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February 17, 2009

Catering To The Right

Obama-McConnell-WH.jpg

This latest slide show from the White House — tracking the President’s marketing of the stimulus bill — seeks to clearly demonstrate (and document) just how much Obama made efforts at bipartisanship.

Though I think I understand photographer Pete Souza’s caption — that the event was more formal and didn’t give people a chance to mix casually — the language is interesting. It emphasizes how Obama broke with the proceedings (in other words, went out of his way) to connect with McConnell. The way it’s written, however, the phrase (considering the “though”) has another (somewhat more frustrated and harder political) sense too, expressing how Obama’s “talk” with McConnell took place in spite of the evening’s sociability.

Regarding the photo itself, it is interesting how it reveals a polarization with the two right-wingers, with McConnell and Roberts lined up and balancing off the left half of the photo while Obama and the waiter carry the other half. I’m hesitant to put too much weight on the racial split (although there was a joke going around during and right after the election — among blacks, mostly, as far as I could tell — that the black candidate was being brought in to clean up the white man’s mess). Where there is a definitive parallel between Obama and the waiter, however, is in the way Obama — in physically and socially extending himself to the Minority Leader — finds himself in the catering mode.

I guess the question at this point (especially if the GOP is largely stiffing him) is: to what extent does Obama really mean to reach out as opposed to have the moral (and visual) evidence that he tried.

WH slideshow: The story of the economic recovery package

  • JayDenver

    I think the photo calls for a caption contest. What is the “Chef Executive” saying to the tight-lipped senator?

  • http://politicalwire.com/archives/2009/02/17/quote_of_the_day.html yg

    from politicalwire:
    Quote of the Day
    “House Republicans surround the President after the meeting. Many of them were seeking his autograph. Every House Republican eventually voted against the bill.”
    – White House photo, caption under photo 4 of 23 in slide show.

  • Gasho

    I think Obama actually thinks that Rationality and Reason can rule the day. If he can pitch his programs and make a rational analysis backing up his proposals.. why wouldn’t intelligent people listen.
    Republicans are brainwashed, that’s why.
    … but it’s nice to see someone try.

  • http://www.errolmorris.com/content/interview/stopsmiling0306.html yg

    I guess the question at this point (especially if the GOP is largely stiffing him) is: to what extent does Obama really mean to reach out as opposed to have the moral (and visual) evidence that he tried.
    i don’t understand your question. you suspect his bipartisan outreach is merely a posture? his initial outline of the stimulus plan started out tax cuts. isn’t that indication?
    or are you asking to what extent will obama seek to be bipartisan at the expense of policy?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/msobel marc sobel
  • http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2009/02/23/090223taco_talk_hertzberg yg

    hertzberg had a nice quote:
    Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball.
    i can see how having a bipartisan posture can act as a form of self-defense. obama reaches out his hand in friendship, republicans slap it away, the slapper gets deemed the bad guy and public opinion moves to obama in response. but i do not think this is purely a cynical political calculation. as obama once said, bridging divides is in his DNA. because he’s half white and half black, his entire life he’s had to reconcile both cultures, both identities.

  • Alan

    Every picture tells a story… I see Obama here as a thoughtful young man who’s at a party, and he notices a lonely old person off by himself in a corner. looking sad and detached. Being a kind-hearted type, the young man goes over and makes some conversation with the senior citizen. It’s nothing terribly important that he’s saying. He’s just trying to engage the old guy, because he feels kind of sorry for him.
    I know that’s not what’s going on, but when I look at the image without thinking about what I know of the characters and the situation, that’s how it plays for me. And, it looks like poor old McConnell forgot to put in his dentures.

  • bystander

    I would be infinitely relieved, and a good deal more hopeful™, if I thought Obama was offering an appearance of bipartisanship as opposed to actually seeking it. If he’s seeking it, he will not find it. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how conciliatory he is. Apparently, bipartisanship is something Republicans have been instructed to seek, but are prohibited from actually offering.

  • freeeman

    The president travels 15 years into the future and talks to George Will.

  • http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/02/08/opinion/08richlarge.jpg yg

    what do those red, white, & blue ribbons with medallion mean? the ones that mitchell and roberts are wearing around their neck.

  • http://www.errolmorris.com/content/interview/stopsmiling0306.html yg

    initially i was mad with the senate cuts in the surplus package. david obey said they were at the expense of a million jobs. but without the 3 republicans, the bill wouldn’t have passed through without the risk of filibuster. the netroots wanted to dare republicans to filibuster the bill. but if that had happened, what’s already a contentious atmosphere would have grown even worse. we still have healthcare legislation to pass through. those 3 republicans might make all the difference.

  • elfpix

    Why do people elect people with such weak chins?

  • EdC

    I think the point of the caption is that Obama was speaking to McConnell — a colleague of sorts, in the business of government — at the ostensibly social event that was the Alfalfa dinner.

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