Obama's posture in this picture of Obama comforting people who have lost homes due to Hurrican Sandy is precisely that of a parent towards a child who is feeling helpless. His words around the time it was taken, according to Kinsella, were “It’ll be OK,” and “Everyone’s safe, right? That’s the most important thing.” Those are exactly the kinds of words we seek from a parent. That we might like to hear them and see them expressed in a politician's bearing is no sign of weakness, but of humanity.
It's a fact that for most people the need to hear words of reassurance and consolation from somebody at some time never goes away. We all need help sometimes, and are able to help others sometimes. The liberal model expressed in John Rawl's "difference principle," assumes that basic equality of human vulnerability.
Obama is showing here the kinds of qualities that can be valued in a politician apart from the idealization of perfect control played to by conservatives such as Stephen Harper (see my previous post). Obama's gesture emanates genuine qualities of warmth, empathy, and strength that are a far cry from the quality of seamless control that conservatives try to embody but that, in a complex and random world, can only ever be a pose.