FORT MYERS, FL – FEBRUARY 10: President Barack Obama walks off stage to greet Henrietta Hughes as she asks a question during a Town Hall Meeting at the Harborside Event Center February 10, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida. Obama visited the town to discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks to reporters after the final passage of the stimulus bill, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, at the Capitol in Washington. He is joined by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Republican senators explain their opposition to President Barack Obama’s financial stimulus package during a news conference at the Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Left to right are: Sen Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Beyond the powerful PR for the President, yesterday’s townhall in Fort Myers was a moral victory for the people as well as an opportunity to draw a fundamental contrast between the people and the power.
If the fact has escaped anyone, these are the first presidential townhall meetings in eight years in which the participants haven’t been hand-picked by the White House. What I’ve done above is to intersperse two photos of the stonewalling GOP in Congress with three photos from yesterday’s Obama event. Any association to a “sandwich” is completely intentional, these populist scenes contrasting with those lilly-white conservatives protesting on Capitol Hill.The Fort Myers images represent the visual and emotional highlights of the event, one which offered a great deal more drama and intimacy than Obama’s gathering in Indiana the day before. In Indiana, there was only one video shot which remained fixed on the podium. Here, television provided us an intimate view of a raucous and populist affair.
The first photo shows Obama soliciting a question from Henrietta Hughes (video
), a homeless woman who’s now living out of her car. The second photo offers Minority Leader McConnell kvetching after yesterday’s slim passage of the stimulus bill. The third image, a screen grab, comes from the dramatic and powerful exchange between Obama and college student Julio Osegueda (video
) who has been working at McDonalds for the past four years. Osegueda, who could hardly contain his emotion, displayed a spontaneity and earnestness that would put Joe the Plumber to shame. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a few minutes. By the way, here’s
Julio airborne in the background.) The forth image offers a group of GOP Senators detailing their opposition to the stimulus bill. That exhibition, with Senator Bennett holding his finger in the air, combined with the fact the Senate was voting on the stimulus package during Obama’s town hall, contrasts nicely with the last image, capturing members of the crowd straining to ask the President a question.
Obviously, the people, too, are interested in being heard.
(image 1: Joe Raedle/Getty Images: Harborside Event Center. February 10, 2009, Fort Myers, Florida. image 2: J. Scott Applewhite/AP. Feb. 10, 2009, Washington. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks to reporters after the final passage of the stimulus bill, Tuesday, He is joined by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. image 4: J. Scott Applewhite/AP. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Left to right are: Sen Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.