This picture has become somewhat of an internet phenomenon over the past several days. It's been in newspapers, on television and nearly ubiquitous in the blogosphere, and therefore I really did not want to write anything about it. However, I felt it apropos because of my post yesterday regarding the potential Obama/Clinton ticket in 2012.
Many people analyzing this picture see it as show of strength for the president. He's casually sitting there with a serious look on his face, surrounded by generals, Pentagon officials and cabinet staff. He has an air of unquestioned authority. He isn't sitting front and center in a big throne, because he doesn't have to. Nobody wonders whether or not he's in charge; his team works for him, but they also all work together - including the president. The phrase 'Protector in Chief" has been used to describe his new role, as defined by the picture, and I can't disagree; solemn, serious, but not in an approachable way. He comes off in the picture as someone that we can trust to make the right decision, but he'll also comfort us if that decision is a tough one.
Hillary Clinton has a completely different look in the picture, but tells a lot as well. Her hand to the mouth has been assumed by many to be a gasp, when in fact she says that she was simply covering a yawn. Either way, I think her placement and stature in the picture shows that she's one of the main players. Where the president's role is unquestioned, and therefore he needs no show, cabinet members have specific roles that seem to overlap in situations such as these, and therefore it can create tricky situations as to whose in charge and whose responsible for what. But as we see here, Hillary Clinton is sitting next to the Secretary of Defense, in a prominent position of both power and decision-making. She's not as dressed down as the other people in the room, and looks like she's either wearing what she's been wearing all day, or she dressed back up for what she knew would be an important occasion. She could very well be the president in this situation, with Obama as a cabinet member had history been just a little different (although I assume he would have dressed up a little more).
Final Note: I've found it interesting that so many of the blogs that have spoken of this picture talk about the prominent positions of a black man and two men in the room. While I think that it's great there is a little diversity in the room, we're still looking at a picture in 2011 of the president's situation room that has only one racial minority, and two women out of fourteen inhabitants (or at least pictured inhabitants). The ration of male to female in this country is nearly 1 to 1, and minorities in this country make up nearly 30% of the population. Why aren't those same ratio's being seen in these important decision-making rooms?