There’s a lot of buzz leading up to Obama’s address to Congress tonight about how much to dial up or down the distress.
Launching into the week, the two schools of thought were well framed by Clinton and Rich. Bill Clinton put out the message that Obama needs to come across more up-beat, cheerier — you know, man from hope. Frank Rich’s Sunday column, on the other hand, was devastating in castigating the government and the media, as well as most of the nation, for living in almost abject denial.
In light of the push-pull, I thought this photo by Ruth Fremson that the NYT ran on Monday was particularly significant. It was taken during Obama’s meeting at the White House with visiting mayors. Of course, what it represents is as much or more the media’s interpretation than Obama’s actual choice of tone. I think it’s not far off the mark, however. Obama, who certainly hasn’t sugar-coated the sinkhole we’re in, looks as deeply concerned here as he does meditative.
As compared to Bush, however, perhaps the question of tone is not such a matter of choice. Given Obama’s penchant for giving it straight, if it’s that bad, seems like he — and then we — will feel it.
(image: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times. Washington. February 22, 2009)