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December 2, 2008

Obama In Two Postures (Or, Leveling Out The Terminator)

Obama Schwarzenegger 1.jpg

Obama Schwarzenegger 2.jpg

I’m curious to see who runs which one of these over the next 12 hours or so.

When it comes to power politics and body language, you couldn’t find a bigger contrast. In the top image, Obama not only takes on the full sun but in dipping his left shoulder, he looks off balance while gazing up at the larger and completely planted Schwarzenegger. That, combined with the effusive grin makes Barack look like someone in a fan line, like: “I just met the Terminator!”

In comparison, the second shot has the men more level (given the uphill tilt in Obama’s favor). Besides exercising authority in controlling Arnold’s arm and using Schwarzenegger to block the glare, the President-elect also commands the attention of the governors behind.

The juxtaposition is significant, at this point, as a visual precursor to the fortunes of the new administration. Knowing that Obama, in all his confidence, is going to be severely tested, the question is, will adversity weaken or strengthen him? If the answer is more definitive in one direction or the other, count on photo editors to choose accordingly.

(Revised: 6:50 pm PST)

(image 1: Jeff Haynes/Reuters. Bipartisan meeting of the National Governor’s Association. Congress Hall, Philadelphia. Dec. 2, 2008. image 2: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

  • scarshapedstar

    Heh. Can’t we find a shot that reveals how much taller Obama really is?

  • Victor F

    I do see Obama as being more starstruck in the top photo, but what I’m struck by more than anything, in both photos, is Obama’s ability to disarm the Gubernator. It seems to me that Schwarzenegger is a (somewhat) progressive Republican and he actually seems to listen to his constituents. It seems to me, from these photos anyway, that both of them respect and admire certain things about each other.
    For me, it’s nice to see two superstars meet and shine in mutual respect. That’s what it looks like to me.

  • db

    Both photos suck because of the lighting. That said, I suspect the first one would be used. First, there’s the whole fanboy thing with Obama’s posture and smile, regardless of how he actually thinks of Arnold. The press and politicians love Movie Stars, and this reinforces the illusion of celebrity. Even you referred to Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator”.
    Also, the shadow across Obama’s face in the second photo, along with the light peeking around his chin, take away too much from his face to make it compelling to an editor.
    It will be interesting to see which one, if either, is actually used.

  • DC Exile

    Doesn’t bother me. The Federal Government should be in subservient role to the states on most issues, especially the economy. I like the humility the photos portray — real or imagined. A governor is just a governor. The president, well he’s the president with powers beyond imagining for a governor. He is the servant of the servants of the American people — writ large. A new day has dawned.

  • ice weasel

    I’m with db on both images.
    That said, there’s no way any decent photographer or editor would have let the top one see the light of the day. It’s really just a bad photograph. One of my rules for judging something like this is, if the all people in the image are anonymous, does it still stand? Without recognizable faces, much less the next president and the governor of California, that image never makes it out of the camera.

  • cleotis

    I believe that Obama is pulling the old, ‘You’re-crushing-my-hand-bit’. Looks more like Arnold um, er, pulled his finger

  • Books Alive

    I thank Jeff Haynes for giving the location of this meeting, Congress Hall. This building is just around the corner from Independence Hall, and was used by Congress from 1790-1800. The House met on the ground floor, the Senate above. You can call 267-519-4295 and select (enter number) 15 for a 2-minute history lesson about Congress Hall if you like!
    My first thought on seeing the difference in their heights was that Schwarzenegger was standing on a riser, but I can’t tell from the photos if the back row of desks is elevated above the rest.

  • Posey

    I agree with Weasel. That was my first thought — Obama is pretending that the larger, taller
    Terminator is crushing his hand, and I was surprised that others had a different take.
    I also like the idea that these two guys can fool around like this. Sometimes a joke is just a joke.

  • JoPa

    The truth is that Obama is 1/2 inch taller than Schwarzenegger, but he is standing in a well. Despite being fully aware of how irrational it is, these images bother me on some gut level. I guess that’s the power of imagery.

  • jean

    Now, I’m NOT fond of the Terminator, except as the Terminator, but I think he straightened up, possibly to shade Obama’s face. A polite move.
    It looks like a mutual admiration society to me. They will probably work together, to the screaming of California progressives. That is how Obama campaigned. He was clear on that.

  • donna

    I love, love, love how Obama does this. He always respects how the other person feels about themselves. Then he walks up and takes over.
    Brilliant man.

  • domepuppy

    Obama is much, much taller than Schwarzenegger. But Schwarzenegger has been managing his height issue since the body building days. He’s even better at it than Bush. The governors are definitely standing on a riser. As a genuinely tall man, of course, Obama has no problem with any of this. Totally relaxed.

  • elfpix

    Barack’s been talking since Nov. 4th about how much he worries about the doors to the outside world closing. So I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t be completely open to meeting every one of these governors. The neat thing about him, that comes through in this pair of images, is the gusto with which he meets even those governors who emanate the most confidence/strength/solidity/extroversion/curiosity/whatever else you want to attribute to the Terminator.
    And Barack’s habit of equalizing or superiorizing himself with the hand on the upper arm routine. We saw him do that to the Shrub who became smaller at the very moment that Barack touched him.
    The Terminator is not likely to suffer a put-down, but he could hardly miss the equalizing effect of the gesture. Clearly in these photos he is comfortable with it, although it’s easy to imagine that he’s not experienced it very often.
    And it’s not hard to imagine that he’s not certain that Barack is actually his equal, either. After all, the Republicans have been harping for months on how Barack has no adminitrative experience.

  • richard dent

    USA Today used the balanced photo.

  • Hermetically Sealed

    I believe that Obama is pulling the old, ‘You’re-crushing-my-hand-bit’.
    Posted by: cleotis | Dec 03, 2008 at 07:28 AM
    Yeah, this was my first thought– Obama’s just having a bit of fun. LOL

  • chimproller

    Arnold is NOT much taller than Obama – Arnie is 6′2″, Obama is about 6′1.5″.

  • Ed in Montana

    Having met the “Gubernator” twenty years ago, I was shocked on how short he actually is, without the benefit of raised shoes. In normal shoes, Arnold is about 5′ 4″ or 5 foot 5 inches tall. How could I tell? My wife who is 5′6″ tall looked down at him on a level surface. Of course, Arnold is around 6 feet wide at his shoulders though.

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