02/18/2009 03:33 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reading The Pictures: Obama's Catering To The Right


This latest slide show from the White House -- tracking the President's marketing of the stimulus bill -- seeks to clearly demonstrate (and document) just how much Obama made efforts at bipartisanship.

If you can't make it out, the caption reads:

"Though the annual Alfalfa Club dinner on Jan. 31 was a social affair, the President took time out to talk with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell."

Though I think I understand photographer Pete Souza's caption -- that the event was more formal and didn't give people a chance to mix casually -- the language is interesting. It emphasizes how Obama broke with the proceedings (in other words, went out of his way) to connect with McConnell. The way it's written, however, the phrase (considering the "though") has another (somewhat more frustrated and harder political) sense too, expressing how Obama's "talk" with McConnell took place in spite of the evening's sociability.

Regarding the photo itself, it is interesting how it reveals a polarization with the two right-wingers, with McConnell and Roberts lined up and balancing off the left half of the photo while Obama and the waiter carry the other half. I'm hesitant to put too much weight on the racial split (although there was a joke going around during and right after the election -- among blacks, mostly, as far as I could tell -- that the black candidate was being brought in to clean up the white man's mess). Where there is a definitive parallel between Obama and the waiter, however, is in the way Obama -- in physically and socially extending himself to the Minority Leader -- finds himself in the catering mode.

For thoughts on another photo in the show, or more visual politics, visit (and BAGnewsNotes @Twitter).

WH slideshow: The story of the economic recovery package