October 14, 2012

Obama: The Agony

This first photo above, taken near the end of Obama’s first year in office, seems to be having a second life lately. Although taken during a meeting on climate change  in October ’09 (the caption noting, perhaps defensively, it preceded some joking around), it’s mostly reflective of still earlier ones. The next two photos come from the “first 100 day” photoset during which time America was in a Wall St. induced death spiral and people were holding their breaths to see if the relatively unknown and untested Obama could pull it out. Reading the photos at the time, images I believe the Administration is quite proud of, they convey a mixture of “finding a way through this darkness” and “I feel your pain.”

Four years later, though, (America being a largely ahistorical society), this White House photo — especially in the aftermath of the Denver debate —  has an almost entirely different ring. Illustrating articles with titles such as: “Obama media adviser David Axelrod fights to regain control of the message“, “Team Obama petrified by fear over post debate poll results” or “Obama: Keep the Change,” what was once a profile of the steady pilot in a tornado now looks a lot more like the stock photo for a Lexapro ad.

Through nearly two presidential election cycles, the picture of Obama has been remarkably consistent. He’s been recognized as the level-headed one. The professor. The grown up in the room. After the Denver debacle, however, it seems there’s an instinct to take another look at him. And what it seems people are looking to get a handle on is just how much the agony is internal.

(photos 1 – 3: Pete Souza/White House. caption 1: Oct. 14, 2009: “The President appears in deep thought as he and senior advisor David Axelrod listen during a climate change meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. A moment later, he was laughing at a humorous exchange.” caption 2: President Barack Obama reflects during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 29, 2009. caption 3: President Barack Obama during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 29, 2009. )

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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