Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
October 7, 2009

Artful New Attack Meme: Obama’s “Indecision”

Are the Republicans and the media finally discovering a critique that hits Obama at the core of his personality?

If the subhead in the print edition of today’s NYT story on the reassessment of the Afghan strategy is completely objective (“President Obama seemed to be searching for some middle ground”), McCain’s attack yesterday, and the vicious if subtle use of language he used to frame the attack, is certainly noteworthy.

Mr. McCain told the president that “time is not on our side.” He added, “This should not be a leisurely process,” according to several people in the room.

A few minutes later, Mr. Obama replied, “John, I can assure you this won’t be leisurely,” according to several attendees. “No one feels more urgency to get this right than I do.”

If you’ve been following The BAG for much time at all, you know a key motive for our existence is to watchdog the visual media when it comes to amplifying right wing narratives and lines of attack. I’m not saying that is exactly what is in play in the example above, but it is curious that McCain’s coded attack on Obama (using the term “leisurely” while soldiers are dying to imply Obama can’t make a decision) should coincide with a story that earned prominent play not in todays’ Arts section (at least, not in the print edition) but in the National section.

And what was that story exactly?

It details the Obama’s announcement yesterday that, by tradition, they had settled on 45 new pieces of art borrowed from Washington museums to decorate the White House residence. Now, I have no issue with the article itself but what I do find curious, however, is the one artwork out of the 45 that the editors settled on to highlight, a piece by Ed Ruscha feature in both the print and on-line editions of the story.

And then, maybe it’s just an innocuous thing, but are people that dense that the caption (‘I think I’ll … ‘ by the California artist Ed Ruscha. It deals with the subject of indecision.”) need belabor the obvious?

…By the way, I wouldn’t at all call Obama indecisive, but I do think he’s vulnerable here given his tendency to, as he frequently says, “take time to get it right,” and to use process (in many cases, extensive and time-consuming ones, as we’ve seen with health care) as both a philosophy and a strategy.

(image: Ed Ruscha via NYT)

  • pws

    Intelligent people take time to make important decisions. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
    On the other hand, I have no doubt this will resonate with a lot of people.
    (Also, it’s not always about taking time to do what’s right or best for the country. Sometimes it’s about taking time to do a political calculation, and those can be spun quite darkly indeed.)

  • Karen H.

    It will take a lot to Carter-ize Obama….sounds like a challenge for them…though it may work better than the born-in-Kenya-fellatiating-grandma-killing-marxist meme.

  • donna

    OK, we’ve been there eight years, and this is suddenly all now the fault of Obama’s indecision?
    Good grief.
    “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” is good advice for oh so many reasons. It’s not like it was his choice to go in, after all. If the wingers hadn’t gone after Clinton’s penis all those years ago, we might have done a simple tactical air strike then and avoided the whole damn mess. Read Clarke’s book sometime….

  • Tena

    Obama is on the way to replacing the Clenis (the Clinton Penis) as the root of all evil. {ahem}
    We used to joke on another board: The Clenis sunk the Lusitania, the Clenis assassinated Grand Duke Ferdinand and started WWI, the Clenis was responsible for the Great Chicago Fire, etc, etc, etc.
    Kind of fits with both parts of your comment – Obama gets all the blame even though he inherited the war, and if all eyez hadn’t been on the Clenis, we might not have this problem to start with. So it’s becoming a Republican self-perpetuating cycle of wrongness.

  • Tena

    And by the way – I’m a fan of Ed Ruscha’s work – so to hell with the NYT for using his painting like this.

  • lytom

    Indecision? Can we call it indecision with all that is going on?
    How long will the war be tolerated? Maybe it will go on for 8 more years…There is no end in sight and no time table! Well that to me sounds it has been decided already…the war will go on and on…There has been no change in leadership. Empire still threatens and kills.
    Unless the people will say enough…
    Enough of wasting resources
    Enough of killing
    Enough of military “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
    Enough of military “Operation Enduring Freedom”
    Enough of drones, bombs and other human made disasters against people in countries that the Empire wants to “save.” Better said: destroy in order to save.
    What is meant by “take time to get it right?” some kind of excuse many give to Obama…

  • g

    And of course McCain’s snap decision-making has been so successful ….

  • Serr 8d

    I think what you’re afraid of is something like this…

    Well, it’s apropos I’d say.
    BHO is an excellent Community Organizer, as long as the Community isn’t the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

  • yg

    you’d be more useful if you signed up for afghanistan. they could use your help.

  • DennisQ

    One of the problems with Hamlet is his dithering around instead of avenging his father’s murder. The usual interpretation is that he’s that kind of guy, like Polonius, “cautious, meticulous and a bit obtuse.” But you don’t just go commit regicide at the drop of a hat, even if a ghost appears and personally instructs you to do so.
    Urged by all around him to take action – do something! – Hamlet overreacts to a movement in the curtains and kills Polonius. It’s a stupid thing to do, mitigated somewhat by the fact that Polonius is a lowlife who deserves killing. But if Hamlet is going to take orders from ghosts, the next person he might decide to kill is Ophelia, losing the game, set and match. As the play develops, Polonius’ son Laertes returns to show how vengeance ought to be carried out. In the ensuing mayhem, all of the bad guys are killed. Unfortunately, so are all of the good guys.
    McCain can be seen as the impetuous Laertes to Obama’s Hamlet. He doesn’t worry about what needs to be done; he knows what to do. Just go into Afghanistan and win the war. That’s what General McChrystal says; and all the right wingers who don’t concern themselves with subtleties. They don’t worry about madness as the driving force of the whole drama – they just plunge ahead.
    Act III, Scene 4

  • Rafael

    Really? And who abandoned Afghanistan and its European allies for six years so they could chase Imperial dreams in Baghdad? Ummm, I wonder….

  • bystander

    Well done, Dennis!

  • g

    How long did it take George W. Bush to decide on The Surge?
    Frankly, I think it was a good thing Bush took time to decide, get advice, and weigh his options. It was probably one of the few reasoned decisions he made for eight years.
    but for Bush supporters to now complain that Obama is taking – OHMIGOD! – a couple of weeks to decide what to do with a difficult political and military situation not of his own making – is the height of biased, partisan blindness.
    Every post Serr8d writes undermines his credibility.
    You really got punked by that Bill Ayers trick, fool!

  • NS

    what bystander said!! that was fabulous. and got the taste of troll out of my mouth. well done.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes