October 7, 2009

Artful New Attack Meme: Obama's "Indecision"

Are the Republicans and the media finally discovering a critique that hits Obama at the core of his personality?

If the subhead in the print edition of today’s NYT story on the reassessment of the Afghan strategy is completely objective (“President Obama seemed to be searching for some middle ground”), McCain’s attack yesterday, and the vicious if subtle use of language he used to frame the attack, is certainly noteworthy.

Mr. McCain told the president that “time is not on our side.” He added, “This should not be a leisurely process,” according to several people in the room.

A few minutes later, Mr. Obama replied, “John, I can assure you this won’t be leisurely,” according to several attendees. “No one feels more urgency to get this right than I do.”

If you’ve been following The BAG for much time at all, you know a key motive for our existence is to watchdog the visual media when it comes to amplifying right wing narratives and lines of attack. I’m not saying that is exactly what is in play in the example above, but it is curious that McCain’s coded attack on Obama (using the term “leisurely” while soldiers are dying to imply Obama can’t make a decision) should coincide with a story that earned prominent play not in todays’ Arts section (at least, not in the print edition) but in the National section.

And what was that story exactly?

It details the Obama’s announcement yesterday that, by tradition, they had settled on 45 new pieces of art borrowed from Washington museums to decorate the White House residence. Now, I have no issue with the article itself but what I do find curious, however, is the one artwork out of the 45 that the editors settled on to highlight, a piece by Ed Ruscha feature in both the print and on-line editions of the story.

And then, maybe it’s just an innocuous thing, but are people that dense that the caption (‘I think I’ll … ‘ by the California artist Ed Ruscha. It deals with the subject of indecision.”) need belabor the obvious?

…By the way, I wouldn’t at all call Obama indecisive, but I do think he’s vulnerable here given his tendency to, as he frequently says, “take time to get it right,” and to use process (in many cases, extensive and time-consuming ones, as we’ve seen with health care) as both a philosophy and a strategy.

(image: Ed Ruscha via NYT)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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