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March 23, 2009

Beyond The Rhetoric

Kraft Obama Tonight.jpg

Now, four days after Obama’s “Tonight Show” drop in, it’s interesting to consider the image TIME editors selected for the WH photo site. Set in the White House press corps file center, the Brooks Kraft picture emphasizes Obama’s Leno appearance as a performance, as a piece of political theatre.

In granting Obama his gift as a confident and skillful communicator, especially via the television medium, what the photo clearly emphasizes are the limits of such skill, especially with (the country in trouble and) reporters standing by for “real” news.

In his piece on Sunday, “Has a ‘Katrina Moment’ Arrived?“, Frank Rich crafts an argument that closely parallels this photo. Juxtaposing the Wall Street-friendly pedigree, inclinations and initial actions of Obama’s economic team with Obama’s populist and “re-regulatory” signals and communications to the American people, Rich lays out the contradiction plainly and simply in terms of governance versus rhetoric.

Rich highlights the limit too. In dramatic terms (considering the Katrina headline), he sees Obama as fast approaching the point where he must choose between mostly talking the talk and actually walking the walk.

(image: Brooks Kraft for Corbis/TIME.com)

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