Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mr. Process

The White House website has a photo gallery up of the process in putting together the stimulus package. The essay features a remarkable array of unremarkable photos, at least in terms of composition and the actual subjects of the photos--many are of various figures dressed in suits. 


The most interesting photos are of Rahm Emanuel on his cell phone while Obama closes his eyes; a photo of a woman raising her hand; and Obama moving toward the stage for his press conference.

By unremarkable, I don't mean that the photos aren't cool or good photographic quality; it's just that government in action essentially means a lot of people sitting around and having meetings, hardly the subject of dramatic photos.

The photos say more as a collective whole, which is that Obama met with a variety of groups in order to negotiate/sell the bill; the photos include a dinner with the Blue Dog (conservative) Democrats, a casual moment with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Obama with his hand on the back of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as they look at the Oval Office window.

 As Jed Lawson suggests, the images tell the story "of a President who reached out to his political opponents to give them an opportunity to do the right thing."

In other words, the photos suggest process--and notable is the White House's careful documentation of process. We've talked before about Obama and his focus on the way to get things done as well as getting things done. 

 Ron Brownstein suggests that Obama "appears increasingly focused on ends, not means." While it's true that passing the stimulus bill was the most important thing, Obama seemed to believe getting there by demonstrating a willingness to listen to Republicans and fiscal conservatives in his own party was an important part of the project of getting the bill passed.

Process during the election meant voters were helping Obama win election by calling, knocking on doors, raising money, and emailing. 

Now we see Obama as the center of the drama, shaking hands, having meetings, and so forth in his efforts to demonstrate to the country he 's not only appealing to those who elected him but those who he serves--the whole country. 

--J.S.

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