September 7, 2007

Nancy's Pull To Give In



As profoundly upset as I am by all the tent-folding in advance of the much-touted Iraq War September showdown, I thought I’d briefly survey the visual consequences.

Many of you will recall Nancy Pelosi’s clever inaugural photo-op upon gaining control of the House.  That image cleverly positioned Pelosi and the Democrats as the guardians of America’s children and the conscience of future generations.  And from there, the new Speaker had the President and scandal-ridden Republicans on the ropes for months.

What defined that momentum was a willingness to swing freely and let the hawks fall where they may.  Vanity Fair, for example, touting “blue as the new red,” portrayed Nancy in front of the Capitol dragging a red scarf — as if trailing the trophy skin of the former Republican majority.  Of the numerous examples of the blood letting, Pelosi — in a mothers role — punked Bush at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner in March for his lightweight belligerence, and visually one-upped him in May by actually staging a signing ceremony for a war withdrawal bill before Bush had a chance to veto it.

With Pelosi’s agressiveness in confronting the war having evaporated over the past weeks and months, however, the newswire photo above, taken yesterday, is as curious as it is painful.  In the shot, a baby snags Pelosi’s necklace during a photo op challenging the President not to veto a children’s health bill.

Not to take anything away from Pelosi’s domestic agenda, but the fact she would push for face time right now in the name of any other issue than the war is, in my mind, a sign of capitulation.  Her being constrained, compromised and pulled from the neck is also a fitting metaphor for her new passivity in the face of the fight.  And, whereas Pelosi expertly controlled the symbolism last fall as the champion of the youngest among us, it is highly fitting, as the war propaganda rolls out fast and thick, that she is being railroaded by an infant.

The fact Pelosi has bailed on the war battle, however, does not mean that others — taking up her own visual template — aren’t pushing pointedly ahead with the theme.  Take the anti-war ad, for example, produced by the group Americans Against Escalation In Iraq, which is running in states with key moderate Senate Republicans.  In the spot, we see children in slightly baggy military uniforms struggling and stumbling through training exercises.

If the crux of politics and advertising involves an appeal to the emotions, this ad represents the natural evolution — given the latest crossroad on war funding and sanctioning — of the symbolism Pelosi set in motion less than a year ago.  Why is it, however, that advocacy groups are mostly alone right now in advancing the not-so-metaphorical threat to all those young futures?

In this skulking surrender, there are any number of politicians that deserve to have their chains pulled and necks wrung right now.

(image 1: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP.  Washington.  September 6, 2007.  Via YahooNews.  image 2: “Don’t Send Our Kids to Fight an Endless War.”  Americans Against Escalation In Iraq)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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