The photo-op pres­i­dency

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

The of­fi­cial Obama 2012 cam­paign slo­gan was “For­ward.” The op­er­a­tional motto of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is “Cheese.” As in “say cheese.” From hol­low Greek col­umns to strate­gi­cally re­leased Sit­u­a­tion Room can­dids, the Pa­parazzi Pres­i­dent has put self-serv­ing op­tics above all else.

What did we get af­ter four long years of ex­pertly staged Kabuki-theater-meet­sPotemkin-vil­lage pro­duc­tions? Six­teen tril­lion dol­lars in debt, a pile of dead bod­ies, troops at in­creased risk and a gallery of tax-sub­si­dized Ko­dachrome pic­tures cre­at­ing the grand il­lu­sion of lead­er­ship.

As Hur­ri­cane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, Team Obama’s im­age con­sul­tants re­leased a photo show­ing POTUS pur­port­edly in charge. The White House sent the pic­ture out to 3.2 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers with the mes­sage: “Photo: Pres­i­dent Obama re­ceives an up­date on the on­go­ing re­sponse to Hur­ri­cane #Sandy in the Sit­u­a­tion Room.”

The next day, the White House sent out an­other Sit­u­a­tion Room photo with Obama — pen in hand, gilded cof­fee cup to the side, lean­ing in­tently to­ward a video­con­fer­ence mon­i­tor — get­ting a Sandy up­date.

A White House cap­tion in­forms us that Obama was flanked by “John Bren­nan, As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent for Home­land Se­cu­rity and Coun­tert­er­ror­ism; Tony Blinken, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor to the Vice Pres­i­dent; David Agnew, Di­rec­tor for In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs; Alyssa Mas­tromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Op­er­a­tions; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew.”

In his hal­cyon days, the im­ages would have prompted an avalanche of so­cial me­dia swoon­ing. But with a tor­nado of unan­swered ques­tions and swirling lies in Wash­ing­ton sur­round­ing the pres­i­dent’s dere­lic­tion of duty dur­ing the 9/11/12 ter­ror­ist at­tack on our diplo­matic staff and se­cu­rity per­son­nel in Libya, in­formed Twit­ter users wanted to know only one thing: What about Beng­hazi? “Oh, so NOW the pres­i­dent is in the sit­u­a­tion room?” con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist and blog­ger Melissa Clouthier re­sponded. “But he went to bed dur­ing Beng­hazi.” Con­ser­va­tive writer and blog­ger El­iz­a­beth Scalia asked: “How DEAF is the (White House)? They re­lease photo of Obama in Sit­u­a­tion Room mon­i­tor­ing storm? Where is (the) pic of him in that room, mon­i­tor­ing BENG­HAZI?” When CBS News re­porter Mark Knoller shared one of the White House pho­tos on his Twit­ter feed, North Carolina small-busi­ness­man Aaron LePrell asked: “(C)an you re­quest a pic­ture of the Beng­hazi sit­u­a­tion room for us?”

Visual ha­giog­ra­phy is a sta­ple of any White House ad­min­is­tra­tion. But the se­lec­tive fre­quency with which the White House “Mes­sage: I’m work­ing here, I’m re­ally work­ing here” pho­tos have been dis­sem­i­nated has be­come a run­ning joke. White House pho­tog­ra­pher Pete Souza’s Twit­ter feed and Flickr up­loads serve as Ag­it­prop Cen­tral for all White House-ap­proved, be­hind-the-scenes-lead­er­ship glamour shots. A sam­ple of photo cap­tions:

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama con­venes a con­fer­ence call at Camp David with Home­land Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bren­nan, FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller and Chief of Staff Jack Lew to dis­cuss the shoot­ing at a Wis­con­sin shop­ping mall, Sun­day, Oct. 21, 2012.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama holds a con­fer­ence call with ad­vi­sors to dis­cuss the Aurora, Colo., shoot­ings, dur­ing the mo­tor­cade ride to Palm Beach In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Palm Beach, Fla., July 20, 2012.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­ceives a na­tional se­cu­rity briefing from John Bren­nan, As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent for Home­land Se­cu­rity, in Martha’s Vine­yard, Mass., Aug. 19, 2011.

Re­flected in a mir­ror, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama con­ducts a con­fer­ence call with his na­tional se­cu­rity staff, in­clud­ing John Bren­nan (right), As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent for Coun­tert­er­ror­ism, on the sit­u­a­tion in Libya in Chilmark, Mass., Au­gust 22, 2011.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama talks on the phone with French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, in Chilmark, Mass., Aug. 23, 2011.

Yep, phon­ing it in as usual. Not un­til the coffins of the four Amer­i­cans mur­dered in Libya re­turned to the U.S. does the word “Beng­hazi” ap­pear in the of­fi­cial White House pho­to­stream on Flickr. A search for the tag “Beng­hazi” yields the fol­low­ing re­sult: “The White House doesn’t have any­thing tagged with Beng­hazi.”

The omis­sion is telling, but no sur­prise. For all the daily at­tempts to man­u­fac­ture im­ages of com­pe­tence, strength, de­ci­sive­ness and lead­er­ship, Obama’s stage man­agers can’t shake the stub­born per­cep­tion — and re­al­ity — of ab­ject feck­less­ness and ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Re­mem­ber: Obama’s cam­paign staff cooked up faux pres­i­den­tial seals com­plete with ea­gle’s head and the pre­ten­tious Latin phrase “Vero Pos­sumus” (“yes, we can”). His stage­hands out­fit­ted Oba­macare ad­vo­cates with phony-baloney white lab coats. He pub­licly joked about turn­ing a visit with U.S. sol­diers abroad into “a pretty good photo op.” If he could have, he would have im­printed the world-fa­mous May 2011 Sit­u­a­tion Room photo taken dur­ing the bin Laden raid on “Obama for Amer­ica” mugs and T-shirts.

The Poser of the United States has shame­lessly ex­ploited the ul­ti­mate prop: his ma­jes­tic tax-sub­si­dized plane. A Los Angeles Times head­line gushed ap­prov­ingly: “Obama cam­paign rolls out its big­gest prop: Air Force One.” In 2009, White House staff or­ga­nized a nar­cis­sis­tic fly­over stunt of the plane over the Statue of Lib­erty that ter­ri­fied un­sus­pect­ing res­i­dents, who thought it was a ter­ror­ist at­tack. The White House re­fused to re­lease all but one of the pho­tos taken dur­ing the prof­li­gate joy ride. Michelle Malkin is the au­thor of “Cul­ture of Cor­rup­tion: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Reg­n­ery 2010).

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