September 8, 2009

Let's analyze this picture of Obama and the Justices (and Biden).

Keep in mind that this is the shot the White House chose to put up on its Flickr page. (There's also this pic of Obama shaking hands with his appointee Sonia Sotamayor — with Scalia looking thoroughly delighted.)


(Enlarge.)

That's Biden, on the left, with his back to the camera, talking to Breyer and Roberts. The charming Roberts looks charmed by the gasbag VP, while Breyer — though more liberal than Roberts — looks like he's sleeping on his feet.

The short hulk by himself with his back to the camera is Scalia. Also alone, lurking in the background, is the newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. Or is Ruth Bader Ginsburg back there too (in the ladies section?) out of camera range?

Brooding over on the extreme right are Justice Thomas and Alito.

In the center, there's the President. As Stevens looks on, Obama laughs at Justice Kennedy's vain effort to enlist the Prez in a game of pattycake. Oh! Pattycake! Such fun!

IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt says:
Imagine holding a party. Your spouse takes pictures. When the guests leave, you say, "I'll email a group picture to you all."

The guests check their email accounts the next morning to find a picture wherein all of them have their backs to the camera or are by some other means obscured. Except you. You stand, fully visible, smiling broadly, center frame.

He he he.

59 comments:

Skyler said...

The One is always the center of every universe.

rhhardin said...

It might be one-handed cat's cradle.

Chase said...

I think this was probably the vest looking picture of the President, and everyone else's appearance was secondary to the White House. To think there was something cryptic in it's particular grouping is giving the White House way too much credit.

kentuckyliz said...

He might be yelling, "Holla!"

Seriously, it looks like the faculty lineup as we are about to process in and take our place on the stage for commencement ceremonies. I always wear Birkenstocks with my cap and gown.

ricpic said...

I don't know why but I find the figure of Scalia, seen from the back, mesmerizing. Thomas sure is keeping his distance.

Synova said...

Sotomayer in the back seems very isolated from the rest...

Is it just because she's new and doesn't know everyone? She's junior?

Is it an illusion because the men seem so tall?

Freeman Hunt said...

That the White House picked this one is hilarious.

Andrew Shimmin said...

Is Thomas wearing brown shoes?

Freeman Hunt said...

Imagine holding a party. Your spouse takes pictures. When the guests leave, you say, "I'll email a group picture to you all."

The guests check their email accounts the next morning to find a picture wherein all of them have their backs to the camera or are by some other means obscured. Except you. You stand, fully visible, smiling broadly, center frame.

He he he.

miller said...

well, it's a nice picture

AJ Lynch said...

It does not appear to be a warm crowd. Is Sotomayor on a cel phone call perhaps.

Plus Obama 's feet are almost touching. Who stands like that?

Donna B. said...

I thought this was supposed to be about Sotomayor... and she's relegated to the far background?

peter hoh said...

If we looked at the scene from over the Chief Justice's shoulder, we'd see Breyer, Stevens, and Sotomayor on the left. On the right, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. In the center, Kennedy, who seems to be getting a big laugh out of his ability to determine the outcome of a 5-4 decision.

thecoyle said...

Scalia may be walking over to talk to the two women about how great the diversity is on the Court now -- they being from three different NYC boroughs and all.

I think Obama's next pick will come from Harlem.

peter hoh said...

Ginsburg shows up in the other photo released on flickr.

Alito appears to be in the same place for both photos.

The text accompanying the photos states "The photograph may not be manipulated in any way. . . ."

C'mon Chip Ahoy, don't let them stomp on your right to photoshop. That's covered under the first amendment, isn't it?

WV: conscam.

peter hoh said...

Donna B, Sotomayor gets prime face time in the other photo.

David said...

ricpic said...
"I don't know why but I find the figure of Scalia, seen from the back, mesmerizing. Thomas sure is keeping his distance."

It may be that Thomas is just being polite and respectful, as is his nature. Kennedy and Stevens are talking to the President. They are senior to Thomas on the Court. He isn't going to just barge in.

David said...

Yeah--the photo may not be manipulated, but the American public is fair game.

EDH said...

I think they chose that photo because it makes Scalia look like he's grown a hipster dufus pigtail, and but for his enlarged prostate he would be urinating on the center of the carpet.

Notice, Sotomayor averting her eyes disconsolately in the background.

Next ink blot!

chickenlittle said...

Don't blame this on Obama, blame it on the idolators that work for him.
Expose them, one at a time.

Chip Ahoy said...

The court, a variation on a theme.

So sue me.

aberman said...

Roberts and Obama are both working, the others are playing. Roberts targeted Biden, and Obama targeted the most malleable Justice- Kennedy.

rhhardin said...

It's a pic of the undead and Obama.

Sotomeyer ought to wear white with gold trim on the sleeve.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Does Sotamayor know she's not up to their level? Every justice did recently say she handled a case improperly.

AllenS said...

The last time Biden and Obama got together, they bought beer. Today, not so much.

Cheapskates.

WV: diacatum

Some kind of legal term.

Pogo said...

Obama is planning the next nine Justices to add to this group, just like FDR.

Mian said...

Obama looks like he has to make a wee-wee.

Father Martin Fox said...

Aberman: Obama targeted Kennedy...

Or it may be the other way round: Kennedy is most keen to be held in high esteem.

bearbee said...

O has the crossed-arm stance of arrogance and insecurity.

I suspect Ruth B-G is well hidden over there with Sonia S. Isn't she kinda of a shrimp?

Scalia is facing toward O but also B-G making eye contact with her and probably nodding, winking and making various funny grimaces.

pst314 said...

Note also that Obama, unlike everyone else, is standing with his arms crossed in front of him.

MadisonMan said...

Why this photo? Well, that's hard to tell without seeing all the rejects, isn't it?

Robert Cook said...

"It may be that Thomas is just being polite and respectful, as is his nature."

He honed this manner while managing a staff that included Anita Hill.

As for the various musings on this unremarkable photo, I also find that when I empty my mind and stare long enough at my navel, I reach a state where I start seeing the trippiest things!

Roger J. said...

As madison man observed. One can only believe if this is the best pic, the rest were absolutely atrocious.

peter hoh said...

Chicken Little: What, you think that Obama is the first president to have a photographer on his staff?

jacksonianlawyer said...

That there are those who suggest no thought went into The One's selection and posting of *this* particular picture is a testament to their willful ignorance and/or absolute infantile naivete.

peter hoh said...

Jacksonianlawyer, where is this straw man of whom you speak?

traditionalguy said...

This entire nomnation of an Hispanic woman (who is a con law centrist)was always a campaign event for the up-coming elections in which Obama wants to be seen as very pro-Hispanic in a room full of, God Forbid, White Men. This pic is centered on Obama because he is always the story in his political campaigns.

MadisonMan said...

I think I'll try to post a comment at 9:09 AM. I want to see all them nines!

vw: grade. An actual word!

MadisonMan said...

Nine justices. 9/9/9 . 9:09

peter hoh said...

Traditional guy, you think there's a White House photo of GWB with the Supreme Court in which he is not at the center and/or shown in an unflattering pose? Find one and I'll shut up for a week.

Mian said...

Personally, I think this photo is prescient in it showing Sotomayor in the background, almost out of sight. I think that's a position she'll assume on this court.

I believe Obama erred in choosing someone based more upon their ethnicity and gender and less on their brilliance -- it was an easy pitch to hit and Obama grounded out to second.

traditionalguy said...

Peter... I agree with you. My comment is an analysis of the photo selection criteria. A president being centered in a pic is not usual for a White House release, but why were Thomas and Scalia virtually invisable unless you already knew their backs.

former law student said...

I agree with all the photo decriers: the only appropriate lineup for group photos is the Last Supper. All must be full face to the camera -- face to face conversation in small groups is unnatural and must be prevented.

Justice Kennedy's hand is raised because he's saying "Emmis."

Had the Malthouses had a wedding reception, we could compare their candid group shots to this one.

Prism Trading School said...

If the President of the United States is in any room he/she is the most important person in that room period.

Robert Cook said...

For those who find negative import in Obama being the center figure in this grouping, did you look equally askance at the several published photos of George Bush where the Presidential Seal on the wall would be centered (i.e., Photoshopped) just so such that the effect was of a halo glowing around his head? (Of course, 9 out of 10 scientific christianists agree that halos cannot form around a vacuum, so the achieved results were immediately unconvincing.)

knox said...

If the President of the United States is in any room he/she is the most important person in that room period.

AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT

Fred4Pres said...

I went to my wife's 20 year reunion and the photo slide show was prepared by a guy who put himself into virtually every slide. He even managed to get himself into shots of kids who were memorizalized who died in car wrecks while in High School (by having pictures of himself at their funerals). It seems his only editorial criteria was whether or not he was in a photograph. It was a wreck of a powerpoint presentation. By the end of it people were groaning and hating this guy.

Not much different than Obama over exposing himself.

peter hoh said...

Oh, for a chance to stroll through the alternate reality world in which Fred Thompson is president and the White House photographer releases mostly photos that don't show the president.

J Lee said...

Assuming the photographer is also not the photo editor and/or website manager, my guess is there were hundreds of shots taken, and this one was selected based on a general criteria of "best shots of the president".

The fact that out of that group, they picked a shot that highlights a certain cult-of-personality mindset at least on the part of the White House staff, since you would assume the White House has thousands of Obama face-front pictures already to run on the website.

It's the faces of the justices that would make this one different, because that's what indicates though image alone who Obama was with. In the positions the justices and Biden are in here, a photo taken from the far left side of the image (basically at a 90-degree angle to where the photographer was) would have been better, because it would have caught at least the profiles of most of the justices, along with the president.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will said...

Oops, wrong link in my original comment.
If you look at the largest version of the photo, there is someone standing behind Justice Stevens speaking with J. Sotomayor. It's a man about the same height as Sotomayor, graying and a little thin on top, maybe J. Souter?

Also, on closer inspection, J. Thomas looks like he's smiling. J. Alito looks very skeptical about something, though.

raf said...

Lighten up folks. The oint of photo "analysis" is to have fun with pseudo psychological interpretation. What is it about Obama that drives certain folks to reflexive defensiveness? Just make up a funny interpretation more compatible with your own biases. Maybe Scalia is slumped in defeat, having been outshone by the brilliant Obama. Kennedy is obviously doing better. Thomas and Alito are huddled in the corner, overawed and afraid to compete. Or something.

WV: depsimp. Department of Simplification. A bureaucratic oxymoron.

John Salmon said...

Obama's shown smiling, that's all the White House cares about.

Freeman Hunt said...

Some of you are being really obtuse. The point isn't that you can see him. Of course you should be able to see him. The point is that you can barely see anyone else!

peter hoh said...

Freeman, your point I got.

It's the reflexive "OMG, this just proves that everyone around THE ONE is a sycophant" that got to me.

Ralph L said...

Doesn't the Supreme Court have its own photographer?

I suppose all recent presidents have taken their own photographers with them to events.

former law student said...

I suppose all recent presidents have taken their own photographers with them to events.

At least since Clinton. The latest Presidential photos were posted in the West Wing back then.

former law student said...

ooh. Per CNN, Obama's photographer was Reagan's White House photographer for 5 - 1/2 years.

http://www.musarium.com/stories/reagan/index.html

Will said...

I suppose all recent presidents have taken their own photographers with them to events.

I suspect the only people that spend more time around a modern president are the Secret Service detail.

WV: wooplosie. Trying to bring the Speaker around to your point of view.