The proper emotion, the seemly sentiment


Yesterday morning, looking for art to go with today’s lead editorial, I picked the photo above. Along the way I had briefly considered the ones back on this post, but this one worked best worked best for my purposes in terms of expression and composition — it worked perfectly in terms of the size and shape I needed.

I hesitated to use if for only one reason: He looked so extremely YOUNG — far, far too young to be president. As young as his campaign workers that I wrote about back in this column in the summer of ’07. It brought to mind something I said to my wife recently about JFK: He was several years younger than Obama when elected, but I remember him as looking older and more mature. Is that because I was a child at the time, or did he just look more grown-up manly. Was it something about that generation — they had been to war, and that does something to a man’s face. They were the Daddy generation (in fact, somewhat older than MY dad, who was too young for WWII). My wife pointed out something I should have realized: The prednisone that Kennedy took for his back problems caused his face to fill out; before that, HE looked like a skinny, gawdy kid. True enough, I suppose.

So I hesitated to use a photo with our congratulatory editorial that in my own mind raised one of the reasons I preferred McCain, on a gut level: Obama is to me something far more dramatic than the first "black" president (a distinction regarding which I have my own rather pedantic doubts). He is the first president younger than me. Quite a bit younger. So it is that, not wanting to express doubts about the new president through my choice of a photo, I paused. But nothing else I saw was nearly as suitable, so I went with it.

Imagine my dismay last night when, flipping channels on the boob tube, I saw a news program use the very same photo quite prominently. Then imagine my further concern this morning to see that our newsroom had decided to, in the hyperbolic expression that many readers use, "splash" that photo across six columns on the front page this morning. This coincidence give grist to those who believe there is collusion between news and editorial, when the truth is that I see these things when you, the reader, do.

These "coincidences" cause me to reflect on what Tom Wolfe once said about the news media, which was to call us the Victorian Gentleman, constantly striving to evince the proper emotion, the exact right tone for the moment — which causes us to make the very same decisions simultaneously, without the slightest effort at collusion or even awareness of what each other are doing. This picture is an illustration of that phenomenon. It said "winner" better than any other photo, so everyone picked it.

By the way, my second choice of the day was the one below that I used on the op-ed page, with the David Broder column. Obama’s expression isn’t nearly as good — he almost looks apprehensive — but he has that "eyes on the distant horizon" look, and the air Biden has of presenting him to the world (Behold, your new president!) was just too good, too apt, to pass up.

So on the whole, this Victorian Gent is satisfied.


26 thoughts on “The proper emotion, the seemly sentiment

  1. zzazzeefrazzee

    Clinton was young too, Brad. Maybe I’m wrong but wasn’t h just 46? Obama is older, yes?
    Many of the same things said of Obama were said about Clinton too, albeit a more racy conspiracy-driven tone has dominated the discussion regarding Obama, that was largely absent in Clinton’s case.

  2. Capital A

    I’m just waiting on the inevitable movie that results from his biography and election. Hollywood won’t bother to do any inspired or creative casting, so pencil in Will Smith as Obama and Tommy Lee Jones as Biden.
    Spike Lee will direct, John Singleton if his rate is too high. Lee Lmuler will play Conservative, Radical Protestor #3.
    Ah, Presidential movies…where complex and interesting reality becomes braindead, straightforward fiction.

  3. Phillip

    good point, zzazzee…here’s an even more relevant point:
    The youngest man to become President in American history? Not Kennedy, who was merely the youngest ELECTED.
    The answer is John McCain’s role model, Teddy Roosevelt, who became President in 1901 upon McKinley’s assassination but who did not have to run for re-election until 1904.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Oh yeah, Teddy was the youngest. Which sort of defies belief when you consider all that he had done by that point in his life, from writing a lot of books — from the academic to the popular — to almost singlehandedly starting the War with Spain (some would credit my distant cousin William Randolph Hearst, but such things generally have many fathers) before going and fighting in it.
    And Clinton couldn’t possibly have been younger. I distinctly remember that when he was elected, he was quite a bit older than I was…

  5. Randy E

    Now we know why Brad unflinchingly ignored the profound problems with McCain especuially when measured against Obama. The former is a patriarchal figure while the later is a person who should be looking up to Brad.
    Blogging is some catharsis for Brad’s subconscience.

  6. Capital A

    Randy E,
    You should know by now that Boomers almost invariably look up to even older white guys who supposedly embody the Great White Hunter archetype. How do you think Walker Texas, Ranger stayed on the air for six regular seasons?
    They have particular man-crushes on those who claimed to be tough and were (TR) and those who claim to be but aren’t (Bushbaby).
    The sad fact is they can hardly distinguish between those disparate antipodes, even when the lens of ample history is afforded.

  7. Doug Ross

    Capital A,
    Many adult males basically vote for the guy they either think their father is or wish their father was.
    That’s how we get the Daddy state.
    I vote for the smartest guy with the lowest B.S. quotient. Hmmm… that WAS my father.

  8. Reader

    I see you have changed the caption of this blog post to “The proper emotion, the seemly sentiment.” Originally it was “Everybody’s Favorite Photo.” Or something along those lines — that totally missed the spirit of the moment. Do you really equate the significance of what has just happened in this country to the size and shape of a photo? Neither you nor John McCain get it, do you?

  9. Susan

    I have been so impressed with his energy. Maybe it’s because I’m tired, and he seems just to be so alert and eager, though calm.
    I want someone with the energy to do the hard work and the hard thinking and not just give in or give over to the easy solution.

  10. Randy E

    Susan, don’t forget intellectual rigor. Chris Buckley explained that Obama has world class smarts. I’ll have a beer with my buddy and want my president elect, doctor, lawyer, and Ed-op editor to be especially gifted intellectually (3 out of 4 ain’t bad).
    Doug, I guess you took after your mother? πŸ™‚

  11. Lee Muller

    Obama may be somewhat smart, but he has a rather narrow education, and now real work experience. There are a lot of 30 year olds who are much more educated, knowledgeable, and wiser. He is nothing special, certainly not qualified to hold any national office.

  12. Reader

    “He [Barack Obama] is nothing special, certainly not qualified to hold any national office.”
    Your opinion was nullified by many, many people last Tuesday, Lee.

  13. bud

    It will be interesting to compare this picture to one of Obama in 8 years (if he’s re-elected). I bet he’ll age far more than 8 years during that time. The job of POTUS is extremely demanding and thankless. Just ask Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Maybe these two guys can get together and have a beer and trade presidential horror stories.

  14. Lee Muller

    Obama never made any intellectual arguments for electing him. He talks in feel-good platitudes to a cult following, who all hear what they want to hear.
    The nearest Obama comes to expressing any philosophy is in his writings and speeches where he repeats the slogans of other Marxists who influenced his belief system.
    Most voters are still unaware of Obama’s radical Marxist beliefs, and most of his supporters are so uneducated that they could not comprehend them if they did know.
    His supporters in this blog offer good examples – none of them can explain Obama’s agenda, much less his philosophy. All they talk about is his skin color, how much they hate Bush, and insult everyone who posts facts and tries to discuss reality.

  15. Randy E

    Reader, I can share Obama’s philosophy. He spoke today about the economy and specifically about rices skyrocketing. He hopes to act quickly so the rice market doesn’t collapse.

  16. Reader

    In a case of what my husband has copyrighted as “Blogger’s Remorse,” I hereby declare I don’t hate everything you contribute, Brad, only the thinly-veiled bigotry. In fact, I was inspired by the “Barack Like Me” column. In fact, it helped me see him as human. And accept him. Well — that, and Bishop T.D. Jakes’ “Go Ahead — He is Our Moses” sermon. That was ***pretty*** instrumental. I tend to throw the broad cloth of all that the KKK stands for: anti-black, anti-Jew, and the VERY EVIL anti-woman sentiment over the mantle of anyone in their inner circle. I think…I know…Brad is attached to one of their evil tentacles.
    No — I cannot blame all of the past 14+ years of oppression ALL on Brad. Though he does have a far-flung opinion web. His buds out here in Lexington have certainly grossed me out, as far as what the human race is still actually CAPABLE of.
    So. There. I hate living here — what can I say???

  17. Reader

    Unfortunately, I’ll always find something to say…I’ll be back when I finish reading the annotated version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Fascinating, that!

  18. Randy E

    My patriarchal bias is evident, I ASSumed Reader is a male.
    Reader, I worked in Lexington for a couple years. There are wonderful people there but I was out of my element (save the fact that it’s a hotbed for Clemson fans which I appreciated). Now I live in Connecticut and enjoyed see an abundance of Obama signs the past few weeks. πŸ™‚

  19. Reader

    I wish I lived in Connecticut. Or Istanbul. Or Cambodia. Or Africa. Or Montana. Anywhere but here. Anywhere lying, crooked solicitors live is where I am out of my element. I am out of my element. I go out of my mind, too. I will get off on the insanity plea. I promise.

  20. Reader

    Heavens, No! [I just read the parts that speedreading missed before.]
    I am not a man. Men are stinky creatures that just grow larger and stinkier…but keep the eighth grade mentality all their lives. The only really good men are my husband, my dad, my son, most men of the cloth, our new president, our good governor, the governor of Montana, W. & his dad, Bill Clinton, I guess, Reagan, and a few others who shall remain nameless. You’re probably OK Randy. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

  21. Reader

    Brad is currently on trial. The jury is mostly women, none southern: there are Baptists, Jews, Mormons, a couple of really feisty monks of unknown allegiance, a roustabout from the Alaska [unsure of gender], Father Mob, and Hillary Clinton. It will be a fair trial.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *