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September 8, 2011

Obama’s Jobs Address: Key Optics

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Screen shot 2011 09 08 at 9 11 09 PM

If Obama gave a solid speech last night to a joint session of Congress, one that was concrete and action-oriented, and maximally designed to appeal to the GOP (while still leveraging them with the American people), there were plenty of moments, some overt, some more subtle, that kept me from going all-Pollyanna.

If you watched the speech, you probably observed how often Obama directed his words and gaze to the right-wingers. The two frames above and the two frames of reaction below (27:54 to 28:04) correspond to the part of the speech where Obama said:

Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy.  Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.  (Applause.)

You probably didn’t catch the smirk, it was so instantaneous, but you can see it in the screen grab, a flash of dismay and contempt followed by the lawmaker’s smug and defiant response. The frames leave me wondering how this cycle will be any different from before: a deft speech leading to appeasement leading to mostly a brick wall.

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If more subtle, another exchange that caught my eye occurred at the immediate end of the speech. Although Obama and Boehner interacted graciously just before he got going, when Obama finished, filled with a head-of-steam, he shook hands and expressed warm solidarity with Biden, then, in a cold if inadvertent act, he pivoted and completely blew off the Speaker.

Screen shot 2011 09 08 at 9 24 18 PM

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Finally, I’m always interested in Michelle’s body language during these SOTU-style speeches (36:57 – 37:01).  Sure, as soon as he finished, the White House began spinning the talk for all it’s worth, and an energized Obama — in full 2012 campaign mode — is about to hit the road to take his plan (over GOP heads) to the American people.

Still, Michelle looked plenty concerned.

Transcript. C-SPAN video.

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