At 9:14 a.m. Tuesday, several hours into the government shutdown, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tweeted an image of eight white men seated along the length of a shiny mahogany table with the caption “We sit ready to negotiate with the senate, #FairnessForAll.” Some might call this too little too late—as Nancy Pelosi swiftly tweeted back, “Only Took you 192 Days and by the way, #WhereAretheWomen”?
Allison Hoffman deftly profiled Cantor, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history, back in 2011, finding his facial expressions (somewhat obscured in his TwitPic) to be key in analyzing just what Cantor is trying to accomplish in a given moment:
Representative Eric Cantor, the six-term Virginia congressman, is not a brilliant strategist or a visionary policymaker. He is, however, a very good politician. At 47, he cuts a trim figure in his dark two-button suits, with a full head of black hair and a strong jaw line that comes across well on camera. He speaks in calm, measured tones with a butterscotch lilt that makes him sound extremely reasonable when he talks about contentious subjects, like repealing health-care reform or slashing the federal budget. When he wants to seem conspiratorial—I’m on your side—his left eyebrow goes up behind his thin black wire-frame glasses; when he wants to seem sincere, both eyebrows rise in unison, and three deep grooves appear on his forehead. When he wants to make it clear he really, really means what he’s saying, the ghost of a fourth line appears just below his hairline, and he chops at the air in front of him for added effect. His default setting is “serious.”
Not pictured above: Cantor’s butterscotch lilt.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.