Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
August 11, 2010

White House Flickr Stream: Professional Right In, Professional Left Out

Pete Souza/White House

Still feeling the sting of Robert Gibbs’s lashing of the left, I was studying the White House Flickr set for July. (Pete Souza’s tweet today urged a look.)

Although Obama has been reaching out to the right in these photo-ops since he took office, there was something in the July group I hadn’t seen before. Where variety has been the rule, there were two very similar photos, back-to-back, offering Obama interacting with Congressional leaders, specifically GOP Senate leader McConnell.

Pete Souza/White House

You could argue that the selection and arrangement of photos in the WHFS is largely random. But then, it’s hard to ignore this preoccupation with (and patronization of) the party of “no” — especially this “double dip” with the mid-term elections on the immediate horizon.

If you do take some time to study the set from June, one more thing you’ll notice is that, with the possible exception of Whoopi Goldberg (who is actually the only one from The View who is hidden from view) — there is not a single shot featuring a representative of the “professional left.”

  • acm

    isn’t that Harry Reid, right there in the center of your second photo? a little confused about what constitutes the “professional left”…

    • black dog barking

      Looks like Sen Reid. Also looks like the President is talking past Sen Reid. Reid’s attentions appear to be elsewhere, like maybe he’s been left out.

    • Michael Shaw

      Yes, thanks for the question. I appreciate that the distinctions are ambiguous. For example, I said there weren’t any members of the “professional left” in the July photos, but Senator Harkin is part of a White House photo-op having to do with Americans with disabilities. As a more liberal senator, is he “professional left?” (Again, it gets very fuzzy, because how much difference is there, ultimately, at least in voting record, between Harkin or Reid or Feingold?) I use the terms, and try and play with the distinctions,however, because Gibbs did — and also to highlight how Obama’s “centrism,” as bdb discusses below (however much it’s his personality one day, or strategic the next) does come at a real cost to a more progressive (dare I say, “liberal”) agenda.

  • black dog barking

    BHO is, IMHO, committed to including everyone, including the proactively reluctant, in his government. The modern Republican presents an unusual challenge with his strategy of offering only opposition, no alternatives. This leaves the President with few options — the modern Republican is almost forcing the President to rally the Democratic majority and govern using just his side of the aisle to run the government.

    To the President’s credit he is still looking for a way to defuse the mounting pressures that would crack e pluribus unum into two or more constituent pieces. A grownup.

    • cmac

      I agree.

    • lq

      I agree as well. While I am not pleased that Mr. Gibbs took a whack at progressives for criticizing BHO regarding keeping his campaign promises (on the critics’ timeline), I do know that BHO has taken some pretty sharp shots at the Republicans who have been so obstructionist. Grownups practice patience, not an easy task.

    • jmac

      Taking sharp shots at the opposition as you change policy to appease the opposition is not something to be proud of.

      You remind me of the Dallas Morning News. They take sharp shots at Republicans almost daily; they don’t agree with them on issues almost daily – yet when it comes time to vote – they endorse the Republican.

      Then they remind you that they have taken plenty of sharp shots.

    • cmac

      In some cases, the critics are angry over campaign promises Obama never made. He never promised single-payer; he never promised to get out of Afghanistan; the change he talked about was to heal the partisan divide and make Washington work again.

    • jonst

      Black Dog Barking wrote: “BHO is, IMHO, committed to including everyone, including the proactively reluctant, in his government.”

      I do not believe the facts back that up. I do not believe there is one person in anything that even remotely could be called a high position (by that I mean down to undersecs)who voted against, or at least opposed, the Iraq War Resolution. Unless you want to include Obama.

      The same goes with the Patriot Act.

      I do not believe there is a single person in what broadly could be described as his, economic team, that has publicly come out for the single payer option. Unless you want to include Obama.

      I do not believe there is a single person, in said economic team” that opposed repealing Glass-Stegall. Unless you want to include Obama

      I do not believe there is a single person in his Justice Dept that supported an inquiry into alleged Geneva Convention violations by the Bush Admin. I don’t know Obama previous position on this so skillfully did he tap dance on the matter.

      I do not believe there is a single person in his Justice Dept IP section that voted against the DMCA.

      One could on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Mind you Dog, I am not talking about embracing any of these issues….I talking about letting different views sit at the table. When it comes to this bullshit about “team of rivals” it is clear the Villagers only want corporate Dems…..and Republicans on the so called “team”.

    • black dog barking

      I’m in complete agreement, we can do better. Transparency is our friend in these matters and I don’t believe we have anything remotely resembling transparency available to us these days. I suspect that an open debate, even just one person at the table raising your arguments, on the issues you raise would actually effect change for the better. I also suspect that those responsible for introducing torture, domestic spying, etc, believe this too. This is why we spend our time discussing gay marriage instead of global warming, death panels instead of health care delivery.

      The real problem for BHO, his real job, is managing the extant political realities.

      Assume, just for the sake of argument, that BHO concludes that the very best outcome for the interests of the United States is achieved by an immediate withdrawal of all military assets from Afghanistan. Even if he were complete convinced and, as commander-in-chief, he is completely justified in issuing that order, it is *politically* *impossible* for him to make such a move. E pluribus unum would not likely survive such an abrupt change in the expression of national will.

      IMHO our President is using his considerable talents to implement the best *possible* outcome with the tools at hand. For democracy to work these (*assholes*) must be included even as they insist on the appearance of exclusion. We just got out of an eight year living lesson in why ideology is a bad management style. Time to turn that page.

    • jonst

      I do believe understand, and partially sympathize, with what you are suggesting, Dog. I agree that the most likely reason we are still in Afghanistan is because the Obama Admin has concluded it is *politically* untenable now to pull out. After all, what would happen if pulled out and the Taliban returned, and the GOP ran TV ads of them celbrating their return. To say nothing of what happens if an 9/11 like attack is ‘launched’ from Afghan on the US. I understand all that. But to me it is a hell of poor reason, as in morally bankrupt poor, to stay there.

      You write: “E pluribus unum would not likely survive such an abrupt change in the expression of national will.”. No, but the men and women pulled out of that insignificant (yes, strategically insignificant) snake hole will survive. OUr values as a nation stand a better chance of surviving if we get out. Our fiancial situation will improve if we get out. But you are correct Dog, E pluribus unm might not. And what, in the long run, is more important? Winning the next election? Or doing the right thing for America? Well, i think that question has been asked and answered in this nation.

  • marc sobel

    read Mike Lux. According to him it is not just the tokens but a lack of real outreach.

    Obama and the left, part 2,048 He is not reaching out to the progressive community and it could really cost him

  • Glenn May

    I understand black dog’s comment as far as trying to prevent a complete fragmentation of the U.S. political spectrum, but how that requires insulting a big chunk of his base is beyond me. Why is it always seen as acceptable to bash the “left” but verboten to attack the right? As if there is a real left in this country, anyway. Obama has put that canard to bed forever.
    I had low expectations of Obama. They involved not starting any new wars (we’ll see about that), being able to stand up to the brownshirts (going downhill there) and being able to speak English. Maybe I’ll have to settle for one out of three.

  • sardonicuss


  • Nick Taucher

    I think it is fair to assume that the term ‘professional left’ would generally be applied to left wing pundits, bloggers, journos, etc. People who cover politics professionally but aren’t politicians themselves.

    And I think your point about the White House flickr photo page being an example of the Administration’s patronization of the Republican Party is a bit of a stretch. Not only are there many more images of Obama with members of his own party (as their obviously would be), but the two images you point out only show the back of Senator McConnell’s head, and only one of them refers to him in the caption.

  • Geek Hillbilly

    I would love for Obama and the Dem leadership to grow some balls and kick the GOP there,hard fast and repeatedly.Quit being so fricken timid!

Refresh Archives

Random Notes