A picture may be worth a thousand words.
The image of Rick Perry and Barack Obama that has been circulating is worth 300, at most. The above “side-by-side comparison,” tweeted by David Limbaugh, has torn through the Internets of late. It’s supposed to be a “side-by-side comparison.” True, Obama is not actually 22. He’s 20. From a 20-year-old’s perspective, this is a tremendous and unbridgeable gap, but to everyone else it’s a case of potato, potato. But let’s take this as a comparison.
What can we learn upon analyzing this photo?
Perry accessorizes with airplanes.
Obama accessorizes with very, very ill-advised hats.
Perry gets a cool fighter suit. Obama gets a hipster button-down.
Perry is looking heroically off into the distance through aviator sunglasses as though auditioning for a less homoerotic Top Gun.
Obama is smoking.
And “Boys will be boys….” of all the slightly offensive captions.
There is an antiquated notion that the camera does not lie, or that the camera captures your soul, or that the camera adds 10 pounds, or that – well, something to do with the camera. There is some notion about cameras. I’m sorry, let me start over.
Stalin always looked avuncular and winsome in pictures. Winston Churchill looked like a dyspeptic fried egg. But again, I digress.
Draw as many conclusions from the photos as you would like. Some people insist that the only way to learn anything about a person is to stare deeply and fixedly into his eyes for several minute while hissing softly. Others suggest reading the person’s writings. Still others advocate having a beer together. Maybe you fall into the category of people who say you can only learn the truth about a man by seeing a picture of him at age 22.
To me, this is a less a profile in character than it is a handy side-by-side primer on how to look good and how to look awful in a picture.
Standing next to an airplane in aviator gear? Cool. Smoking in a stupid hat? Uncool. The only way Barack Obama would look worse would be if he were wearing a fanny-pack, if he were denying an old woman health care, or if someone had drawn one of those fake mustaches on top of him. The only way Rick Perry would look better would be if he were rescuing a baby from a burning building with one hand and shooting eagles from the other, and if Abraham Lincoln were standing in one corner of the picture looking at him with warm admiration.
Nobody looks uncool when standing next to an airplane and looking as though he has a handle on what to do when he gets inside it. It’s a plain fact.
And everyone looks awful in hats. But a predilection for stupid hats, while admittedly prejudicial, should not stand in the way of reelecting someone to the presidency. I didn’t realize until this picture that it was possible for Barack Obama to look so woefully, hopelessly uncool.
Now I do.
I’m sure we’ll see more of this picture — and that other one of Mitt Romney on a bicycle.
What does it tell us?
I’ve spent too many words on it already.