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March 11, 2009

The “Fifty Day” Snapshot

Obama Steps Up.jpg

At the fifty day mark of this Administration, I think this photo from yesterday’s TIME White House Photo Blog carries a bit of weight. The caption reads:

President Obama arrives in the East Room of the White House to sign an Executive Order on stem cells and a Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity.

On first pass, the image seems upbeat. With the economy going to hell, it means something that the President is rising with a feeling of purpose and also a spring in his step.

On the other hand, it does seem: Obama is running by as we sit in a dusty corner caught in the weeds; the Prez — especially that back leg — looks particularly skinny; and Obama’s also got that terse face on. (David, a reader who wrote me about the photo, caught the same double-edge. He read an attempt on Obama’s part for some self-deprecating humor — in contrast to an overall satirical sense, reflecting a “hoky near-sarcasm on the part of the photographer.”)

I see the photo as particularly relevant in light of the omniscient clawing Howard Fineman delivered to Obama in yesterday’s Newsweek. He sees “the establishment” as losing faith in Obama even though he “still has the approval of the people.” First, insert an eye roll. Second, just think about how much those intangible qualities and perceptions — such as, hope, trust and confidence — are absolutely critical factors in the sustenance of this country right now.

As much as this photo takes away from the President (and I’m interested in your take on whether and how much it does), it seems the basic momentum and ascension is necessary and good.

(image: Gerald Herbert/AP. March 10, 2009. Washington, D.C. via TIME White House photoblog)

  • dada

    He looks like a puppet.
    Thunderbirds are go!

  • travc

    Not a particularly good shot, much less a flattering one. Though my impression, once I get past the odd perspective effects, is that Obama is *busy* actually getting things done.
    Then there is all the psychobabble stuff… uphill work, determination, a bit awkward, ect ect.

  • Saleema

    This is the first picture I have seen of Obama looking idotic. Something about his gait isn’t sitting well with me. He looks to me to be happy. He’s got nothing to be up-beat and happy about. He’s going back on his campaign promises, and we have yet to see if his economic plan works or not. He shouldn’t be too confident.
    Mr. President, you can fool me once but you can’t fool me twice. Come next term, i’m casting my vote to vote you out! Promise breaker schmuck.

  • Lawrence Wirth

    Not a puppet, not idiotic, not happy looking. Simply hurrying to get the country out of the 8 year hole Bush’s crew put us in.

  • cenoxo


    …I think we can!

  • daveminnj

    doesn’t look happy, nor silly.
    looks dutiful, but like he’s having
    to shovel out an entire stable.
    also notice the jawlike shadows
    looming over him-as if he’s about
    to be swallowed whole.—a clever
    gimmicky shot that says more about
    the photographer (and editor) than
    about obama.

  • cenoxo

    It’s a bit off-topic, but does anyone else think the ol’ White House — with frayed carpet, pleated gold drapes, crystal candelabra, Greco-Roman trim, etc. — is starting to look a little tacky?

  • yg

    conflicting memes are so funny. it ranges from “obama is doing too much!” to “obama is doing too little!”
    pet peeve: could somebody pleeease change the curtains. gold is so gaudy. it’s shiny too, eek. couldn’t we have something more sober like taupe or beige?

  • yg

    remember when republicans called the left “defeatocrats”? the snake has turned. whose wishing for defeat now?

  • Hubris Sonic

    through the bushes

  • weisseharre

    mebbe, when he’s not high-steppin’,
    he’s putin-on the ritz’(?)

  • g

    I am trying to figure out where the camera lens is, and why. This shot is so contrived – was it deliberate or was it a lucky shot as somebody dropped his camera?

  • Stella

    I woudn’t be happy if I knew that paparazzi were hiding their cameras beneath the potted ferns on the floor just to catch me looking funny.
    I’m willing to try seeing things from different perspectives, but no thanks for the worm’s-eye-view. Talk about disrespect!

  • yg


  • Vandrop

    He’s dodging the vicious spikes and spines – cutting through a narrow gap to sunlight. I think it’s a positive photo.

  • Ksue

    You nailed it!

  • Ksue

    I’ve always thought the White House decor to be totally tacky. Even as a kid, I wondered what century these Presidents and their wives thought they were in. My guess is that Michelle would love to do a total, classy WH makeover. But alas. That will have to wait until *we* pull this country out of the catastrophic mess created by the Bush Administration.

  • sbgypsy

    I think the whole composition looks awkward, the angle is hokey, and he looks very stressed and yet determined.

  • Victoria Trostle

    Quick takes -
    Energetically: he’s marching from one forward-moving initiative to the next.This guy is working!
    In terms of form: the sharp body angles are oddly dehumanizing; I saw marionette as well, which is of course particularly absurd for this man, so clearly in charge of himself. We all know how elegantly he moves, so the image screams “False.”
    Pulling back – the fern frame reveals the photographer as silly. This photographer is OVER-working it.

  • Julie L

    Looked to me that he was “jivin’” – in a most unflattering way. Looks like he’s high-steppin’ it, the Amazing Super-Skinny Dancin’ Negro.
    I *really* do not like that pic! Frothy, lightweight, he looks like a caricature. Bad!

  • stevelaudig

    He jumped up running, running up the stairs. But the stairs to what? I’m struggling to come up with the end of the phrase here. At the top of the stairs awaits either the gallows or the _________? He’s just a guy with the gift of gab. He’s either the new captain of the Titanic or perhaps just the Wizard of Oz. But Howard Fineman is a little man on the floor holding camera for the failed, and soon to be reviled, “establishment” that is responsible for creating or profiting from the current, well crisis is too small a word. When was Fineman’s analysis anything other than large thesaurus-enhanced pablum. Cabbies are ahead of his curve by months.

  • mcc

    It looks like he’s doing the Yo La Tengo dance.

  • Michael

    The photographer and the photo editor are overreaching themselves. Sheesh! More a comment on the press pack than on anything else whatsoever.

  • moistenedbink

    The fern leaves look like knives and daggers aimed at him, which we all know they are. Big business, corrupt politicians, bankers, insurance companies, military contractors all have the knives out for him because they think they he is going to spoil their thievery. We as a people, a country, who want better conditions for citizens, better working conditions than the corporate powers would like to extend, need to stand up loudly and proudly in support of our President. We are rapidly becoming a third world nation, especially in health care.

  • cenoxo

    Double false dichotomy, yg: no Republican defeatist here.
    It’s just that Obama has a long uphill battle ahead trying to get too much done, too fast. Better to pick fewer targets, shift into low gear, and spend less money that we (and our children) won’t have.
    Besides, the lead huff’n'puff’n grab shot reminded me right away that The Little Engine That Could, did.
    Took a while, though.

  • yg

    spending less isn’t going to pull us out of a recession.

  • DennisQ

    How many ways would Howard Fineman like it? Obama’s one guy, not fifteen. We wanted a president who was more circumspect than the previous one, and we got one. Now Fineman is saying this one is too much of a dweeb.
    Bush is the one who gave us style over substance. He famously boasted of being a C student and governing from the gut. And nobody will forget his bring ‘em on remark. That’s how we got here – the recklessness of Reagan-era deregulation combined with Bush’s disregard for policy outcomes. It didn’t happen overnight.
    I like Obama. I think Obama is a good man. He’s also saying that digging us out of a hole is going to take some combined effort. Meanwhile, prominent Republicans express the hope that Obama will fail. Where’s the patriotism in that?

  • Serr8d

    What the photographer had in mind?

    And, Obama’s policies should fail. We are not socialists, sorry.
    Put your hand back in your pocket!

  • yg

    that’s right, we’re not socialist, we’re keynesian. just until the economy recovers.

  • Batocchio

    A velociraptor is eyeing him in the bushes, waiting to pounce.

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