Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Battle of the iconic photos: Who seems more presidential?

On May 1, 2003 George Bush stood on an aircraft carrier beneath a Mission Accomplished sign, and delivered a speech in which he declared victory in Iraq. Though the carrier was only 30 miles off-shore, and easily reached by helicopter, the president arrived on a fighter jet, and posed for pictures in his flight suit. 

100 percent of Fox viewers think Bush
landed the plane himself. He did not.
Nowadays, Bush's arrival on the carrier is understood to have been a cheap, cornball stunt, but at the time, the media loved it. Chris Mathews called it an "amazing display of leadership" Brian Williams said he "looked terrific" and Jon Scott of Fox and Friends said "..it was like the Beatles climbed out of that plane." Bob Scheifer said "As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time" and Joe Klein agreed saying, "Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day." And queen of the Bush fan boys, Laura Ingrahm said "...seeing President Bush get out of that plane, carrying his helmet, he is a real man. He stands by his word. That was a very powerful moment." [All quotes from here]

Now compare Bush's Herculean effort to look manly, with how Obama is carrying himself  in what is currently considered the iconic picture of his administration.

Unlike his strutting predecessor, Obama is content to let the general take center stage. He's not even the focal point of the picture; instead, he's off to the side, in a low seat. When I look at the Bush picture, I see insecurity, fear and a desperate desire to look powerful. In contrast, the Obama photo shows a man who is comfortable in his own skin, and who doesn't need props to project authority or command respect.

Obvious caveat: Photos are just photos. They aren't windows into the soul, and they don't reveal secrets about character or personality. Also, the Bush shot was posed, and the Obama picture is a candid. I'm sure candid shots of Bush exist in which he looks like someone who doesn't care about appearances or ceremony; likewise, I'm sure posed shots of Obama can be found in which he appears to be as much of a strutting fool as Bush does in his stupid flight suit. My comments in this post are a response to the pictures, and the pictures alone, though its always worth noting (again) that the morons in the media chose to ignore the points I've made in the postscript and were completely taken in by Bush's stunt. 

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