11/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading The Pictures: McCain's Mouth

This particular guy caught the attention of several newswire photographers on Saturday. He was in the front row during McCain's Iowa appearance waving a hat that matched his shirt. The shot -- since replaced -- accompanied a NYT article detailing GOP anxiety over McCain's increasingly chaotic campaign.

Reverberating into the weekend, it seems McCain and his crew didn't appreciate the pot they'd been stirring in working up their crowds.

In framing this scene, NYT photographer Stephen Crowley offers some brilliant commentary. The singular open mouth is a chilling reference to, and warning of the faceless angry mob. The X'ing out of Obama is more terrifying still. If few dare talk about it, the logical conclusion of all the vilifying -- justified in the name of "Country First" -- is to put Obama in the cross hairs. The inclusion of man at the left, however, and the sidelong, circumspect glance in the direction of "Mouth" is a reminder that people at these rallies mostly know better, and understand there are boundaries one just doesn't cross.

Problem is, you need a candidate who 100% knows the difference, who you can clearly say skews to the guy on the left as opposed to bouncing back-and-forth.

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(image: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Davenport, Iowa. October 11, 2008)