he put Bush’s Secret Service detail in Top Gun-style bomber jackets rather than their typical G-Man suits. Meanwhile, Bob deServi, the White House cinematographer, went the extra mile, turning the aircraft carrier around in order 1) to show a background of open sea and not the nearby San Diego skyline, and 2) to get the “magic hour” light just so on his boss’s face. The banner is instantly recognizable as Sforza’s–and the White House’s–ingenious vision.
The real question here is not who put up that banner, but why is Bush dishonestly and unfairly harshing on his loyal soldiers for it, both in the military and in the White House?
Related: Sforza’s version of Out of Africa
Whitehouse Stagecraft: Is this going to be on the DVD?