07/27/2011 01:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading the Pictures: President Boehner (Or, Obama Losing the Pulpit)


I find it striking, clever and telling the way the Repubs worked the visuals surrounding Tuesday night's presidential TV statement. On what basis, first of all -- this not being a State of the Union -- was Boehner afforded equal air time? (I don't remember the Republicans getting a televised response to the bin Laden announcement or the Afghanistan troop announcement, for example.)

If Obama has found himself in a trap, however, in which the Repubs now have equal TV billing as well as equal weight driving the economic agenda, he's brought it upon himself by way of his pervasive pursuit of collaboration and consensus.


We know the Obama administration is very weak on framing. (Having failed to even give his health care plan a name, it's now generally referred to by the derogatory "Obamacare.") We also know the Repubs live and die with framing. In this case, credit the Repubs with setting up the trappings (flag -- check; chandelier -- check; columns -- check; dual microphones -- check; Congressional podium -- check;) to make Boehner look as equivalent as possible to the C.I.C.


And then, look at the payoff in the NYT, framing the president's address to the nation (that pulpit typically an exclusive and vaulted asset) with the speaker of the House, and his rebuttal, effectively on par.


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(photo 1: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images caption: Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) poses for photographs after his televised address to the nation about the federal budget and debt ceiling crisis at the U.S. Capitol July 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. According to the Treasury Department, if Congress and the White House do not find a way to raise the debt ceiling, the United States is at risk of defaulting on its 2: Reuters caption: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in a prime-time address to the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 25, 2011, as polarized lawmakers failed to rally behind a plan to avert a disastrous debt default perhaps just one week away. Obama said on Monday a temporary six-month extension of debt ceiling does not solve the problem and might not be enough to avoid credit downgrade. photo 3: Pool photo by Jim Watson, left; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.) photo 5: AP)