Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 2, 2013

White House Flickr: Looking for a Leg Up on Syria

I guess I’m not as apoplectic right now as most everyone else is about the President and Syria. In my mind, at least, it’s vintage Obama — still studying, looking to spread the responsibility around. If it’s fashionable to say he looks weak, I’d say that’s more reflective of Washington’s obsession with action over process, as well as what I’d call the insta-culture’s “tryanny of now.” Of course, the man did draw a line in the sand and also committed to acting last week. Still, its likely that what happens next will so shift the set of terms that the heavy breathing over Obama’s supposed inaction will become forgotten or irrelevant.

That doesn’t mean the President feels he can sit back at all though. My sense of Saturday’s White House Flickr shot is that the President is trying, perhaps a little too hard, to compensate for the perceived foot dragging — as if looking for a literal leg up on the situation. With Boehner on the phone and Obama (dream on!) looking for cover from Congress, the finger likely captures the punctuation of a point. Still, the way the finger and Frederic Remington’s bronze “Bronco Buster” are bisected by the cocked knee, the hand also has the sense of a pistol. (Along with the geometry of Rockwell’s “Statue of Liberty” as either an extension of the leg or the left arm’s next shift stop, it seems to catalyze the otherwise ultra-deliberate President as a multi-threat octopus in defense of liberty.

But then, Biden, as the counterpoint –lost in his head and holding his chin — basically undoes the whole thing.

(photo: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Speaker of the House Boehner, Saturday, August 31, 2013. Vice President Joe Biden listens at right.)

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