Count on the NY Times to be dickish the day before President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural. The article leading off today’s Week in Review is a familiar litany of complaint from someone–David Rothkopf is who, please?–poking darts this time at Barack Obama’s management style. I read the whole column and found nothing about it persuasive as a critique. The presidency isn’t a business, and management isn’t necessarily the only goal, or holy grail, of leadership.
The opinion expressed in the column is unsurprising, even overly familiar but I have an even bigger beef with the illustration accompanying it. The artist, Mark Ulriksen–perhaps at the suggestion of Times op-art editors, or at least with their final approval–has created an aloof Obama in baseball uni with a bunch of dropped balls all around him, as one floats in the air above his hand. It seems to say, “Will he drop this one, too? Meanwhile, the caricatured president has his nose stuck up in the air striking an arrogant pose. I instantly found it offensive, perpetuating a meme of the president as unfeeling, uncaring, even a bit lazy, as if he can’t be bothered to catch the balls tossed his way. I’m sick of these portrayals of the president. Would anyone unfeeling have gone so gray in four years and often appear so careworn, even while his smile does still break out like a sunbeam, as in the official White House photo unveiled last week?
I want to add that I’m not the only blogger to find this column odd, at the least. At TPM, Josh Marshall has asked people to read it and send him their thoughts on it. I’ll send my take to Josh.
There are times when I hate the NY Times, among other things for its smugness, its know-it-all air, and its attempts at coining the establishment line and minting conventional wisdom. This is one of those times. They’re the arrogant party here, not the president. Here’s a screenshot of the column as presented online, and the drawing on its own. Please let me know what you think, especially if you see it differently than me, or agree, and see aspects of the unfortunate meme that I’ve overlooked. For instance, maybe the subtext of the drawing is even more overtly racial than I suggested above. Could be.