On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be "crowned" in messianic imagery at New York City's Union Square.
Artist Michael D'Antuono's painting "The Truth" – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square's South Plaza.
According to a statement released about the portrait, "The 30" x 54" acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing, and is he being crucified or glorified?"
Even the title of the piece, "The Truth," suggests a play on biblical themes, as Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
"More than a presidential portrait," writes D'Antuono on a website touting the painting, "'The Truth' is a politically, religiously and socially-charged statement on our nation's current political climate and deep partisan divide that is sure to create a dialogue."
Like others in the news who have depicted Obama in Christ-like imagery, D'Antuono insists he isn't claiming the man is Messiah, but only inviting "individual interpretations."
"'The Truth,' like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder," claims the exhibit's press release.
D'Antuono even invites the public to email him with reactions to the piece, answering his posed question, "What's your truth?"
As WND has reported, D'Antuono follows others who have cast Obama in messianic imagery.
Clark's Obama sculpture, riding a donkey at the Iowa Capitol
In January, artist Matthew J. Clark paraded a sculpture of Obama riding a donkey and preceded by waving palm fronds, reminiscent of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem in the 21st chapter of Matthew as foretold by the prophet Zechariah: "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass."
Like D'Antuono, Clark was also unclear about whether his piece was proclaiming Obama to be the Christ or making some social commentary. Clark's website described the sculpture in vague terms:
"This project was inspired by my thoughts about 'icons' and religious symbols and whether they represent truth or merely represent," Clark's website reads. "The sculpture poses a question that relates to social conventions, metaphysics, and the collective response of society in reaction to fearful and uncertain times, but doesn't impose an answer. For me, it has much more to do with the general public as followers than any leader granted power."
Others, such as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, have been far clearer in their nearly religious adoration of Obama. As WND reported, Farrakhan declared last year that when Obama talks, "the Messiah is absolutely speaking."
Addressing a large crowd behind a podium with a Nation of Islam Saviour's Day 2008 sign, Farrakhan proclaimed, "You are the instruments that God is going to use to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the youth. And he has involved young people in a political process that they didn't care anything about. That's a sign. When the Messiah speaks, the youth will hear, and the Messiah is absolutely speaking."
Farrakhan pointed out that the man Nation of Islam followers refer to as "the Savior," Fard Muhammad, had a black father and a white mother, just as Obama did.
"A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," he said. "A black man with a white mother could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall."
WND previously reported a website called "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?" capturing the wave of euphoria that followed the Democratic senator's remarkable rise.
The site is topped by an Obama quote strategically ripped from a Jan. 7 speech at Dartmouth College just before the New Hampshire Primary in which he told students, "… a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote" for Obama.
WND also reported on near-religious experiences surrounding Obama on the campaign trail, as supporters who came to hear him speak on several occasions fainted in the middle of the candidate's speeches. As WND reported, some compared the fainting to fanatical swooning in the midst of a mesmerizing preacher; others, like radio host Michael Medved, thought the collapses were staged moments; and still others believed it was simply a matter of people standing in the crowds too long and growing dehydrated.
P.J. Gladnick of NewsBusters, in an article about D'Antuono's painting on the eve of the Obama administration's 100-day-mark, notes that the messianic parallels begun early in the presidential campaign don't seem to be stopping:
"The artist quite clearly portrays Obama as a latter day Christ-like figure, considering the outstretched arms and the crown of thorns. Obama worship, complete with halo images, has been noted before," writes Gladnick, "but it was nothing compared to current expressions in awe of 'The One' as we approach his hundredth day in office on Wednesday."
How Obama can succeed in the next 100 days and beyond
His first 100 days has been a sprint. But the success of his second 100 days -- and his presidency -- hinges on a series of tough decisions.
By Robert Reich
Before Inauguration Day, President-elect Barack Obama said he wanted to hit the ground running. Instead, he hit the ground sprinting and hasn't stopped.
Consider: A $787 billion stimulus package. A 10-year budget including universal health insurance and a cap-and-trade system to combat global warming. Subsidies to help distressed homeowners stay in their homes. Public-private partnerships to clean up the big banks. A bailout of the auto companies. New regulations to clean up Wall Street. A G-20 meeting to harmonize global economic policies. A proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A thaw in relations with Cuba and Venezuela. Overtures to Iran. A start to immigration reform. Even a dramatic rescue from pirates.
And this is just the first 100 days.
The stimulus and bank bailouts have required the government to pump almost $1.5 trillion into the economy and the Federal Reserve Board to dramatically expand the money supply. This makes sense in the short term. With almost 1 out of 6 Americans either unemployed or underemployed - and consumers and businesses still tightening their belts -- government has to be the spender of last resort. But as the economy recovers, Obama will have to rein in government deficits. If he does this too early, he risks prolonging the deep recession. Yet if he waits too long, he risks wild inflation.
Progressive vision or conservative governing?
Obama's 10-year budget presents the most ambitious and progressive vision of any president since FDR. But when it come to governing, Obama has been cautious and incremental. His stimulus was smaller than even conservative economist Martin Feldstein recommended. He has been unwilling to take over the banks. He won't push Congress on the Employee Free Choice Act. His mortgage relief program is modest. He doesn't want to prosecute CIA torturers. Yet if he wants to be a transformative president, he's got to move boldly. Universal health insurance will be his first big test.
Dominance of domestic or foreign policy?
So far Obama has focused on the home front, as he should, given the economy's plunge. But he's confronting a major foreign-policy challenge in Pakistan. And other challenges are emerging in Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and stateless regions of the world. So the big question here is whether foreign policy will come to define his presidency, notwithstanding his domestic ambitions. Presidents don't have much control over this. FDR's first two terms were defined by the Great Depression; his last was dominated by World War II. Lyndon Johnson wanted to create the Great Society but got bogged down in Vietnam. George W. Bush didn't know that his administration would be defined by Iraq.
Policy emerging from contending arguments or strong "czars"?
At first it looked as if Obama was hiring a "team of rivals" who would battle out hard policy problems. This management style allows a president to hear and consider contrary points of view, but it can also be chaotic. Yet Obama seems to be opting for strong White House "czars" instead, such as Lawrence Summers on the economy, Carol Browner on the environment and Rahm Emanuel on politics. This approach saves presidential time and focuses responsibility, but it can suppress contrary views. And it's often those contrary views that presidents need to hear to avoid major errors.
Working with Republicans or taking them on?
By temperament and inclination, Obama prefers to reach across the aisle and court Republican support. Yet so far this tactic has been notably unsuccessful. Republicans have moved almost in lockstep against him. They're already gearing up for the 2010 midterms, staging anti-tax rallies and laying the foundation for a major assault on his presidency. They fantasize about repeating the coup Newt Gingrich pulled off in November 1994. At some point before then, Obama will have to take off the gloves.
Making nice to Wall Street or kicking its butt?
Almost $600 billion has been poured into big Wall Street banks with nothing to show for it. They're still not lending to Main Street, still paying their top executives princely sums, and still issuing dividends and looking for acquisition targets. Yet apart from a few rhetorical blasts at a few Wall Street executives, Obama has so far shown remarkable solicitude to the banks because he thinks he needs their cooperation to get credit moving again. At some point, though, he'll have to get tough.
So far Obama has found a workable balance in all these domains. But all require increasingly fancy footwork, and some rebalancing will be needed. The central question for the next 100 days is how deftly he finds new footing.
"A nation can survive its' fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor--He speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation--he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city--he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared." ~ Cicero, 42 BC Roman Statesman, orator, and author.
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