Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 16, 2015

The GOP Debate with the Sound Off

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are seen debating on video monitors in the press room during the GOP debate.

So, almost a year into the GOP campaign, what can we glean about the race from Reuters’ 33-photo slideshow of last night’s final 2015 presidential debate held in Vegas?

The shot above has probably the most to tell. If the slideshow is full of pics of Trump showing his trademark mocking face, this is curiosly different. What it captures is a complete role reversal, with Bush, the anointed front runner going into the campaign, as the jester, and Trump, the King. (No, not the Burger King.)

Suffer everyone, including Trump himself, that he appears as the more serious figure. And credit Reuters for a screenshot in which the the left side of the screen could actually be imagined as the acceptance speech at the Republican convention.

Donald Trump, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina leave the stage at the conclusion of the GOP debate.

Even if the photo likens a political campaign to a beauty contest, this was a horrible editorial choice. As the only photo in the edit featuring Carly Fiorina, there are two possibilities for unpacking a photo where she appears to be attending to her looks. It’s either intended to recall Trump’s misogynistic attack on Fiorina’s face and her appearance two debates back, and/or Reuters has also been infecting by Trump’s sexism.

Donald Trump talks with Ben Carson during a commercial break at the GOP debate.

The other day, I wrote about a coming visual backlash against Trump following his call for “a Muslim ban.” This photo goes down that path. Up now, most debate shots like this would have shown Carson laughing. Because he’s not nearly amused though — and because this catches Trump in a face even more dickish than usual — the picture is more laughing at DT than laughing with him. It hard not to frame Trump, by the way, without calling out the larger campaign as a farce.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz check their watches during a commercial break as Ben Carson looks on during the GOP debate.

Of course, it’s one of those silly, off-beat pictures that editors throw into slideshows. On another level, though, it speaks to the new media darling in the race. There has been plenty of media chatter lately on Cruz synchronizing with Trump, patronizing him while aligning with the far-right gene pool. You could almost say that Cruz is marking time, letting Trump (and Carson) set the pace (before they time out).

Ayla Brown sings "God Bless America" prior to the start of a forum for lower polling candidates at the GOP debate.

This formality took place just before the undercard. Yes, God Bless America, and this insufferable campaign doubling as an entertainment show.

(photo 1: David Becker/Reuters. caption 1: Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are seen debating on video monitors in the press room. photos 2 – 5: Mike Blake/Reuters. caption 2: Donald Trump, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina leave the stage at the conclusion of the debate. caption 3: Donald Trump talks with Ben Carson during a commercial break. caption 4: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz check their watches during a commercial break as Ben Carson looks on. caption 5: Ayla Brown sings “God Bless America” prior to the start of a forum for lower polling candidates.)

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