Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
January 25, 2011

SOTU ‘11: Pics of the Night

The Giffords shooting, sensitively as well as artfully handled by a President hell-bent on achieving consensus and fostering bipartisanship since he was elected (better, since he was a teenager), is starting to look like a game changer.  If the empty chair left open for Giffords during the SOTU was the most poignant and dramatic evidence of this, the fact members of opposite parties chose to sit together tonight not only guaranteed the elimination of inter-party tension but changed the entire spirit and tone of this annual ritual. (If you’d care to compare with our SOTU ‘10 offering, look here and here.)

Most dramatically, we see the shift symbolized in this photo of Joe “You Lie” Wilson who sat with Representative Susan Davis (D – Ca) tonight, here smiling and waving. In my mind, the image — in radical contrast to Wilson’s scary outburst two years ago interrupting Obama’s health care speech to a joint session of Congress — speaks to a neutered GOP rebellion.

And then, we see some political dividends of the shift it in this “Kumbaya chorus.” The combination of the Giffords trauma, the Republicans in the House being put in a governing position, and Obama’s post-Rahm, post-shellack recalibration shifting further to the middle-right, seems to have resulted in a dramatic rewiring of the D.C. affect.

By the way, the members of Congress actually seemed thrilled and relieved to drop the hostility. It was felt “more grown up,” said Barbara Boxer.

(photo: Jim Young/Reuters. caption: A seat sits empty for recovering Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) while U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2011. Giffords remains in a Texas hospital recovering from being shot during an event in Tucson, Arizona. photo 2: Jim Young/Reuters. caption: Republican Rep. Joe Wilson (top) of South Carolina and Democratic Rep. Susan Davis of California wave as they take their seats together on the same side of the aisle as legislators from both parties break with the tradition of sitting on opposite sides of the aisle for U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2011. photo 3: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Reuters. caption: Members of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, from left, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2011, prior to the start of the president’s State of the Union address.)

  • jonst

    No way Bag….am I gonna attempt to rain on your happy parade. I hope you impressions are confirmed. In the future. Where it matters. But count me in the skeptical group.

    By the way, Wilson’s outburst scared you? Interesting.

  • BamaGuy1024

    PLEASE let this be a real turning point. BTW Jonst, I too found Wilson’s insane “YOU LIE!” very scary, as it to me signified the real potential for anger and violence and open rebellion and endless discord in our divided nation.

  • momly

    Is the woman in brown behind Michelle Bachman making a paper airplane? I like the open seat for Congresswoman Giffords and I am certain Obama will take the new zeitgeist and run with it. It is just the kind of pause in hostility that he – and we – needed. Maybe something will get DONE, now.

    Also, I thought it was interesting that everyone had a copy of the speech and was reading along with it. At first, I was surprised so many were “doing something else” until I realized they had been given the speech. I suppose that might help some of them pay attention, but I found it distracting. (Of course, it is all about ME.)

    I thought the bipartisan seating made the energy in the room a bit muted but overall, I was pleasantly surprised there were no scary outbursts and malign energy. People actually looked bored. Or were just reading along.

    • http://bagnews.com/staff/#mshaw Michael Shaw

      Really odd that Bachmann “was seated in front of Giffords,” huh.

    • Books Alive

      Did anyone see the NYT slideshow? The open seat for Giffords was in the Arizona delegation, as Aurora and I submit.

  • TheGreatTeleprompter

    plieders-of-the-acs

  • Books Alive

    Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA-06) is holding her copy of the speech close to her chest. I believe.

    How does Reuters know that seat was Giffords’? I didn’t hear the commentary that explained the empty spot there. The PBS camera showed an empty seat in the Arizona Congressional delegation, which I would expect. I was amused, and pleased, to see Sen. Carl Levin sitting with his brother, Rep. Sandy Levin. (Both are from Michigan.)

    • Aurora

      That was not the ‘open seat’ for Giffords; unless that was a second one, don’t know who those two women are, maybe that was a Committee grouped together and left a space for Gabby?

      The Arizona delegation was the one noted at the speech.

  • jmac

    The first picture – the face of the future? Old white men being replaced by ethnic females?

    There is hope.

  • http://www.searchformajorplagge.com Michaeldg

    One of the reasons that I supported Obama over Hillary two years ago was that I thought he would be better able to get Americans working together on our nations problems- and hopefully bridge the divisions that have paralyzed us since the Clinton years. I was sorely disappointed during the first two years of his term (through no fault of his, but rather the obstructionist tactics of the Republicans who clearly have been putting the quest for a return to power over any other consideration). If the Gifford shooting manages to change the polarized dynamic we have been stuck with so long, it will be quite ironic…that a mentally ill man on a killing rampage with a semi-automatic handgun would be a catalyst for positive change… Let’s hope Obama can continue to capitalize on the moment.

    • http://www.serr8d.blogspot.com serr8d

      If the Gifford shooting manages to change the polarized dynamic we have been stuck with so long, it will be quite ironic…that a mentally ill man on a killing rampage with a semi-automatic handgun would be a catalyst for positive change… Let’s hope Obama can continue to capitalize on the moment.

      There you go. Obama is enjoying a ‘Jared Bounce’ in the polls; but it won’t last. We elected those Tea Party candidates to go to Washington not to hold hands and ‘play nice’, but to CHANGE direction. They’d better do what we hired them to do, or they will be replaced.

      Oh, and your line “the obstructionist tactics of the Republicans who clearly have been putting the quest for a return to power over any other consideration” is an archetypal lefty lie; what the Republicans have fought (well, some Republicans; others are worthless and need replacing: you listening, John McCain?) is the drift to far-left that Democrats have pushed on this nation; forced on us for the past two years by an out-of-control House and Senate who rammed this monstrous ObamaCare legislation down our throats with no two-party support. Now he offers tort reform! A bit late.

      Two good things I noted in the speech: it’s so nice not to see Nancy Pelosi up there swooning and bobbling behind Obama’s back; and BHO didn’t mention gun control, which proves that even Democrats can be trained on occasion.

    • black dog barking

      The BHO administration has accomplished a lot in two years in spite of significant obstacles — a tattered economy based on Ponzi financing, a major ecological disaster, ongoing wars with no exit strategy. If their progress is simply linear then the future doesn’t look so bad. I’ll take the overs.

  • gulati

    I thought the mixed seating strategy was a masterful move, sort of took the wind out of the sails of GOP spin-masters that would have spent days discerning popularity contests, verses paths towards good governance.

    I am actually looking forward to these next 2 years. Where, over the last few years, the GOP could simply make a mockery out of legislation by their obstinacy, NOW they need to finally do some work! And now Obama has legitimate traction, to point out GOP obstruction and failure.

    The GOP owns the House. Time to pay up with ideas that actually further societal needs!

Refresh Archives

Random Notes