Yes, I’m back. Long time readers know that every August, I slip off the grid just north of Watsonville (remember bootlegging the signal that year from the fire station?) and also do some camping in Yosemite. This year, we burrowed in to Yosemite Creek at about 8,000 feet. In the meantime, it looks like there was a little political news. (Full disclosure: I did see the USS Wisconsin shot last Saturday on my way up the 101.)
I’m sure plenty of key strokes were spent taking the two non-veterans to task for the Norfolk backdrop. What’s important to emphasize, however, is how much the disturbingly random USS Wisconsin setting (Virginia a swing state + Ryan from Wisconsin. Shwing! …Or, was it McCain nostalgia?) only amplifies Romney’s lack of identity and, consequently, how at-loose-ends this campaign is for coherent, consistent and substantive themes and symbolism.
What I really love, though, is the clever version at the top of this post photographed by Jason Reed of Reuters. (I should emphasize that the “straighter” and more widely circulated version of the view was this one. I don’t know why CNN can’t be bothered with photo credits but I think it was distributed by Reuters by way of the Landov agency.)
Lined up as they are between the two facing flags, Reed drives home the silliness of the military setting by turning the boys into a “patriotism sandwich.” At the same time, Reed brilliantly orients senior and junior as close as possible to those turrets. I don’t know how consciously the Romney people thought about it, but I imagine the guns were meant to convey an aura of power and, more particularly, the sense of the Romney candidacy as now a double-barrel threat. Given the absence of military experience and the fact that Romney and Ryan are far prettier than they are foreboding, however, the photo is hilarious, the phallic nature of the image setting up a potency that the team not only can’t match, but isn’t even about.
The most substantive messaging fail here, however, is that Romney and the GOP, in sublimating the wives and the families in favor of flag waving and the instinct to go to war with just about anything, not only punt on their economic message, but seem to almost thumb their noses at the women’s vote.
Looking forward, I wanted to mention two more photos from the past week which caught my eye, both having to do with the Ryan choice, Romney’s M.O. and the ghost of Palin/McCain. This first shot, from the AP, drives home how much Romney needed a charismatic pick to juice his campaign. As much as Romney was willing and able to take such a risk, Ryan physically as well as ideologically fit the bill. The problem, however, is that Romney is not one to sublimate himself (or, in this case, “cede the focus”) to anyone and, as such, has bought himself one huge personal conflict.
Although Ryan is far from the airhead and show pony Palin was, McCain’s cringing in their joint interviews thoroughly justified, I was struck by the similarities here. In this case, though, the dynamics have to do with how much a historically singular and dominating CEO has much patience for sharing the stage with any V.P.
(photo 1: Jason Reed/Reuters caption: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, left, stands with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after being introduced as Romney’s vice-presidential running mate during a campaign event at the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 11, 2012. photo 2: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP via couriermail caption: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, with his newly announced vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan during a campaign rally in Manassas, Virginia. photo 3: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP via couriermail caption: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, with his newly announced vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan during a campaign rally in Manassas, Virginia. Romney/Ryan screenshot: CBS. McCain/Palin screenshot: CBS News with Katie Couric. February 11, 2009.)