Monday, May 9, 2011

The cough that roared

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had her Jessica Lynch moment last week. You remember Jessica, don’t you? Pvt. Lynch was one of the soldiers who was fortunate to come out alive with minor injuries after Iraqi insurgents ambushed their supply convoy. After being captured by the insurgents, she was rescued in a daring raid by American commandos. There was another female soldier captured, but because she was black and not white and blonde, the media ignored her (recall also that the media—Wolf Blitzer in particular—was utterly loath to admit that a black male military policeman was more the “hero” than the white female MP during the Fort Hood massacre, or that he even existed to spoil the moment). According to initial military and media reports, Lynch put-up a stiff fight before being put-out of action. The reality was that she was knocked unconscious almost immediately, was taken to a hospital by insurgents who were probably embarrassed they were fighting women, and practically begged U.S. authorities to take her off their hands. The Bush administration, however, decided that a “daring” raid was a public relations stunt they couldn’t pass-up. Lynch, to her credit, would later testify before Congress of her embarrassment over the unjustified media hype.

I’m sure everyone has seen the “iconic” photograph of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Clinton and various other persons observing in “real time” the attack on Osama bin Laden’s lair via a video monitor. Everyone (except the brigadier general scanning a laptop) are seen in various degrees of “intensity.” The editors of Women’s Wear Daily—which predictably takes a superficial view of things—thought they saw something “powerful” in Clinton’s hand-over-mouth demeanor. They asked the photo editors of two news magazine that typically puff-up (white) women and deflate men—Newsweek and TIME—about their take on Hillary’s importance to the composition. Newsweek’s Scott Hall effused "The mystery of what's happening off camera is captured wholly in the expression on Hillary's face," while Kira Pollack of TIME gushed "The Hillary Clinton expression is the one that holds the photograph fully. The reaction of her hand over her face. Her eyes. Clearly, she's reacting to something she's watching…To me, the whole image is about Hillary. In some ways, she holds the image. You look at her first, and then you look at everyone else."

Now, admittedly in looking at the photo, Clinton does capture one’s attention, but not necessarily for positive reasons. Is she becoming overly emotional? Is she putting on a show to get attention? Is she over-compensating for being a bit character in the drama? I suspect Clinton herself is aware that these and other questions are ones that a more cynical person might ask: "Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken." Something important must have been occurring during that millisecond: "I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs." So we can at least credit Hillary for taking a page from Pvt. Lynch’s playbook and admitting some embarrassment at the gushing media “perspective” that portrays her as the only person worthy of being noticed.

Well, she wasn’t the only the person of “note,” as it turns out. Who is that “mystery” woman sticking her head out in the back of the pack? Her name seems to be Audrey Tomason, according to one source the “Director for Counterterrorism.” The main point seems to be that she is the only other woman in the room. Of course, it could also be pointed out that Obama is the only minority in the room—but then again, he is the president; they couldn’t really leave him out of it.

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