When the mailman handed me this week’s Time magazine I was immediately drawn to the cover photograph of John Boehner, the presumptive Speaker of the House. But I couldn’t figure out why. There is something very odd about it (see detail). It’s not an attractive portrait. The shallow depth-of-field forces us to confront his face. His eyes are bloodshot and his expression is inscrutable, like Da Vinci’s portrait of Mona Lisa. Boehner looks a little goofy. Is his grin comical, magnified by the soft shadow of his Perot moustache-shaped philtrum? Or are his lips simply pursed. Everyone has had informal pictures like this taken, catching us at particularly odd points in time. Usually, we toss these. So why did Time decide to run this on its cover?
Boehner’s photo in the opening spread of the article seems much more cover-worthy. The Congressman in this image seems more in control, contemplating the opportunities that await him and the GOP. These two images are a study in contrasts.
The accompanying article reinforces Boehner’s extremes: the bar-loving, “dandy” on Capitol Hill who “can’t resist making fun of just about anyone with a bad haircut or too-short tie” (I can see that in his cover persona) verses the astute politician. Throw in the unknown power of the Tea Party on his right I start to feel nervous, wondering just how he’ll handle the next two years. Progress or more gridlock?
A lot of hopes, both from the Left and Right, are pinned to John Boehner. But politics is no longer usual. We don’t feel in control and there is a jittery edge across the political spectrum. How will this play out? Will this be another two years of political games? The people aren’t sure and the Congressman on Time’s cover doesn’t seem quite sure himself. It seems like a big gamble. Perhaps that’s why this photo got top billing.
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