Our State Of The Union

by Ana Marie Cox And Jason Linkins

The State of the Union is tonight, and so here are The Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox and Huffington Post political writer Jason Linkins to judge America through the lens of the White House’s Flickr feed and its tireless photographer, Pete Souza.

Ana Marie: FLICKR…so much to catch up on

Jason: A whole year of the second term! Plus, Pete Souza is now the guy all the White House correspondents hate! They are like “PROPAGANDA”! And I’m kind of like, “Scoop, if true! Not very good propaganda, if scoop.”

Ana Marie: Except did you see in all the interviews, people are like, “Well, I’ve worked with Pete, and he’s great, but NYAH NYAH NYAH ACCESS HOG.”

Jason: Who to root for? White House photographers who think they deserve a defining image of Obama eating lunch? Or Pete Souza and his many crutches? It’s like this Chelsea/Manchester United game I’m about to watch only there is nothing actually at stake.

Ana Marie: [Insert knowledgable joke about soccer here.] I feel like in most White House coverage, nothing is at stake. As we have discussed, it is the beat is designed to disincentivize actual reporting.

Jason: Mutually assured meh.

Ana Marie: Well, this is awkward.

Jason: This is like the Doctor Who special where a bunch of Doctors Who appear in one episode to solve a big problem except in this case it’s like “OMG NO, SOMEONE INVITED COLIN BAKER!” And you know the planet is doomed.

Ana Marie: I have trouble believing that Bush didn’t try the “pull my finger” joke at least once on that trip. Maybe twice.

Jason: Michelle seems to be having a good time, though. I have a theory that when he’s removed from situations where there are actual stakes, Dubya is actually really hilarious.

Ana Marie: I guess? I think his sense of humor probably doesn’t get much beyond “That’s what she said!” (and “pull my finger”). He was the Michael Scott of presidents. Only more wars. He’d be the loveable doofus jock except for the crimes against humanity!

Jason: Yeah, like I said it was the whole “doin’ stuff where there was high stakes” that really did him in.

Ana Marie: I cannot get over how that baby looks like Ted Cruz.

Jason: Obama meets with the Senate Conservative Fund Babies.

Ana Marie: If Ted Cruz were really a small child, it would explain a lot.

Jason: Oh, I would love to meet a small child who is as haughty as Ted Cruz. That would be so adorable.

Ana Marie: Ted Cruz is Veruca Salt of senators. If he were three, then the tantrums would be more understandable. As would be his understanding of political negotiation and women.

Jason: “OHH!” **pinches cheek** “You just think you are the greatest thing since the combustion engine!”

Ana Marie: “MINE MINE MINE YOU SMELL BAD POOPY FACE” Which I think was his original debate team fall back position.


Ana Marie: He ruined childhood for everyone.

Ana Marie: When I first read the caption, I read it as “the casual attire accounts for the excitement.” Because otherwise there’s not really an explanation for “Yay” arms. Obama’s…on the phone with John Kerry? Unless he’s about to hang up, I just don’t see aides cheering for anything about that. Unless Obama is in the middle of *prank calling* John Kerry. Which I think could be hilarious.

Jason: Right, it’s like Obama is saying, “Okay, John…well, John I better be going…yep, yep…Okay, John,” and the other two are cheering him on.

Ana Marie: They decided who was going to have to talk to him by a round of rock paper scissors. “You call him.” “NO, you call him.” “I called him last time!” “Ok ok ok… [three hours later] Uh-huh, really? Ok, John. No, we’re good. The chocolate there *is* delicious, but we’re good. I have a watch. I have to go now, John….”

Jason: And that’s when it hit Obama: “Guys, maybe we negotiate the terms of the Iran deal over several rounds of high stakes Rochambeau!”

Ana Marie: YOU ARE FULL OF REFERENCES I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I am but a simple midwestern girl now.

Jason: Hahaha, Rochambeau is another name for Rock-Paper-Scissors I thought?

Ana Marie: Oh, I did not know that. French. JOHN KERRY CALLS IT THAT.

Jason: OMG. Exactly! It’s actually “Roshambo,” but with Kerry on the brain I Frenchified it.

Ana Marie: Uh…this is just a picture of Denis McDonough’s feet.

Jason: For those who are into that sort of thing.

Ana Marie: Now you can understand the arguments over Souza’s access. It’s not even a very good picture of Denis McDonough’s feet? This is Souza just saying “fuck you” to every photographer employed by a news agency.

Jason: Basically.

Ana Marie: “Look guys, I take this access so much for granted I AM TAKING PICTURES OF FEET.” NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT’S FEET.

Ana Marie: I will give Souza this. Bo is in a lot more pix, it seems like. Though I don’t like the look the President is giving him here.

Jason: The caption says, “Each morning, the President always enters through this door rather than the direct outside door to the Oval Office.” YOU KNOW JUST LIKE AN ILLEGITIMATE USURPER.

Ana Marie: Also, “Bo was just hanging out in the Outer Oval Office when the President walked in…” would be a great first line to a children’s book. Or a disgusting porn fantasy.

Jason: OMG, haaaa and GROSS and haaaa.

Ana Marie: “Bo was just hanging out in the Outer Oval Office” also makes me wonder about just how much access Bo has. AND WHO REALLY CALLS THE SHOTS.

Ana Marie: I want to like this shot but the faces of the boys on the right make me sad. I mean, left. To the right of Michelle. Who seems to be having a great time! Unaware of the psychological damage she’s inflicting.

Jason: You know what? I think the boy in the purple shirt is like, “OMG I would prefer to be doing anything else right now,” and his arms are all wrong, but the fact that he’s actually working on placing his hands and fingers in just the right way belies a secret interest in this.

Ana Marie: I think he worries he’s going to get graded.

Jason: The other kid is just “Nope.” The girl in the third row, who ends up sort of being dead center in the shot, is straight killing it.

Ana Marie: Yes. Other kid is, in his mind, already doing other things. Okay I am charmed by getting-hands-right kid now. I have a backstory for him in my head that includes him taking Bollywood dancing classes in secret and then busting out the moves at prom. AND EVERYONE JOINS IN AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS MY MOVIE PITCH.

Jason: OMG that’s actually a good fucking movie pitch I would watch the shit out of that.

Ana Marie: It would star the guy teaching the class as purple shirt’s Bollywood Miyagi.

Jason: Maybe FLOTUS can cameo.

Ana Marie: Music by Cornershop!


Ana Marie: WHAT IS REAL ANYMORE!?!?!? Speaking of which…

Ana Marie: We’re through the looking glass, Jason.

Jason: I can’t believe Pete Souza hadn’t gotten this shot before! He was probably like, “How have I never gotten this shot before!” Pete Souza is the Nicolas Cage of photographers.

Ana Marie: I don’t know if you noticed the bust in the shot…ahem… IT’S LINCOLN.

Jason: I noticed it, and then I didn’t want to have noticed it, and then I stopped being able to conjugate verbs! Pete Souza forces one into a new sort of Foucauldian conditional subjunctive.

Ana Marie: This is an image that conspiracy theorists in 2073 will be using to find lost messages in the Affordable Care Act. In “National Treasure 15: Secrets of the Death Panels!”

Jason: Nicolas Cage discovers an ACTUAL RISK CORRIDOR.


Jason: “I want to feel like I am the basketball, Bill.”

Ana Marie: I don’t know if I have a joke, it’s just weird to see Obama as the short guy. It gives the image a much more plaintive feel.

Jason: Also weird to see Obama as the guy with the least amount of grey hair.

Ana Marie: Do you think he’s whispering, “Help me with my jump shot, Bill? I need help.”

Ana Marie: See, I like these. They seem really in love, not the strange loyalty/intertwined ambitions but sure, also love of the Clintons. The First Couple are clearly still very hot for each other. It’s one of the most appealing things about them. Probably inappropriate to put it as “fuck like bunny rabbits.” But I suspect they do.

Jason: Like very dignified bunny rabbits.

Ana Marie: There is only one caption for this, and it would be Sasha rolling her eyes.

Ana Marie: Michelle is starring in her own musical here. (ALSO PUPPIES.)

Jason: Is this a scene of Michelle Obama on the last day of Barack’s term in office? I mean, she is gonna party so hard when she finally gets to leave DC.

Ana Marie: I dunno, I sort of see this as her busting out the version of the “Fame” theme song that she sings in the shower. “I feel it comin’ together / People will see me and cry. Fame! / I’m gonna make it to heaven /Light up the sky like a flame. Fame!” And then she picks up a puppies and whirls around.

Jason: All those puppies are bonkers cute, my god.

Ana Marie: OMG I have that jacket! Which is cute too but not puppy cute or anything.

Ana Marie: Is it just me or are there a lot more photos with kids in the Souza portfolio these days? Is that a reflection on who’s left that’s still excited to be around Obama?

Jason: They are definitely the only demographic still excited to be around Pete Souza. I think this is a thing we’ve talked about? But after reading so many accounts where Obama talks about how the part of his life where he could experience a degree of anonymity is over, I suspect that children remind him of a time where people he encountered were honest with him.

Ana Marie: I bet he likes being around Bo and Sunny a lot more for that reason as well. Though dogs aren’t honest so much as blindly loyal. Which, on second thought, might make him *more* uncomfortable nowadays.

Ana Marie: Some of the captions these days are pretty awesome: “Chief of Staff Denis McDonough throws a football in the air as the President met with senior staff in Denis’s office to discuss the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling deadline. That football got a lot of use during meetings in September and October.” That’s so… tantalizing! “That football got a lot of use during meetings in September and October”! Use as… what, exactly? Because that’s another children’s book/porn divide.

Jason: Didn’t we see the football in the early days of the Flickr feed?

Ana Marie: Maybe it’s filled with scotch.

Ana Marie: Souza, just fucking with everyone now: “The President is literally framed through the arm of Chief of Staff Denis McDonough”

Jason: OMG, it’s still not “LITERALLY.” Fuck you, Pete Souza!

Ana Marie: I have never seen Pete Souza laugh maniacally but I imagine he does a lot. A LOT.

Jason: He knows what he did wrong.

Ana Marie: OH NOES! REALITY INTRUDES ON THE SOUZAIAN LAND OF PUPPIES AND FOOTBALL. The caption reads: “The faces of others give an indication of the President’s mood at the conclusion of a meeting to discuss the problems associated with enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.” And I guess Obama’s own expression is TOO TERRIBLE TO BEHOLD? I feel like this could be a scene in a Bond movie, where the henchman have to report back to Blofeld.

Jason: Right, and Blofeld says something to the effect of, “You have one day to report back to me that the plan is proceeding, or that will be your last report to me.” They leave, and Blofield strokes his cat.(The cat in this scenario is Joe Biden.) And Ron Fournier writes a column about what a great leader Blofeld is.

Ana Marie: And Biden purrs contentedly.


Ana Marie: It’s also true that Biden purrs contentedly most of the time.

Jason: Biden is like the cat who found the one patch of sun to lay in.

Ana Marie: Most VPs see the job as a booby prize. Biden sees the booby.

Ana Marie: Hey, Obama, trying desperately to recapture that feeling of not having the whole weight of the world on his shoulders!

Jason: True fact. The two people I can confirm they know by name at that Taylor Gourmet sandwich place are Barack and me.

Ana Marie: Tobias Funke is out of frame, I guess? I can say with some certainty that Bill Clinton has never blued himself.

Jason: Did you see that weird princess in a bubble?

Ana Marie: You mean Mike Allen?

Ana Marie: “SOON.”