Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 24, 2008

Obama/Clinton: "Golden Straight Jacket" Vs. "Yes We Can"

obamaclintonbrendansmialowskigetty.jpg

As the Obama – Clinton relationship evolves, it will be curious to see how it’s spun by those still lingering in one camp or the other.

For example, Andrew Sullivan used this early image from the campaign yesterday to illustrate what he sees as an intensely political and mostly exploitive act on Obama’s part in appointing Hillary Secretary of State. In his post (and an accompanying article for the London Sunday Times), Sullivan likened the appointment to placing Hillary in a “golden strait-jacket,” virtually eliminating any HRC “threat” in 2012. He writes:

“The State Department appointment is prestigious enough not to be condescending, yet also keeps Clinton off the Washington circuit more than any other position.”

Sullivan also blurs the line between a natural Obama/Hillary “good cop – bad cop” routine and one in which Hillary is used by Obama “as a protective shield from domestic critics” or even a fall guy (fall gal?). He writes, for example:

“There’s also the small question of Iraq. Think of the appointment this way: ‘You voted for this bloody war, Hillary; you can end it.’”

Because photos retain ambiguity, they can be used to deliver blows one could never get away with otherwise. In the early phase of the campaign, when Obama was the upstart and Hillary was the odds-on favorite, this photo (taken during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February 2007 ) captured the competitive instinct of a long shot. As applied by Sullivan, however (and doing justice to neither), it frames Hillary as an unsuspecting (or, perhaps half-suspecting) pawn of the Machiavellian mastermind.

On the other hand, I prefer the comment of a reader in Friday’s BAG post surveying numerous campaign shots (pre-and-post convention) of Hillary and Obama. Rich writes:

“Looking at all of these I am struck by what an attractive couple they are. Each radiates confidence, intelligence, charisma. If they can form a binary star system instead of a collision of stellar objects they will quite powerful together.”

In spite of the cynicism around the shot selection, I would imagine Obama reacting to Rich with a: “Yes, we can.”

(image: Brendan Smialowski/Getty)

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