January 8, 2009

Let's analyze the photograph of the presidents.



1. It's nice that they're all smiling naturally. A good picture.

2. The oddest thing is the way Bush2 is leaning over into Obama's space. It's as if he were saying "I'm with these guys." By contrast, no one seems to want to be anywhere near Jimmy Carter.

3. There are 4 different hand positions. Jimmy and Bush2 match with the hands at the side look, which seems best, since 2 of them are doing it. Obama's gentle handclasp is vaguely prayerful, symbolizing hope, resonating his campaign theme. Bush1 has his hands in his pockets, which seems as though he's not paying attention. Hands behind the back — Clinton — in body language, this says I've got something to hide. I heard on the radio that Clinton complimented Bush2 on the new carpet — that nutty gold starburst that reminds me of an Obama poster — and maybe Clinton's thinking about the embarrassing incidents in which he was involved and which may have motivated Bush2 to recarpet.

IN THE COMMENTS: Christopher Althouse Cohen says:
Obama used that hand position throughout the campaign. When I went to a Hillary rally, not only did she use that hand position, but all her supporters (including Chelsea, Ted Danson, and Mary Steenburgen) all had their hands in the exact same position.
Oh, no! It's a secret signal!

83 comments:

1jpb said...

Bush 1 is keeping himself from looking at his watch.

He also came armed with knowledge of debit card readers at grocery stores.

Smart man.

heywoot said...

Lesson one in public speaking when not behind a lectern - let your hands hang at your sides. Do not grab your junk. That is a rookie mistake.

What is the greatest number of presidents, past, present and future, in one picture?

The oval office rug, splooge free since 2001.

1jpb said...

BHO has warm eyes and a gentle smile, or whatever it is that that stupid commercial says as they try to sell the silly BHO coin for twenty bucks.

1jpb said...

Or, was that the silly plate commercial?

chickenlittle said...

Lesson one in public speaking when not behind a lectern - let your hands hang at your sides. Do not grab your junk. That is a rookie mistake.

That is standing at attention for Obama.

1jpb said...

Is Bush 1 a Grecian man?

Irene said...

It looks like a few of them could use new tailors.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I notice that 43 is pronating his left foot significantly so his posture was probably in motion when the picture was taken.

Carter has been isolated for a very long time. A dear old friend of mine was USNA '46 along with Carter. By the time of their 25th reunion (1971), he said almost nobody would talk to Carter, who was widely perceived as a dithering weakling by his classmates. It required his time in the Oval Office for most of the rest of us to figure that out.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Obama used that hand position throughout the campaign. When I went to a Hillary rally, not only did she use that hand position, but all her supporters (including Chelsea, Ted Danson, and Mary Steenburgen) all had their hands in the exact same position.

heywoot said...

Clinton has his hands in "parade rest" position, which would make sense if he didn't loathe the military.

PWS said...

Maybe Jimmy Carter doesn't want anything to do with them.

Henry said...

Carter looks even more isolated in this picture.

American Liberal Elite said...

The wide angle lens, held high, produces an unnatural and disturbing perspective. The short lens and high vantage point, combined with the rays on the carpet, makes the prezzes look like they are about to be sucked into a vortex.

heywoot said...

Henry, that is a better picture, I think. Suits look better, ties look better, and Carter, well, he is probably on the lookout for a killer rabbit.

Chip Ahoy said...

Carter's hands are at his sides because they're tired from hammering all day, but Bush 43's hands are at his side because that's what happens when marionette's manipulator is on vacation, the strings go lax.

Clintons hands are behind his back because he's handcuffed.

Obama is protecting his genetalia in a classic chastity-belt finger-lock

Bush 41 is looking for his keys.

What's stupid about this photo is Bush 3 twisting his foot unnaturally and stepping ahead

What's interesting about the composition is the pattern on the carpet radiating outward from the camera as if the presidents are going, boink, boink, boink, boink, boink.

Further, it's very interesting these men haven't killed each other.

There's a glaring absence of women, which indicates it's probably a professional gay men's cocktail party. They're standing in front of the bar.

Chip Ahoy said...

Also, there was a sale on blue and red ties.

Simon said...

Three of these guys know what it's like to do this job; a fourth is about to find out. Oh, and then, nice, they have Carter there.

Henry said...

It looks like a blue-tie / red-tie arrangement.

I get the feeling that GWB and Obama really enjoy each other. I'm happy for that.

Simon said...

Henry said...
"I get the feeling that GWB and Obama really enjoy each other."

Obama knows all that stuff he said on the campaign trail is bullshit, and Bush doesn't take it personally because he knows it too.

Lem said...

The joke going around was that Carter was there to deliver a message from Hamas.

SteveR said...

Yeah, the picture is distorted so its a actually horrible.

I think at one time Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I and Clinton were alive which I think was the most (6) not counting Hillary as co-president.

Michael S said...

Actually, Obama had put his hands down in this shot. The one not taken showed the salute.

Lem said...

Psst .. (whispers) Jimmy Carter showed up .. now we have to go to his funeral.

Original George said...

What I wonder is what people living under dictators and kings must think.

And what the dictators and kings think.

Peaceful transfer of power for 220 years.

Most Americans have no idea how lucky they are. A good place, America.

Pal2Pal said...

Bush 41 looks relaxed and saying, "Hey wait 'til you've done as many photo ops as I have, no big deal, move along.

Obama is protecting his non-existent cajones.

Bush 43 is saying, "Hey, you aren't 'the Man' yet!"

Clinton is saying, "Hey look at me, look at me, I'm back in the Oval Office.

Poor Jimmah Carter is just odd man out.

JennyP said...

I puzzled over those tie colors. One Dem w/red tie,(ie the Repub color,) two Repubs w/blue, Jimmy Carter with red AND blue, and GWB looks like he wants to say something funny to Obama under his breath. Remarkable bonhomie apparent. It's either highly symbolic, or I'm reading WAY too much into it. Nice picture tho.

Michael H said...

There are only four men in the world who understand the job and all that the job holder must bear.

They have welcomed the fifth into their group with a promise to give him any help and advice he may need.

How wonderfully American.

Michael H said...

Less seriously, it looks like a beautiful woman off-camera has just lifted her blouse so the puppies could breathe for a moment.

Joe Welch said...

Christopher Althouse Cohen is one who KNEW that Obama could not possibly be elected, right? And he's the one who was going to spend election night eating popcorn, watching McCain win, laughing at the Democrats for failing to choose his gal Hillary.

Genius really runs in the family, eh?

Ha ha!

Simon said...

LOL@ Michael H. yep.

chuck b. said...

Somewhere on the interwebs today I saw a picture of Barbara Bush's needlepoint rug that it took her 8 years to complete. From the picture, it looked like a stunning piece of art. Can't find it now tho'.

(Twas in a slide show of first ladies...had something to do w/ Laura Bush's new White House China, then went on about the decorating contributions of all the recent first ladies. E.g., the Nixon Blue Room was considered "too imperial" [really just tacky]; Hillary made the Blue Room a bluer blue than it's ever been, "people" thought Nancy Reagan overdecorated during a serious recession, blah, blah, blah.)



And, on the subject of a man putting his hands in his pockets, I always think about US Marines who never do that, according to an article I read once--all the marching they have to do drills it out of them.

Henry said...

Here's this from the New York Times article I linked above:

Although he did not discuss it in detail, Mr. Hadley’s staff has also put together contingency plans for Mr. Obama’s administration outlining options for responding to potential crises that could arise in the opening hours or days of the next presidency when new officials are still trying to figure out how to make the telephones work.

"I was in the transition from President Ford to President Carter and I must say I was surprised," Mr. Hadley recalled. "I stayed on with the new team for about three weeks and all the vaunted secure filing cabinets in the Old E.O.B. were empty. There was not a single piece of paper that was transitioned to the new team. And I’ve always thought this was very — not good governance at its best."


Sheds light on both the gracious and responsible transition of power by Bush 43 ... and the self-isolation of Carter.

chuck b. said...

Rush Limbaugh registered his disgust that Clinton commented about the carpet. I was only half-listening, so I'm not sure what his gripe was about.

mrs whatsit said...

That picture is not a good picture! It's scary. They are so distorted that they look photoshopped. And Jimmy Carter looks downright scary. Ack! Who took it? Why??

Simon said...

Joe Welch - in Chris' defense, he assumed - as we all did - that Americans would behave rationally. He couldn't reasonably have foreseen one quarter of the nation experiencing a kind of transient aphasia in the fall, or the media's manufacturing of a "financial crisis" and a storyline that only Obama could fix it.

reader_iam said...

Ohmigosh! The feet! The feet.

Instantly brought that pic into iPhoto and right away cropped it.

Yo.

(Perhaps someone has done this. I confess I just saw this post, and that I have not yet read any of the comments. If this is redundant, I apologize.)

mydismalswamp said...

I guess the first thing I noticed was just how old Clinton now looks.

Bush 1 doesn't look too much older than he did when he left office... or maybe it's just I've seen him around so much. Carter looks like death warmed over. Bush 2 still looks kind of youthful in this grouping.

I think one of the Clintons would have been a good choice for the CIA job. They seem damn good at keeping secrets and gathering the dirt on others...

reader_iam said...

And it's not just the feet, from a couple-o'-inches-'neath-knee POV.

Just sayin'.

mydismalswamp said...

I just noticed - Obama and Bush have on nearly the same tie. Something else of Bush's Obama's going with I guess...

1jpb said...

manufactured crisis?

Oh, right, a nation of whiners. Mental recession. Fundamentals are strong. And, so on.

Shocking that Rs didn't win. Shocking.

reader_iam said...

Perhaps I should keep re-cropping from the original, iteratively, inch by inch up the legs, and see what insights mayhap ensue.

reader_iam said...

What we need now, as a nation, are better tailors (in the rare instance where it doesn't apply ... well, it doesn't apply, now does it?).

reader_iam said...

Also, and separately: via certain lens[es] all men are squatty.

Call it the Bergeron effect, if you like. Or whatever.

AlphaLiberal said...

The oddest thing is the way Bush2 is leaning over into Obama's space. It's as if he were saying "I'm with these guys." By contrast, no one seems to want to be anywhere near Jimmy Carter.

I'm seeing him just getting into Obama's space/face/place. Why, who knows? Probably not even Bush.

Could be trying to get some of that fresh shiny President glow. Or, wants to screw with Obama, like he did with Blair House.

reader_iam said...

My husband, breezing by: "Clinton and Carter really don't like each other, do they?"

reader_iam said...

Then again, he's really not an analytical or meta sort of guy, unless it has to do with math, or engineering, or technology, or whatever.

(And he's not into the politico-punditish-blogospheric world either, so ... rocks of salt, and all of that, of course.)

Eli Blake said...

Five guys. And we know what Obama's favorite passtime is. Here's what I'm thinking:

Center: Clinton. He is still the tallest (I'm assuming he didn't put elevator shoes on to 'outshine' Obama). Plus, the center can establish position in the middle, and move easily to the left of right, exactly what Clinton is good at. He can also get the rebounds, which are balls other people put up, don't score with right away, and you grab them and make them your own, even if you have to throw an elbow or two. Sounds like Clinton to me.

Obama: Power forward. He's at the top of his game right now, and we need a powerful burst of energy in this country. The power forward can help the center with the rebounding, and can get a slam dunk when it comes his way-- you know, sort of like running for Senate as a state legislator and then your opponent gets caught in a scandal and they have to import an opponent from out of state. The power forward is also the primary scorer on a lot of teams. And yes, he did have to score in the primary-- again and again and again, almost snatching it away from the center's backup. The power forward is usually best on offense, sometimes suspect on defense.

Bush I: Small forward. Being the next tallest, he gets this job. The small forward is supposed to post up and play defense, and sometimes take a charge. Small forwards don't score as much as the power forward and they foul out a lot, and don't finish the game. That was certainly true of Bush I, who fouled out at halftime, unlike his two immediate successors who made it all the way through. John McCain, who is sometimes foul, is not in this picture so that leaves Bush I, holding the ball as the small forward. Some small forwards get into fights as well, and Bush I (like Carter) certainly knows the meaning of being ejected from the game.

Point guard: Bush II. The point guard is supposed to assist the others, and dish off the ball. Bush II probably isn't being of much assistance but he is passing off a lot. He's passing off Iraq, the recession, Afghanistan, health care, immigration reform and a $10,000,000,000,000 debt. Some point guards take three point shots when they are open. Bush II certainly did shoot for the threes, but unfortunately most of them were air balls. He is presently getting in some garbage time at the end of the game.

Shooting guard: Carter. Generally the shortest guy on the team, the shooting guard is the guy the point guard looks for if he wants somebody else to take the three. Unfortunately for Carter, the NCAA adopted the three point shot in 1986. Before that, the game was dominated by big men, and the shooting guard was the last option, the guy you dished it off to if nobody else was open. On defense, the shooting guard is supposed to come out and challenge on the perimeter. If he doesn't then it can lead to the other team scoring. Like Bush I, Carter doesn't stand tall.

Yeah, it's the guard play that gets you every time.

reader_iam said...

Reportedly, here are the heights:

Clinton 6 feet 2-1/2 inches
Bush 41 6 feet 2 inches
Obama 6 feet 1 inch
Bush 43 5 feet 11 inches
Carter 5 feet 9 inches

Eli Blake said...

I might add:

The point guard is also supposed to take care of the ball, but both of Bush II's last two trips down the floor have resulted in huge turnovers.

Synova said...

And, on the subject of a man putting his hands in his pockets, I always think about US Marines who never do that, according to an article I read once--all the marching they have to do drills it out of them.

I don't think it has anything to do with marching, and a whole lot to do with enforcing posture and the sharpness of the uniform. Stretched out lumpy pockets look bad. (Same category as the rows of big buttons on uniform sleeves meant to prevent the rank and file from wiping their noses on their uniform.)

In AFROTC hands in pockets was an absolute no-no... right up there with failing to take off your hat indoors. Not only were hands not allowed in pockets, nothing else was allowed in pockets beyond a very flat wallet in a rear pocket. Some people would sew their front pockets shut to keep them flat, but if you got caught you'd be in trouble for that too.

No purses on your shoulder, and absolutely NO backpacks hitched up on a shoulder or on your back, college student or not.

I don't think the AF had quite as much of a fuss for enlisted people, but I wouldn't have noticed because I was too busy being appalled that the TI at basic seemed to have no first clue that such a thing as an official Custom and Courtesy manual even existed.

I'm glad enough to have never been an officer and I would have sucked at it, but that, and the fact that a column-left at AF basic looked more like random gaggling in a general leftward direction, bugged me unreasonably.

;-)

Eli Blake said...

Reader:

Then Bush I must have shrunk. It's a diminishing stature thing.

reader_iam said...

reader_iam: 5 feet 1-1/2 inches.

(But that's been the standard since 7th grade, my doctor-noted height at the time, doctor-documented thereafter as unchanging throughout my young years and into college years and just-post, therefore the peak, and thereafter not documented officially?

Who knows how much I might have shrunk in my later years, technically speaking? Gravity and age can be real bitch, dontcha know.)

reader_iam said...

Oops. Sorry, Eli, didn't see your comment. Cross-posted, but amounts to the same thing, sort of, at least in terms of one of the specifics at issue.

paul a'barge said...

from left to right ... mutt, good guy, good guy, mutt, big mutt.

reader_iam said...

What's interesting to me, however weird that may be, about the heights of presidents is their relative physical heights in terms of their own times; that is, in terms of the populace over which they presided, not in terms of their raw heights, per se.

Donna B. said...

Though I'm getting flack for my opinion on another blog, I still think Carter was the worst president of my lifetime (from Eisenhower) and is the worst ex-president ever.

Other than Bush I, Carter is also the only living ex-pres I've ever shook hands with. And I don't believe that he's 5'9". 5'6" is more like it, no matter what the official stats say. He obviously wears lifted shoes... I felt like a giant when I met him and I'm only 5'7".

Or at least I was 5'7" then. I've shrunk. Aging sucks.

1jpb said...

W's face could be open to interpretation.

I see joviality. Which was the reality of the situation.

But, if I look at it just so, I see despair.

Active imagination, I guess.

Cedarford said...

heywoot said...
What is the greatest number of presidents, past, present and future, in one picture?


If this is a riddle, I think the answer might be Nixon's funeral. That would of course include Nixon resting in his casket - along with Carter, Ford, Bush I, Clinton...and I think Dubya, who accompanied his Dad, but was off in the peanut gallery.
Also, Nixon's farewell had several noted people who ran for President or were former VPs. Bob Dole, Dan Quayle, John McCain, George McGovern, Spiro Agnew, Hillary Clinton, George Romney, Pat Buchanan...

Reagan's funeral drew 5 former Presidents, plus Reagan in the casket.

Cedarford said...

Oops, somehow I omitted Reagan in listing the Nixon funeral digitaries. Notable in itself because it was the last public appearance Ronald Reagan ever made.

reader_iam said...

Of course, there's always this painting ("interactive" in this link) upon which to reflect.

bagoh20 said...

"Five guys. And we know what Obama's favorite passtime is. Here's what I'm thinking"

The problem with analogies is that people always end up adjusting the truth to fit them. Always a sure sign that agenda is king, insight be damned.

cubanbob said...

Obama looks like he silently reciting Alan Shepard's prayer.

Obama and 43 have decent tailors. Clinton has enough money he ought to get one. 41 in the NYT photo looks well enough tailored. Carter looks like he got his suit from an internet discounter running a clearance sale.

Bill said...

And then there are the "X-Presidents", as well as the ex-presidents.

theobromophile said...

1. Why are the Democrats wearing red ties, and the Republicans wearing blue ties, and why didn't Obama get the memo on that?

2. Clinton looks like he's trying to feel up a statue of Lady Justice.

rhhardin said...

None of them are in Bermudas.

Ralph said...

Weren't all the ex prez at Pat Nixon's funeral in 1993? I can't imagine Clinton missing that either. He does look old in that photo. JC must have that old man smell.

Each administration's papers are scooped up by the Archives, probably by law. Some of the NSC staff is carried over, unfortunately (Richard Clarke).

mr. bread said...

Obama's gentle handclasp is vaguely prayerful, symbolizing hope, resonating his campaign theme.

It's also a non-agressive pose. Back when Officer Friendly came by my fifth-grade classroom, he told us that cops always clasp their hands in front of themselves when questioning people because it's the least-confrontational pose they can strike.

Florida said...

You've missed the most telling part of the photograph. There's a "secret signal" in the photo ... it's in the tie choice of the men.

Three men chose powder blue ties. Two men are wearing ChiCom red ties.

How will Obama govern? The tie says it all: To the right.

Florida said...

PS:

theobromophile should get the award for hottest commenter of the year.

Sissy Willis said...

An long-ago Hahvahd prof of mine always said the hands in front was a defensive signal, trying to protect the family jewels

Kit said...

Obama's hand position is the same one law enforcement officers are taught to use when interviewing someone. The "open" body language makes the person you are interview feel like you are harmless and want to help, so they open up more and trust you, and therefore reveal more.

Darcy said...

I actually like this picture very much. Clinton is looking much older, though. Kind of sad to see that.

knox said...

he said almost nobody would talk to Carter, who was widely perceived as a dithering weakling by his classmates.

In the thread about the "kidney couple" yesterday someone commented that it'd be hard to live with a person who thought of themselves as saintly. Carter sure seems like he could have a good bit of that in him.

Balfegor said...

Jimmy and Bush2 match with the hands at the side look, which seems best, since 2 of them are doing it. Obama's gentle handclasp is vaguely prayerful, symbolizing hope, resonating his campaign theme. Bush1 has his hands in his pockets, which seems as though he's not paying attention. Hands behind the back — Clinton — in body language, this says I've got something to hide.

Oddly, I would put these in roughly the reverse order, with Bush I and Clinton in the best poses, Obama in the middle with his weird hand thing, and Bush II and Carter with the stiffest and most awkward stances.

For Bush I, I'm reminded of a portrait photo I saw of him once slouching with his hands in his pockets -- can't remember where (New Yorker? It was that kind of photo). It was one of the attractive things about Bush I's style, that unlike Clinton or Bush II (or Reagan, for that matter), he wore suits like clothes, not a uniform.

jayne_cobb said...

Knox, I think you're on to something here.

Carter has always struck me as the type of person who thinks he's a great humanitarian and statesman and expects everybody else to acknowledge it as well.

If people fail to do so he doesn't attack them outright, he instead undermines them later on.

Michael said...

"The oddest thing is the way Bush2 is leaning over into Obama's space. It's as if he were saying "I'm with these guys." By contrast, no one seems to want to be anywhere near Jimmy Carter."

Or Carter doesn't want to be anywhere near those guys.

Michael said...

jayne: "
Carter has always struck me as the type of person who thinks he's a great humanitarian..."

He is, you idiot.

Why not do some research into what Mr. Carter has done since leaving office before saying blathering on with such bullshit?

Patm said...

Bush I has always had a habit of the casual stance with hands in pocket. I recall seeing a photo of him as a young flyboy in WWII, standing similarly.

I didn't like his presidency much but after I read his book of letters "All the Best" I was much more impressed with him. Now I admire him very much as an American who truly loved and served his country to the best of his ability.

That's really all we can ask of our presidents.

OSweet said...

Why not do some research into what Mr. Carter has done since leaving office before saying blathering on with such bullshit?

You mean how Carter effectively took over the presidency during the NK nuke crisis in 1994 and essentially gave Kim Il-sung everything he wanted, and told the press before he even told Clinton.

jayne_cobb said...

Wow, this is the first time I've been attacked by Michael; but your remarks do seem par for the course.

Now had you read my post more thoroughly you'd notice that I never said he hasn't done anything that might qualify him as a humanitarian (I know about Habitat for humanity and all that). I was talking about what he expects in return and the consequences of not getting it.

Synova said...

Didn't Carter also travel to Darfur and announce that, no, indeed... there wasn't genocide going on there?

The ruler, whatever the heck his name is, had assured him as much and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

Ralph said...

Carter's never met an anti-American dictator he didn't like.

rhhardin said...

Imus interviews Bush 41 this morning (.mp3 from the WABC site).