Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
November 4, 2012

Barack, Mitt and Sandy: Final Exam (or: Why My Friend Saw Obama in this Photo with the Joint Chiefs)

The other day, I was talking to a photographer friend about what else? campaign optics, and about Obama’s handling of the hurricane. The fact he lauded the Administration for its perfect pitch didn’t surprise me, but one line he mentioned did. Besides the FEMA imagery and the President’s visit to New Jersey, he emphasized how thoroughly Obama attacked the crisis (visually and tactically) from the first moment “as if calling out the Joint Chiefs.”

If we’re talking “first moments” I’m pretty sure this wire photo or a else variant was in the mix. We see Obama on October 29th, having just cancelled a rally in Orlando to return to the White House, disembarking Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in the pelting rain. Now my question is, how do you get from a typical three officer tarmac greeting at a military airfield which we’ve seen a thousand times to the Joint Chiefs — since Obama didn’t otherwise engage the military branch? I’m sure people would say the crisis simply gave Obama the opportunity to look more presidential. When you think about the photo, however, it might actually be the other way around.

There is a lot of chatter today from Romney advocates that the storm undermined Mitt’s “momentum.” Given his anti-government and anti-FEMA ideology, along with his cynical hurricane relief theatrics, however, I’d say Sandy didn’t undermine Mitt as much as Mitt did. On the other hand, if my friend conflated this scene in his mind to reflect Obama with the top brass or Obama somehow calling up the military, it’s because what he added to his memory of this scene was the gravitas Obama demonstrated over the past week in the way of surefooted management and authority.

(photo: Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images via TIME Pictures of the Weekcaption: Oct. 29, 2012. U.S. President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Obama cancelled his appearance at a campaign rally in Orlando, Fla. and returned early to Washington, D.C. to monitor response to Hurricane Sandy.)

  • Cyranetta

    I think what’s haunting about this photograph is that the pelting rain is pelting on the President — he’s not untouched; he’s in the thick of it, but is moving forward to “marshal the troops”, even though the troops are more FEMA than firepower.

    • Ztown

      You mean he actually got wet? What a hero, I mean zero.

  • Weldon Berger

    I’m not clear on what you mean by Obama having not engaged the military, who are playing a very large role in the response to the storm.

    • Ztown

      Someone forgot to tell the New Jersey unions that the prez said to cut the red tape and take care of those in need following Sandy. Oh, I forgot the unions get a pass for their votes. So the work crew from another state was sent home by the NJ unions. Unconscionable!

    • Michael Shaw

      Weldon; I probably should have set up that aspect a little better. I understand Panetta has been involved in coordinating storm response by the Nat Guard, and the coordination there is not incidental by any means. Still, my point was to highlight the perception of Obama reaching to the highest reaches of military activation in a situation that was primarily a civil situation.

  • Michael Mathiesen

    Obama wins by a LANDSLIDE – Read all about it here. Why are we so sure? Because Las Vegas Odds Makers put ROMNEY’s chances of BEING IMPEACHED for tax EVASION at 95%. That would mean the country would be even MORE DEADLOCKED on the issues of creating jobs and everything else. INDEPENDENTS have apparently FIGURED this out and are going to vote for OBAMA in the vast majority for this REASON. In other words if you loved the deadlocked Congress we’ve had under a vigorous President, then vote for ROMNEY because the Congress would be OUT TO LUNCH for years holding HEARINGS and INVESTIGATIONS of Romney’s finances that would take at least 4 years.

    • Ztown

      Yawn! Nothing here of any value. And QUIT YELLING!!!!

  • black_dog_barking

    I’m sure people would say the crisis simply gave Obama the opportunity to look more presidential.

    For all of Romney’s faults, this one ain’t his. The timing of this storm and the sober, serious response of this President reminds our subconscious information acquisition process of the clusterfuck brought down upon New Orleans by the policies of deFacto-President Cheney. In this image we see a president getting rained on by the edges of a storm that will pound the largest metropolitan area in our country. We see a president responding immediately, a president running to a problem not running away, something that didn’t happen in 2006 with Katrina ( or 2001 either for that matter ).

    In this image we see a presidential Obama responding presidentially. In 2006 we saw pretend-President Bush doing a photo-op with John McCain and a birthday cake on a sunny tarmac of an Arizona airport at the same time people were drowning in the Ninth Ward. We saw our 2006 president refuse to cancel the last few days of a three week vacation just because there was a storm somewhere. His first photo op re: Katrina came two days after the levees broke when we saw him looking out the window of Air Force One flying over Nawlins on his way back to DC. When he finally got down there two more days later we got the famous “Heckuva job Brownie” quote.

    We look at the image of Obama getting off Air Force One, stepping into rain fall caused by Hurricane Sandy and we are subconsciously comparing this image to our negative previous experience and we’re relieved.

    So Sandy screwed Romney’s not all that hot chances to assert his way into the presidency? No, Republican George W Bush et al screwed Republican Romney’s bid. Wierd. Romney is one of the few ultra rich guys that got poor treatment from the previous administration.

    • Ztown

      So where’s his cell phone? You know. The one he was on when he dissed the guards by completely ignoring them without saluting them?

      So if Bush screwed Romney then obama screwed obama.

      If obama owned a business or ran a company like he has run this country he would have been out of business or FIRED!

  • Earl Mardle

    If you look back at the 08 election you will see some great photos of Obama, shirtsleeves rolled up, addressing an audience in the rain. He is soaking wet and totally at home in that environment. There was another pic this time round where RMoney was under an umbrella but Obama was, again, out in the weather.

    While he has been great at the optics throughout, he is never more impressive than when he is standing in the rain with everyone else.

    Another thought that comes up with all these photos is that he does the “rainmaker” exceptionally well and that idea is very strong in American culture; both in its agricultural and its business senses.

    • Ztown

      Now that’s a stupid way to judge character. Just when did making money in America become a bad thing? Oh, that’s right, when our Socialist prez told you it was. Another yawner.

  • Daniel Phelan

    Has there been one true statement out of Mitt Romney in the entire time he’s been running for the office?

    He’s managed to break down the very possibility of the truth, about anything, emitting from his mouth. The mealy mouth of this chicken hawk, draft dodging, high school bully turned vulture capitalist, tax dodger, neo-con divider, mouthpiece for fascism should be making the entire world physically ill. He must be one of the most despicable American politicians since George W. Bush.

    Think about this: Mitt Romney is the leader of the Republican Party! A guy who can’t make up his mind about anything except that Obama is to blame for everything bad in the universe, is the leader that Republicans picked to lead them. A guy who in all practicality stands for nothing!!!

    Like when Republicans cried about that healthcare mandate? That evil, evil individual mandate. From where could such a terrible, senseless idea arise? Deep breath. The Heritage Foundation. Yes, a conservative think-tank. And who would ever adopt such a terrible principle in practice? Deeper breath. Mitt Romney.

    The Republicans Party is the Party of hypocrisy and the people who vote for them are just so stupid with anger fed to them by Rush and Fox News, they can’t see it or are just too heartless to care.

    President Obama’s record as I see it:
    Saved the US economy from collapse.
    Saved the US auto industry
    Reformed healthcare bringing coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
    Stood up bravely for the gay community.
    Ended the war in Iraq.
    Helped bring down Qaddafi in Libya.
    Killed Bin Laden.

    Barrack Obama isn’t perfect, but he is a thousand times the man Romney will ever be. This time around, Obama and Democrats get my vote, the choice is simple.

    For the love of country and all people; register to vote and vote as much as you can!

  • black_dog_barking

    So where’s his cell phone? You know. The one he was on when he dissed the guards by completely ignoring them without saluting them?

    Take another look at the picture. This time use your eyes instead of just your imagination. My eyes tell me that the commander-in-chief’s right arm is raised, his hand cupped. Why, it’s as if he were, I don’t know, … saluting.

    Sometimes our beliefs can fool our eyes. Check your eyes. If they’re okay then check your beliefs. Something ain’t working right.

  • Jay

    Ztown, non-sequitur much?

  • LanceThruster

    Where you gonna get your wingnut welfare from Nov. 7?

Refresh Archives

Random Notes