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September 7, 2007

Nancy’s Pull To Give In



As profoundly upset as I am by all the tent-folding in advance of the much-touted Iraq War September showdown, I thought I’d briefly survey the visual consequences.

Many of you will recall Nancy Pelosi’s clever inaugural photo-op upon gaining control of the House.  That image cleverly positioned Pelosi and the Democrats as the guardians of America’s children and the conscience of future generations.  And from there, the new Speaker had the President and scandal-ridden Republicans on the ropes for months.

What defined that momentum was a willingness to swing freely and let the hawks fall where they may.  Vanity Fair, for example, touting “blue as the new red,” portrayed Nancy in front of the Capitol dragging a red scarf — as if trailing the trophy skin of the former Republican majority.  Of the numerous examples of the blood letting, Pelosi — in a mothers role — punked Bush at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner in March for his lightweight belligerence, and visually one-upped him in May by actually staging a signing ceremony for a war withdrawal bill before Bush had a chance to veto it.

With Pelosi’s agressiveness in confronting the war having evaporated over the past weeks and months, however, the newswire photo above, taken yesterday, is as curious as it is painful.  In the shot, a baby snags Pelosi’s necklace during a photo op challenging the President not to veto a children’s health bill.

Not to take anything away from Pelosi’s domestic agenda, but the fact she would push for face time right now in the name of any other issue than the war is, in my mind, a sign of capitulation.  Her being constrained, compromised and pulled from the neck is also a fitting metaphor for her new passivity in the face of the fight.  And, whereas Pelosi expertly controlled the symbolism last fall as the champion of the youngest among us, it is highly fitting, as the war propaganda rolls out fast and thick, that she is being railroaded by an infant.

The fact Pelosi has bailed on the war battle, however, does not mean that others — taking up her own visual template — aren’t pushing pointedly ahead with the theme.  Take the anti-war ad, for example, produced by the group Americans Against Escalation In Iraq, which is running in states with key moderate Senate Republicans.  In the spot, we see children in slightly baggy military uniforms struggling and stumbling through training exercises.

If the crux of politics and advertising involves an appeal to the emotions, this ad represents the natural evolution — given the latest crossroad on war funding and sanctioning — of the symbolism Pelosi set in motion less than a year ago.  Why is it, however, that advocacy groups are mostly alone right now in advancing the not-so-metaphorical threat to all those young futures?

In this skulking surrender, there are any number of politicians that deserve to have their chains pulled and necks wrung right now.

(image 1: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP.  Washington.  September 6, 2007.  Via YahooNews.  image 2: “Don’t Send Our Kids to Fight an Endless War.”  Americans Against Escalation In Iraq)

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  • Nell

    If they were anything but the most transparent electoral front, AAEI would be running those ads in the districts of the too-many Democratic members of Congress who aren’t representing their districts on Iraq, either.
    Don’t hold your breath.

  • wmcq

    As I recall, you were a lot less positive about the picture of Nancy and the kids when it came out. I think the judgement then was that it miniaturized her and made her less serious and grown up…

  • The BAG

    wmcq. You’re right. The readership here, right from the start, however, understood it was the picture Pelosi was looking to convey, and was also an effective one in blending a softer, nuturing impression with one of confidence and assertion. I didn’t see it right off.

  • PTate in FR

    Interesting take on the visual evidence re the Dems.
    My eye keeps getting stuck by this picture. It’s cluttered. My depth perception keeps being fooled by the microphone between the viewer and the woman in black on the left side. I keep seeing the microphone as a fancy hat or a a horn or something. But the woman in black stands there serenely, with that lovely expression on her face, her hands folded calmly in front of her. I wonder who or what she is waiting for?
    Meanwhile, on the left side, the light side, the confusion of the necklace. Pelosi is off balance–but note that her hands are also folded in front of her. The arm that is trying to extract necklace from child’s hand belongs to the child’s mother. Pelosi does look as though she has been throttled by a sprig in spring green.
    What is significant in this picture is what is missing: “War? There’s a war on? The economy is tanking, huh?” Is this because women have been effectively thrown into disarray by the war machine, throttled like Nancy?

  • Someone else

    Nell is right about AAEI.
    As for the Dems taking on the SCHIP veto, c’mon – they have to do something other than prolong the war. The SCHIP fight is the equivalent of the battle over the Clinton health care initiative. The Dems can’t do enough to win this one.
    There’s also the coming budget veto battle. That’s important too.

  • 88

    Thank you for all your wonderful work.
    A small point re a passing reference in your post:
    I’ve learned in the last few years that there’s no such thing in national politics as a moderate Republican. The so-called moderates exploit the label to the hilt, and when push comes to shove, invariably side en masse with the extremist White House.
    They are not moderates, they are enablers.

  • Johanna

    She has never, in her photo ops, reflected the gravity of the times or issues, and this is no different. There is always delight in being who she is, where she is, in her pictures.

  • Johanna

    In fact, the red scarf dragging photo of her on the capitol steps is the Pelosi equivalent of the Bush “mission accomplished” picture — a triumphal pose taken down by later events.

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