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August 29, 2008

Our Man On The Floor: The Obama Connection

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The difference between Obama and Clinton (either one) is that the Clintons are like LBJ, and Obama is like JFK, or RFK, or even Reagan.

Obama is a personal politician and the Clintons are parliamentarians.  Although one imagines Obama will be perfectly adept at coalition building, bringing home the bacon, and managing a bureaucracy, his overriding strength is that he communicates directly to the individual.

Eighty thousand people, and every one feels like he’s talking directly to them.

Update 10:13 am MST:  In the previous version of this post, written at four in the morning as team effort, we were drawing a comparison between Obama (and JFK and RFK) and the Clintons (and LBJ) simply (we believed) as a way to highlight Obama’s overriding skill at communicating to the individual.  In the light of dawn after a long week, however, I see how the comments have the unintended effect of rekindling “Clinton versus Obama” and, more importantly, detracting from the overall story of the evening and the images.

In a week deliberately laden with historical echoes (JFK’s 1960 Los Angeles Coliseum speech, MLK’s 1963 March on Washington, and even LBJ’s 100th birthday), what shone through on the final night as Barack Obama made his triumphant acceptance of the Democratic nomination was, once again, his personal connection and even magic.

The man in the first image under Obama is his political mentor, Emil Jones, president of the Illinois State Senate.

(Images © Alan Chin.  Denver. 2008)

  • John Lucaites

    Actually, the comparison might be unfair in both directions. Clinton (Bill) was much, much more than a parliamentarian, as was demonstrated quite aptly in his speech the other night. And Obama is much, (very much) more complex and engaged than Ronald Reagan (for however much he was the “great communicator”). The comparisons to the Kennedy boys is more salutary, but it also sets Obama against a pretty high, almost god-like standard that is a bit worrisome.

  • Chris

    I think your comparisons are specious. Bill Clinton was someone who connected deeply on a personal level with people as well. LBJ?! Perhaps the likeness to the realpolitik mastery of Hillary is apt, but I don’t think anyone had the warm-and-fuzzies about LBJ that people had about Bill. Hell, I thought he sold us out repeatedly (NAFTA, DoMA, Welfare “reform”) and I almost got teary during his speech.

  • Ginny

    These photos are *amazing.* I think both Clinton and Obama connect with people, although in different ways. With Bill, we’re always looking back. With Barack, we’re looking forward. But the photos sent shivers down my spine, they are so evocative and elegant.

  • catfood

    For those of us watching on TV, the choice of backdrop for the speech was excellent. One could easily forget that Obama was in a stadium filled with 70,000 people and imagine that he was addressing the nation from the Oval Office.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Obama-08 reminds me most of Mr. Nixon and the election of 1968, what with his “secret plan” to end The War — while the Pentagon goes all AirWar haywire on us. Many of us were happy to vote against anything remotely connected to LBJ; fwiw, i still despise this man with every fibre of my being (that i loathe Bush/Cheney with even more intensity is saying a lot, folks).
    i’m not sure where this notion that “Senator Obama is a Liberal” comes from ~ this is a Republican characterization, after all. Perhaps this ‘liberalsim’, inherent that is accepted prima facie is another example of the kinds of stereotypes many white people have, such as “all black people are hip,” or something? Mr. Obama is anti-BUSH, without a doubt: that Mr. Bush, (and most Republicans) are notConservatives“, is rarely explored or explained by American news narrators, imho.

  • Bruce

    I heard they served Kool-Aid at this event. How was it?

  • roland thoms

    Were these color shots originally?

  • yesterday

    Obama-08 reminds me most of Mr. Nixon and the election of 1968, what with his “secret plan” to end The War — while the Pentagon goes all AirWar haywire on us. Many of us were happy to vote against anything remotely connected to LBJ
    gonzo, what the hell are you talking about? obama doesn’t offer up a “secret plan” to end the war.
    if anybody is nixonian, it’s mccain.
    mccain’s insistence of “victory with honor” in iraq echoes nixon’s promises of “peace with honor.”
    don’t blame obama for any guilt you may have for the stupidity of your having voted for nixon.

  • Alan Chin

    yes, my coverage all week of the DNC has been black+white conversion of digital images…a process that I used to think might be a bit silly. However, this series is part of my ongoing project on American politics, most of which up until now has been shot on B+W film and then scanned. that includes the material on BAGNewsNotes from the New Hampshire and Ohio primaries earlier this year.
    because of the time constraints of the DNC, I thought I might save time by shooting digitally. (I have shot many rolls of B+W at the same time.) But I have discovered that the digital editing process and the conversion to B+W takes about as much time as developing my film would have.
    in any case, my choice for B+W, whether from film or digital, has to do with documenting the pure emotions of the experience before me, without the distractions and seductions of color.

  • Roland Thom

    Thank you–just curious as I am considering digital. Enjoyed the portfolio quite a bit.

  • Cactus

    I cannot help but wish that Alan were operating those Faux cameras during the events. Someone remarked that the Faux guys thought they were showing people who looked bored. However, since they so seldom see it, they didn’t recognize the faces of people just listening. And I continue to marvel that Alan’s photos seem to enable the viewer to ‘read’ what they are feeling on their faces. May be totally subjective on my part, but it happens so often with Alan’s photos that it must be some talent he has.
    You can see the close-to-tears pride in Jones’ face. My first thought after Obama’s speech to 38,085,000 Americans was, ‘I’m glad I lived long enough to see this.’ The guy in the glasses looks like he’s having that same thought.
    Alan, I know nothing about digital, but I did notice that some of your shots are very dark (at least on my screen), sometimes to the point of obscuring details. Is that a factor of the conversion, where in the original/color those details would have been more available?
    BTW and OT: I have a new definition for GWB: Governing while black!

  • donna

    The reaction shots were what got to me during the speech. Everyone was simply so moved by him, and it played so well on TV. I was watching with my brother and his wife who were skeptical of Obama before the speech; by the time it ended they were sold.
    It was a beautiful, very well done, perfect political moment. I don’t think McCain’s little WTF move is going to derail the Obama Biden campaign in the slightest.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    yesterday : “if anybody is nixonian, it’s mccain.
    Wiki => : “Nixonian, or “Nixonite” is a term used to refer to Republicans who, rather than being conservative, tend to promote high domestic spending and an active regulatory regime, along with an aggressive foreign policy…
    …iirc, Mr. Obama’s vaguely stated agenda is to escalate The War -?
    Mr. McCain’s ‘War Plan’, apparent ~ not unlike Messrs. Bush/Cheney ~ is to simply continue the US military occupation of Baghdad (ie., it remains IRAQ-centric: the entire western Anbar Province having been surrendered last week; there being little or no US presence in either Mosul = “Kurdistan” to the north, or Basra = Zone d’Occupation Iranienne in the south).
    i fear you have succumbed to the hubris not of 1968 but post-72 “Nixonian Watergate narrative” sound-bites, yesterday.

  • yesterday

    your wiki cite, gonzo, doesn’t negate the similarity of mccain and nixon’s sloganeering. they both offered up lies to keep the country in war.
    i’m still waiting to hear about obama’s “secret plan.”

  • MonsieurGonzo

    doesn’t negate the similarity of mccain and nixon’s sloganeering…
    no… but then, i wasn’t talking about Mr. McCain, you were.
    i’m still waiting to hear about obama’s “secret plan.”
    me, too.
    But this promise, implicit that “Mr. Obama is going to ‘End The War’” is an illusion, imho. look, obviously ~ likening Mr. Obama to Mr. Nixon was intended to be provocative : done so to bring attention (in the minds of Progressive, typical BNN readers) to consider the possibility that Mr. Obama (or most African Americans, fwiw) is neither an idealist nor is he as “Liberal” as his political base, apparent of the young/educated ‘netroots progressives’ ~ might lead one to presume.

  • J Sandifer

    How can anyone deny that Barrack would help our country? He is exactly what we need in our desperate times! My only fear…is a fear campaign that the middle of the country bites on again. Let’s change politics as we know it and move this country forward!

  • jean

    I like all the pics, but the top pic…hmmm…it is so full of promise.

  • Captain Mercury

    One person that Bill Clinton “connected deeply” with was Monica Lewinsky, among others. Barrack will connect just as deeply with your wallet, because his tax and socialist policies will drive unemployment to record heights. His big government approach to health care will keep a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. And, his terrorist and anti-American associations will ensure his continued support among those who hate this country, including his wife, his preachers, and Bill Ayers. His speech gave me the same somber look on my face as these sad looking folks pictured.
    It would be just as sad if Hillary had been nominated. It’s so obvious that she’s only staying married to Bill because she thinks it serves her politically, although I truly think Bill’s statements and dust-ups during her campaign only hurt her. They’re both such phonies. Bill was truly a disgrace to his office. He left an indelible and disgraceful mark on this nation, and on Monica’s dress. I really don’t blame her, though. The Clintons, and Democrats in general have always been hard to swallow.

  • Nick Sorrentino

    Fascism is a scary thing.

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