White House photographer Pete Souza released his top photos of 2014 — with extended captions to explain why President Obama has his feet up on the coffee table and why it looks like staffers are bowing to the commander in chief.
For the above March 1 photo, Souza explains, “The President talks with some of his national security advisors before a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. I’m sure there will be people quick to comment about his wearing casual clothes and having his feet on his coffee table. Let’s keep perspective in mind: it was a Saturday, and a President is the President whether he’s wearing a suit on a weekday or casual clothes on a weekend. And a President, any President, isn’t disrespecting the office if he puts his feet on a table or a desk; he’s just being relaxed.”
For the above Feb. 7 photo, Souza writes, “This is one of those photographs that needs some explanation. The President had been meeting with Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, left, and Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, to prep for a radio interview. At one point, the President made a comment so humorous that Jenn and Tara bent over in laughter.”
For the above March 4 photo destined to inspire a million Obamacare memes, Souza explains, “The President was visiting a classroom at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. A young boy was using a stethoscope during the class, and as the President was about to leave the room, the President asked him to check his heartbeat.”
March 24, above: “POTUS meets Rembrandt. The President looks at Rembrandt’s ‘Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul’ during a tour of the Gallery of Honor at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.”
April 21, above: “When the President saw this photograph hanging on the walls of the West Wing, he laughed and said, ‘The two most famous sets of ears in Washington.’ He then asked me to make a print for him so he could show his daughters. The photograph shows the President and the Easter Bunny listening to the national anthem on the Blue Room Balcony at the annual Easter Egg Roll.”
May 6, above: “Aides laugh as the President swats a fly that was invading his space in the Oval Office.”
Remember when Obama violated the sanctity of the sneeze guard at Chipotle? Above, on May 16, “Call it the Shake Shack slide. As he is wont to do, the President normally does a group photo with restaurant staff when he stops for lunch or dinner somewhere. After having lunch with Vice President Biden at a Shake Shack in Washington, D.C., the President asked me where he should stand for the photo. Before I could even reply, the President jumped on the counter and slid onto the other side. The Vice President soon followed.”
If this photo was supposed to be POTUS getting in Putin’s face, the modern-day czar looks unimpressed. June 6, above: “The President talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a lunch with other foreign leaders to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France. I’m sure they were talking about a subject matter other than D-Day.”
Close encounters of the POTUS kind, above, June 9: “The President sits for a 3D portrait being produced by the Smithsonian Institution. There were so many cameras and strobe lights flashing but the end result was kind of cool. See the video at this link: http://1.usa.gov/1zhPtAf.”
A silent critique of the president’s basketball skills? Oct. 14, above: “The President was meeting with a group of mentees in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. As the meeting was coming to a close one of the participants challenged the President to a game of HORSE. ‘Let’s go,’ the President responded, and the entire group walked down to the basketball court on the South Lawn. In addition to the shooting competition, the President also used the opportunity to further talk to the young men about life lessons, not basketball.”
That’s Joe Biden’s disturbingly small yet perhaps self-explanatory address-book-sized notebook on foreign policy. Nov. 25, above: “As a meeting in the Situation Room was about to break up, I focused on the Vice President’s hand as he held up his briefing book and assorted folders.”
Sort of reminds me of the side-eye Michelle gave Barack at Mandela’s memorial service. Dec. 7, above: “While waiting to be introduced before the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House, the President began whistling a Christmas song in the Blue Room.”
View the full-size gallery of all of the White House’s “2014: A Year in Photos” here.