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July 26, 2011

President Boehner (Or, Obama Losing the Pulpit)

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I find it striking, clever and telling the way the Repubs worked the visuals surrounding last night’s Presidential TV statement.

On what basis, first of all — this not being a State of the Union — was Boehner afforded equal air time? (I don’t remember the Republicans getting a televised response to the bin Laden announcement or the Afghanistan troop announcement, for example.) If Obama has found himself in a trap where the Repubs now have equal TV billing as well as equal weight driving the economic agenda, however, he’s brought it upon himself by way of his pervasive pursuit of collaboration and consensus.

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We know the Obama Administration is very weak on framing. (Having failed to even give his health care plan a name, it’s now generally referred to by the derogatory “Obamacare.”) We also know the Repubs live and die with framing. In this case, credit the Repubs with setting up the trappings (flag — check; chandelier — check; columns — check; dual microphones — check; Congressional podium — check;) to make Boehner look as equivalent as possible to the C.I.C.

Obama Boehner NYT budget address

And then, look at the payoff in the NYT, framing the President’s address to the nation (that pulpit typically an exclusive and vaulted asset) and the Speaker of the House, and his rebuttal, as effectively on par.

… And, then: Cheshire Cat.

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(photo 1: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images caption: Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) poses for photographs after his televised address to the nation about the federal budget and debt ceiling crisis at the U.S. Capitol July 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. According to the Treasury Department, if Congress and the White House do not find a way to raise the debt ceiling, the United States is at risk of defaulting on it’s debt..photo 2: Reuters caption: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in a prime-time address to the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 25, 2011, as polarized lawmakers failed to rally behind a plan to avert a disastrous debt default perhaps just one week away. Obama said on Monday a temporary six-month extension of debt ceiling does not solve the problem and might not be enough to avoid credit downgrade. photo 3: Pool photo by Jim Watson, left; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.) photo 5: AP)

  • Gasho

    Seeing that HUGE chandelier behind the speaker prompted a million metaphors and one great-crazy idea.. what if we superimposed an infographic of campaign contributors behind his head?  

    Wouldn’t this look different if there were huge circles that said “Tea Party”, “NRA”, “Koch Brothers”, “Big Oil”, etc behind Boehner’s head as he spoke??

    What would Obama’s support circles look like?  

    We have to look at these characters through the lens of who is supporting them, after all.  This whole “two sides to every issue” spinfest needs to be seen through or we’re doomed.

  • Gasho

    Seeing that HUGE chandelier behind the speaker prompted a million metaphors and one great-crazy idea.. what if we superimposed an infographic of campaign contributors behind his head?  

    Wouldn’t this look different if there were huge circles that said “Tea Party”, “NRA”, “Koch Brothers”, “Big Oil”, etc behind Boehner’s head as he spoke??

    What would Obama’s support circles look like?  

    We have to look at these characters through the lens of who is supporting them, after all.  This whole “two sides to every issue” spinfest needs to be seen through or we’re doomed.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Great juxtaposition. The orange guy comes off looking more “presidential” than the brown guy — who is, actually, the president.

    Gasho, I wonder how many of Obama’s “circles” would intersect Boehner’s? You’ve got my head swimming with Venn diagrams! :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    In the cropped photo I think you’re exactly right. I the full photo with the chandelier my first gut reaction was that it was an opulent display of aristocratic wealth. Less of a “presidential” vibe and more “let them eat cake.”

  • Anonymous

    Great show biz! One could almost believe important decisions haven’t already been made for them.

  • Glenn

    I think there’s a huge contrast between the two photo sets. Obama looks animated – hands in motion, mouth open to speak, eyes focused outward – Boehner looks frozen, clenched, inanimate. Boehner looks like a man in a vise – which is exactly where he is.

    In both the Obama photos, you’ll note Obama eclipses the chandelier, while in the Boehner photo the huge chandelier looms over the man. He is dwarfed, trapped
    cowering at the lectern. There is a lamp over his head, glaring and
    making his bald head shine.

  • Glenn

    I think there’s a huge contrast between the two photo sets. Obama looks animated – hands in motion, mouth open to speak, eyes focused outward – Boehner looks frozen, clenched, inanimate. Boehner looks like a man in a vise – which is exactly where he is.

    In both the Obama photos, you’ll note Obama eclipses the chandelier, while in the Boehner photo the huge chandelier looms over the man. He is dwarfed, trapped
    cowering at the lectern. There is a lamp over his head, glaring and
    making his bald head shine.

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