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April 30, 2012

The Problem with Obama’s bin Laden/Romney Attack Video – In Pictures

Obama OBL video 6

Obama OBL video 5

The problem with the Obama OBL Romney attack video is that it manages to confuse us with two different images of Obama, one the high-minded statesman and the other, a (yes, more Clinton-like) Machiavellian operator whose motivation in eliminating bin Laden was all too political.

Pete Souza loves to do this Kennedy-like treatment photographing Obama from behind, in silhouette, looking out the window or studying a historical painting in a deep-thought, “one for the ages” motif.

Obama OBL video 3

Kennedy is probably a good comparison here, too, in terms of how better to frame the bin Laden mission. The OBL operation approaches the same level of cred as Kennedy’s Cuban Missile outcome, these events bestowing an aura you don’t want to cheapen. It’s that high-minded, temperate, cool-headed, grown-up persona that people identify with Obama and which effectively trumped the erratic and temperamental McCain. When you build this video around Bill Clinton as Obama’s witness, however, and then toss in the Romney attack, what you’re doing is undermining Obama’s statesmanlike image.

Even though Clinton never mentions Romney, and the attack on Mitt is executed solely through a graphic followed by a news clip featuring a network commentator, the viewer is all too susceptible to linking Clinton to the attack on Romney. Knowing what a street fighter Clinton can be, one doesn’t attend to Clinton’s heartfelt and laudatory words about the President’s guts so much as one attends to Clinton’s body language and that trademark and emphatic finger pointing (and then, following the Romney bit, more testament with karate chop) connecting that with the aggressiveness of the ad.

Obama OBL video 4

Weirdly and unfortunately, the producers of the video make the choice of following up Clinton’s finger pointing with two prominent photos of Obama finger pointing, too, the first (below) providing more connection to Bill because of Hillary presence wearing that tense-anxious face. (Notice, also, the tight fist far lower right).

Obama OBL video 2

I’m sure, of course, the intent there was to emphasize Obama’s decisive leadership in approving the raid. Associating Obama with Bubba’s finger waving and the shallow Romney attack, however, we don’t know if we’re supposed to believe in the JFK-Obama or the Bill Clinton-Obama, the net being we’re less apt to trust any Obama.

(video: One Chance/Obama Campaign)

  • DennisQ

    You may be over-reacting to the image of Bill Clinton who used that same gesture to inform us that the did not have sex with that women.  As I saw the ad, it reminded me that the group of guys-who’ve-been-elected-President is very small and that when Clinton compares Obama with Bush, he also implicitly compares Obama with Romney.Romney is simply not presidential.  Whatever qualities he projects such that focus groups identify them in top-of-mind recall questions, being presidential isn’t one of them.  I can see youthful and energetic, but not in a package with the kind of person you want to turn over stewardship of the country.That’s where the ad shines.  Romney lacks gravitas, and Clinton says so explcitly.  The Kennedyesque picture of Obama-at-the-window just reinforces the message that this is the guy we trust to make the tough calls.  It succeeds, despite some of the baggage that Bill Clinton inevitably brings into the room with him. 

    • jonst

       Remind me Dennis, what was the “tough call” here?

  • a12345a

    big mouth clinton had a chance to get ben ladin in the tora bora mountains. he didn’t pull the trigger. he shouldn’t criticize anybody. this is the problem with politics. the only people that should get the credit for getting ben ladin is the cia and the military (seals) . end of story

    • jonst

      I I dispute “end of story” assertion. After all, you have to include the guy/s that got the rewards for droppin the dime on OBL

    • Catherine McCallum

      Clinton’s ‘opportunity’ was pre-9/11, and the legality of striking bin Laden (who traveled with his wives and children) was in question. 

      The CIA and the military don’t get to decide when to attempt an operation like this. The president had to examine the available data and make the decision, at great risk to everything he hopes to accomplish. Others might not have taken the chance.

  • BooksAlive

    >> we don’t know if we’re supposed to believe in the JFK-Obama or the Bill Clinton-Obama, the net being we’re less apt to trust any Obama.  <<

    The slow pace of the ad give me time to think about Jimmy Carter's unsuccessful effort to extract the hostages from Iran, Clinton's inability to "get" Bin Laden, and Bush II nixing the chance in Tora Bora. And, or course, the scorn heaped on the Presidential effort that failed.

    Overarchingly, with Romney surrogates now on the political interview circuit, it's important for the Obama campaign to rebut Romney's blatant reversals of his past stated positions.

  • Catherine McCallum

    I think it WAS a tough call. As Clinton points out, there was enormous risk – to the Navy Seals who would be on the ground, to the credibility of the Obama administration, and to Obama’s presidency. The spectres of Carter’s failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages and of Black Hawk down in Somalia surely haunt every discussion of operations of this sort. Obama could have chosen not to act and there would have been little backlash – after all, the GOP had been signaling its intention to ignore the issue ever since Tora Bora. In killing bin Laden, Obama dealt a huge blow to al Qaeda; if it had gone badly, the blow would have landed squarely on Obama himself.

  • jonst

     Nah, disagree with you. I don’t think either the Iran Hostage Rescue or the Somalia are comparable to the hunt for OBL. 

  • a12345a

    dear cathrine, don’t be so naive. any president doesn’t take on any military action on his own. thank god for that. the cia and his top military advisors give him the options whether to carry out such an operation. i am an independent voter. i am not against president obama . i am happy that he went forward with the operation to take out ben ladin. its just i don’t give him the credit. i give the credit to the people who carried it out.  you sound like a hard core democrat. i would say the same thing if the president was a republican. my problem is with either party spending 750 million dollars to elect their candidate for president. the democrats and republican parties are only for themselves. i am anti incumbent and thats the way i will vote in the next election. i only hope the the citizens send a message this year to all elected officials in washington of either party.

  • Catherine McCallum

    Why not?

  • Catherine McCallum

    Why are you anti-incumbent? What do you hope to gain by sending Mitt Romney to Washington? Then HE’LL be the incumbent and you’ll have to turn against him. Are you under the illusion that the new incumbent will then behave as though he was the recipient of your ‘message’ to the old incumbent?

    Perhaps you should review the meaning of naive. And put the fairy dust away. It’s a trick, son.

  • a12345a

    dear cathrine, i am not your son. don’t be so condecending. actually i meant more anti incumbent toward both parties in congress. i also think president obama has not done a good job. he is much to partisan for my taste. that doesn’t mean i am happy with the republicans in congress. i blame them all, but i do believe that it is a time for change in the presidency. i really don’t think obama has done much to improve the economy. lets be honest, the stimulus packages have been a failure. i might say there is no way anybody will change your mind. i believe you are a hard core liberal democrat. you might even have a tatoo of a jackass somewhere on your body. 

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