« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

A bipartisan picture of healthcare reform

March 22, 2010 |  3:19 pm


Who says bipartisanship was completely absent from Sunday's historic vote on American access to medical care?

Certainly not the White House, which released an official photograph of President Obama, Vice President Biden and about 40 staffers who assembled to applaud the late-night passage of the bill. Shot by White House photographer Pete Souza, the picture ran on the front pages of newspapers and websites Monday morning, including the Los Angeles Times and latimes.com. And it's a picture that inserts Obama squarely into the middle of healthcare reform's bipartisan history.

The staffers met in the West Wing's windowless Roosevelt Room, across from the Oval Office. Souza shows the president standing in the foreground, flanked by painted portraits of two venerable if failed predecessors in the fight for federal healthcare legislation. One is Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seated at a desk on the left. The other is Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, FDR's fifth cousin, mounted on horseback at the right.

The Teddy portrait -- painted by Tadé Styka (1889-1954), a Polish immigrant from a family of society artists (and who is buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery) -- shows the president in Rough Rider guise. Roosevelt tried to move the Republican Party in a progressive direction and, failing that, started the Bull Moose Party to run again for the presidency. He advocated national healthcare in his 1912 platform.

"Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform nearly a century ago, we have talked and we have tinkered," Obama said in a speech on March 5. "We have tried and fallen short, we've stalled for time, and again we have failed to act because of Washington politics or industry lobbying."

The portrait of FDR, the liberal leader who included healthcare in his 1944 Economic Bill of Rights, is more formal, showing the former governor with a sheaf of papers and pencil in hand. The pose declares his role as chief executive.

Although not identified on the White House website, the portrait's painter appears to be Henry Salem Hubbell (1870-1949), an American Impressionist who often painted in the style of Whistler. In addition to several Roosevelt portraits, he painted a portrait of Harold Ickes, FDR's secretary of the Interior, who was charged with implementing much of the New Deal.

Souza's Obama portrait is different still, and not just because it is a photograph. Although the grinning president wears a necktie, he alone among the men in the room does not wear a jacket. He's in shirtsleeves -- a worker, the photograph says -- flanked by a chief executive and an action hero who reached for the same goal but didn't quite make it.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: President Obama and staffers applaud as the House passes the healthcare bill. Credit: Pete Souza/White House

Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight at KnightLAT on Twitter.

Comments () | Archives (5)

In the absence of, those who had dreamed of a bipartisan vote on this contentious issue would grasp at anything remotely bipartisan in nature surrounding this divisive bill. To suggest a bi-partisan flavor for this photo is a stretch I could not have immagined even from this extremely left leaning newspaper.In any other venue this would probably carry a description akin to "a sigh of relief" or perhaps " A Presidency saved?. To refer to a portrait of a long ago Republican President being in the (wait for it) Roosevelt Room as being indicative of the illusive bi-partisan support is simply idiotic if not insane.

Well, now , as the government grows ever larger, we'll have 60,000 more IRS agents to keep us all in line . In a short period of time (probably 5 to 10 years) we will see the healthcare we have today replaced by what the government thinks is best. Ironically, this will be achieved mainly by the joke of a penalty for not having insurance so guess what (1) companies will stop offering it (2) healthy individuals can ride the wave until they need insurance. What this all means is the middle class is going to have to PAY PAY PAY PAY PAY while the healthcare providers and insurance companies start to disappear. The worst part of it all is you will pay all this money and chances are you won't even be able to find a health care provider. Here is another thing to think about, if you want care you better have cash (the way they do it in other countries such as Poland). Saddest of all is that as this economic suicide story continues you will see the the so called rich leave this country like rats and by then the middle class will be where? I wonder, as this all unfolds in Pelosi and Obama's lifetime if they will be enjoying their retirement in France or maybe on a little island they have bought. To be sure I expect none of them will lose sleep over all the lives they will destroy or the country they will ruin.

*** Lets save this country before it's to late and the only way to do that is vote the democrats out of office forever ***


This was NOT a bipartisan bill. The Dems railroaded this legislation through. It will be interesting to see how taxes will be raised on the ordinary person. Plus, there will be a big exodus of doctors out of the profession. I know because I am a nurse and frequently ask doctors what they think. Most of the 50 something docs tell me they will retire. Also, because people will have access to health care does not mean they will follow the docs advise. Many of the sick patients are in ICU because of their lifestyle (obese, diabetic, smoke, drink, do drugs, don't exercise). You mean to say that suddenly people will change and become healthy. Rubbish! The healthcare reform bill has been Dirty Chicago Politics as usual.

Joe's by Obama's side, wearin' a jacket, a blue tie, and bidin' his time...how's that for bipartisan showmanship?

Harold Ickes sure as Hell was no Jim Farley who was the "legs" of the New Deal!


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.