December 3, 2005

Icon Watch: Bronze Star

Obama Kennedy


I thought the speech Barack Obama gave this past Tuesday calling for a reduction in U.S. troops in Iraq seemed particularly lucid both in the definition of the Iraqi problem, and in summarizing the Administration’s problems of definition.  The passion real strength to the statement, however, seemed to involve Obama’s call for leadership.

In defining this quality, Obama emphasized the ability to claim mistakes.  He cited Colin Powell’s recent statement describing his U.N. Iraq presentation as "a blot" on his record.  He also acknowledged John Edwards for admitting his vote to approve the war had been wrong.

One might assume the idealistic Obama would have voted "no" on the war,
but it’s a moot point because he wasn’t in the Senate at the time.
Still, his statement had a tone that seemed almost too "non-parsed" for
a member of Congress. (Hillary was the classic counterpoint. Clinton
quietly issued her own statement this
week about troop reduction. In claiming responsibility for her "yes"
vote, however, she immediately turns around and disavows it claiming
she had been duped by BushCo.)

But let’s get to our real business, the images.

In light of his powerful speech to the Democratic Convention,
and his election against the Republican tide it’s hard to think about
Obama (or at least, pictures of Obama) without talking about charisma.
I consider we are looking at someone in what might be termed the
"pre-icon" stage.

Under the banner of vigor and charm, what are we to make of
these pictures of the Illinois and Massachusetts Senators at a ceremony
commemorating Robert Kennedy’s Memorial Human Rights Award two weeks
ago? Although Obama’s public identity is still taking shape, how does
he seem to compare to Ted or
Bobby in relative weight? If you’ve been followed Obama at all, do you
sense a candor in this depiction of Barack? On the other hand, given
the "mythic loading" surrounding the Kennedy’s, how much is this photo
a contrivance playing on the theme of an emerging Obama mystique?

And, how much does the Obama sizzle simply emanate from a
passion for youth (the pic showcasing Obama, 44, beside an RFK who died
at 42) in a party suffering for fresh faces?

(image 1: Jim Young/Reuters. Washington
November 16, 2005. Via YahooNews. image 2: A.P. Washington. October 10,
2002 via image 3: Peter Jones/Reuters. Capitol Hill,
January 18, 2005. Via YahooNews.)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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