What is it about this photograph the evokes another president’s fly-by photograph?
The image made by White House photographer Pete Souza pictures President Barack Obama receiving an update on the Washington Navy Yard shootings from FBI Director James Comey, to the right of the president, and Attorney General Eric Holder to his right, in the Oval Office today.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, have their backs to the camera.
There was another photo taken of another president, peering from the window of Air Force One as it flew over the scene of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, that pictured President George W. Bush clearly interested yet helplessly remote from the scene of a crisis.
A crisis presents a president with a moment, and the response to that moment is often captured by the photographer on hand.
Today, Obama collected briefings on what he yesterday termed “another mass shooting,” the attack at the Naval Yard in Washington that claimed the lives of 12 people, in addition to that of the gunman shot by police.
In the summer of 2005, Bush confronted another moment: A hurricane that became the costliest storm in U.S. history, as he flew home to Washington from an appearance on the West Coast following a stay at his ranch in Texas. Days later, he would fly to the Gulf Coast to surveil the damage, telling Michael Brown, his director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency: “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”
Today, Obama still was collecting the reports of another massacre, the deadliest since the schoolhouse shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 20 first-grade children, six educators and then the shooter himself.
Yet he found himself in much the same situation as his predecessor had several years ago: Presented with the enormity of a crisis without any immediate solution to it. The president pressed for action yet found no response from Congress when he sought new gun-safety measures in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. Now, he says after the Navy Yard shootings, it’s still up to Congress to act.
“I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings,” Obama said in an interview aired last night on Noticias Telemundo. “Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families and– and obviously our– our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now– as they’re absorbing this incredible loss. And yet we’re not willing to take some basic actions… Ultimately this is something that Congress is gonna have to act on,” he said. “The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead — and move.”
After his lonely moment, Bush had to prod his government’s response to Katrina.
These photos are only of a certain moment. What follows is left to the subjects.