President Barack Obama has become fond of a rather plebeian image lately. It is of a man mopping up a liquid mess as fast as he can while his critics complain he's not swabbing well or quickly enough.
He used it last night at a $30,400 a couple New York fundraiser where more than $3 million was raised. If the president was aware of the irony of talking about mopping with that gilded crowd, he certainly didn't let on. He said:
I said this before, last week at a fundraiser. I don't mind cleaning up the mess that some other folks made. That's what I signed up to do. But while I'm there mopping the floor I don't want somebody standing there saying, "You're not mopping fast enough." Or, "You're not holding the mop the right way." (Laughter.) Grab a mop! (Applause.) Why don't you help clean up? (Applause.)
It's certainly a striking picture, Obama with a mop, though a bit out of character for the urbane, super cool, cerebral president.
It's an attempt to accomplish a few things. The president is obviously trying to break the raging policy debates down into simple, even simplistic terms for the average American. He's also labeling his critics as idlers who let others do all the heavy lifting.
Further, it's a way to bring himself down from his Olympian heights to seem like a regular guy.
Andrew Sullivan last week said he thought the president's new mop was "inspired" and "devastating"
I'm not sure about that. But it does give the president's supporters a prop they can use at political rallies going forward. They can wave mops in the air like sports fans wave brooms when their teams are working on sweeping an opponent in a series.
Like Abraham Lincoln, his favorite predecessor, who was depicted as a rail-splitter with an ax in his hands, Obama could be depicted, courtesy of Photoshop, with a mop in his.
Then again, maybe that's not the right image for the nation's first African-American president.