January 28, 2008
The McCain Line
by Stephen Ferry
Today’s NYT has a prime example of photographer Stephen Crowley’s irreplaceable political observation.
The relatively relaxed posture of the two McCains contrasts well with the tense-ish, on-the-ball-of-one-foot stride of the press secretary, who is professionally on duty, yet nonetheless dressed down. Perhaps McCain’s appeal as a plain speaker is based on this real lack of pretension, or so this seemingly unrehearsed moment would suggest.
All three are crossing the threshold from a beige triangular space into a larger lighter beige one, symbolizing to me the passage from the limited contests up to now, onto the vast arena of Super Tuesday and beyond, where things are clearer, though not black-and-white. As can be literally seen in the picture, McCain is still not the clear front-runner going into that larger arena as his campaign strides ahead. Yet, he is confident, the perceived warrior heading fearlessly, purposefully, into the unknown.
The long cable running length-wise through the picture is amazing. That black line produces various feelings in me and suggests multiple scenarios. My main sense is one of uneasiness: this black-line almost a “flat-line,” suggesting hospitals, unforgiving medical charts, old age, death; all implications which are reinforced by the impersonal, shiny, institutionally-beige floor. Also, it recalls an opinion poll, which – invariably read left-to-right – suggests McCain’s situation through all the months he was sinking, and, at the same time, (because it ascends from McCain’s vantage point) reflects the steady success of McCain’s campaign since New Hampshire.
And, finally, that cable feels to me like something sordid. In its snake-like purpose, that slithering wire calls up a hidden power. Could that power be the inevitable sordidness of politics, or something unhealthy in McCain’s own unconscious? Or could it call up those lines of communication that run through every politician, starting and ending in secret? Unfortunately, those invisible connections, unseen before and unclear after, make me think of – dare I say it? - The Manchurian Candidate.
For all these suggestions and more, I recommend you watch out for Stephen Crowley’s work. He is one of the finest political observers we have.
(image: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. January, 2007. Florida. nytimes.com)