CSM has fifteen paragraphs or so weighing out the political merits of the Paul Ryan P90X photos. ABC about the same. Like gorging on junk food, news site and blogs are feasting on the Ryan P90X photos. TIME, of course, scores a PR coup by sitting on them for a year only to release them on the eve of the suddenly vital Veep debate. But while (beyond the gawking) an actual pre-debate is on about the nature of the photos and whether they “hurt” or “help,” the net effect is that they are moving the focus and attention span away from the debate, the issues and, particularly, Ryan’s muscularly extreme budget and abortion agenda.
So, does Ryan really look like a mix of Screech and A.C. Slater? (And no, I had never heard of either before, but now thanks to Campaign ’12, I do.) And do the photos — as NY Mag asks — compare to the Seinfeld mimbo (didn’t know that reference, either); Woody Allen in a sperm suit; or Dukakis in the tank?
Well, in the latter instance, it doesn’t at all because the Dukakis image, on the level of a resume item, was a genuine (if catastrophic) photo-op attempting to represent the candidate to the American people. In this case, the fact NY Mag would even liken the two reflects what’s so messed up. The photo of Ryan was taken almost a year ago, the context: the Congressman posing as a runner up for TIME’s media-created “Person of the Year.” If these photos demonstrated any relevance about Ryan’s background or identity (like, say, the photos of then Senate candidate Scott Brown modeling for Cosmo), that would be one thing. But they don’t. Essentially, the Ryan photos are a goof. And the fact they would be elevated like this the day before the debate, so much so they would win the internet, is a cynical act — one suggesting to an already disillusioned public that this campaign deserves no better.
(photo: Gregg Segal for TIME. caption: An outtake from the Paul Ryan photo shoot—which was inspired by Ryan’s own Facebook photos that showed him working out with P90X creator Tony Horton.)