A Revealing Photo

By Jeffrey Goldberg

No, not the soon-to-be-released Bin Laden-shot-in-the-head photo (which could become one of the most viewed photographs in history), but the photo of the President and his advisers in the White House situation room. Why amazing? Because the President seems so small and peripheral to the action. He is hunched down, seated on the margins of the meeting, seemingly trying not to take up space. It appears as if he couldn't even find a place to put his jacket. By contrast, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, practically bestrides the room like a Colossus (an affable Colossus, if you know him). I was struck, when I saw this photo, that the Bush White House would have ever released a similar photograph. This is not to cast aspersions on Bush, but could you seriously imagine his public relations releasing an image of him leading from behind, as it were?
Osama Bin Laden
I was just talking to David Brooks, and he, too, was struck by this photo. He noted that the President most likely had to move seats to see the screen, but he did not move to a central seat, but to a small chair against the wall. The negative interpretation of this, of course, is that the President wasn't running the meeting, but both of us found this impossible to believe. The positive interpretation is that the President is so confident in his power that he is comfortable even in a corner. This speaks well of him, to my mind; a president who kills America's enemies without swagger is better than a swaggerer who doesn't kill America's enemies. (Maybe here I'm casting a few aspersions on Bush.)

David recently posted, on one of his many blogs, a piece about research conducted by Harvard Business School's Amy Cuddy, who, with colleagues, studied power poses, and how adopting a power pose (in police jargon, a command stance) can actually change a person's mindset. Look at the photo below: No evidence of a Barack Obama power pose there. Just power:
 
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http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/a-revealing-photo/238284/