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August 2, 2005

Your Turn: Getting Framed

Robertscornyn

Monaroberts300

One reason I’ve been working the Roberts images so hard is because I’m fascinated by the rise of relatively unknown or “undefined” political figures. 

Bush basically came out of nowhere, and was a blank slate before he was elected.  (If you remember, people were still trying to decide which ideological direction he might bank right up to his election in 2000.)  Frist is also a figure who had little elected experience before he was swapped in for Lott — and now he’s being touted as a presidential candidate. 

Have we always had political Chauncey Gardiners (or Stepford Men or Manchurian Candidates) to endure, or are they now proliferating?  If we have more, what’s the reason?  Is it simply a trend toward more non-professional politicians?  Or, is there a growing tendency for powerful corporate, ideological and religious interests to pull (puppet) strings?

Does this first image say anything about these “manufactured” men?  What do you make of the multiple frames and reflections?  And, how seriously would you object if I argued that the big frame right behind Roberts wasn’t a mirror?  In the second image, is the magazine really challenging the Roberts enigma, or just smoothing it over? 

(Caption: Judge John G. Roberts, never alone, in the office of Senator John Cornyn on Monday as he continued to meet with legislators.)

(For larger version, see article here.)

(image: Carol T. Powers for The New York Times. July 26, 2005 at nyt.com. illustration: F. Harper.  Cover. August 5, 2005.  The Week Magazine)

  • http://theheretik.typepad.com/the_heretik/ The Heretik

    Have we always had political Chauncey Gardiners (or Stepford Men or Manchurian Candidates) to endure, or are they now proliferating? If we have more, what’s the reason? Is it simply a trend toward more non-professional politicians? Or, is there a growing tendency for powerful corporate, ideological and religious interests to pull (puppet) strings?
    A cynic would say we have always had only puppets Reagan certainly comes to mind. McKinley and Harding were similar figureheads with equal amounts of corruption.
    Eisenhower was wooed by Democrats before he ran as a Republican. If you look at the history of military figures being adopted as candidates for parties to latch on to and graft policies, Polk and Jackson come to mind as well.

  • Martin

    Am wowed by the soft warm colours of this pic, and the contrast between the calm solitude of the candidate and the active photographers in the mirror. Only his hands are somewhat disquieting,

  • eva

    Could the image behind Roberts be a photograph of some of Cornyn’s constituents? They don’t look like “the press”, more like a home town delegation come to visit their Senator.

  • mugatea

    It’s a good day when the morning begins thinking of Chauncey Gardiner.
    The mirror with the photographers in the background also represents the foreground. Because of the prints on each side, in similar frames, the contents of the mirror look as if they could be a painting.

  • Purple

    You’d think there might be some magazines to read or something in Cornyn’s lobby.

  • Gary

    What are we supposed to take away from the distension of Roberts’s face in “The Week Magazine” cover?
    a) the cat that ate the canary, the prospect of a secret, or potential and unacknowledged violence
    b) Roberts is replacing a woman
    c) this mouth/speaker is “approaching us,” in the style of a weapon or uncanny object in a 3-D horror film
    d) don’t think about Dan Quayle (just a whiff I get off his appearance)
    e) you will never know what I really think

  • http://www.neilcavanagh.com Neil

    Chauncey Gardiner was at least honest in his ignorance. An act is only truly an act when it’s self-conscious. These guys aren’t brainwashed, they know what they are doing. This is what a “professional politician” does; anything to get elected, whether it means playing the outsider or the dumbass or whatever.
    The caption insists that he is “never alone” as if this is somehow self-evident, while I’ve yet to see him photographed with anyone else.

  • melissa p

    Wow – the fingers! It looks like he is calm on the outside, enduring it all, but saying “I’ll F— you all” on the inside and his hands are giving it away.

  • Nina

    Agree with above. The mirror IS the subject of the photograph. Message: Roberts, as object, is notorious; of interest; fascinating. Without the mirror, the only interpretation is: Who is this smiling gentleman? We do not know, and will not be allowed to know, who he is.

  • Diane

    Eligantly seated, he looks like royalty. Calm. Human. A powerful charisma here, and he’ll be confirmed without a whimper, I predict.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    MainStream Media Narcissism
    right. this image is about the media, not the man.
    Roberts is irrelevant ~ as BAGman clues ya, he simply isn’t there.
    there. even before Reagan, political hacks sought out “personalities” to become politicians. to go all the way with it was to just retire satire, and go out and get a professional personality impersonator person ~ an Actor ~ and do it to it.
    “the politican”, “the judge”, etc., as just another role for an Actor to play ~ is prolly not post-modern enough nowadays. imho, the next crop of politicans will come from The Press
    …or, what people think the press is {grin}
    you know, pundits and such; after all, the generation growing up NOW, unlike most of us ~ will have no clue as to the real distinction between “NEWS” and “NEWS SHOW”.
    imho, The Press personality as logical next-step, post-modern politican ~ they will prolly be Right WingNuts, mainly; you know, values and all that rot. After all, they will have to answer to corporate sponsors.
    And their opposition, the so-called “Progressives” ?
    why {cough cough} prolly the Bloggers ^_^
    imho, the writing is on the wall, here: LAW no longer has anything to do with LAWYERS:
    Who needs precedent ? Did you see the latest poll ?

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    In the top picture, the image says that the man is insignificant compared to the fuss swirling around him — he is dwarfed by the couch, the focus of a flurry of cameras (which become art more than he does), and altogether appears as a tiny guy upon whom large forces are at work.
    In the lower picture, I see a cheerful bright-eyed guy about whom I can read little else — I think that the artist did a good job of not giving him a readable expression, which is effective even for those (such as myself) who don’t pause long enough initially to connect the background to the Mona Lisa (and thus to the quintessential mysterious smile). Works well as a comment on the enigma more than on the man.
    Of course, both of these images help support the common narrative that this man is mostly unknown (which may not be true for insiders) and that his choice is largely about process (i.e., avoiding a filibuster and the rest) rather than about him specifically. That narrative certainly carries implications for the state of our government (avoid conflict” rather than “look for leadership,” or even the puppetry you mention), but I’m not sure that the commentary is present in the images themselves.
    Thanks, as ever, for pointing these out!

  • Max HOuston

    >>Bush basically came out of nowhere, and was a blank slate before he was elected. (If you remember, people were still trying to decide which ideological direction he might bank right up to his election in 2000.) F
    Uh…wrong. I’m from Texas where Bush was governor. We are pretty familiar with his politics here. Maybe he was just unknown to you.

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