The political flap of the week is over a photograph.
The Republican Party has chosen three photographs of President Bush to be used as a thank you gift for contributors to a forthcoming fundraiser for Congressional candidates in June. The first is of the Presidents inauguration, the second of his State of the Union address. The third, the one that has drawn fire, is of the President aboard Air Force One, talking on the telephone to Vice President Cheney, on 9-11.
For reasons known only to political savants who are paid large sums of money to conjure such stuff, the use of the photo for a political purpose became a one-day mantra for Democrats. Former Vice President Gores take was that most used by the media: "While most pictures are worth a thousand words, a photo that seems to capitalize on one of the most tragic moments in our nations history is worth only onedisgraceful."
The intended effect of the attack by Gore (and others) was probably to tarnish the record-breaking $30 million take of another Republican fundraiser that night. One of the unintended effects was to roll out, once again, in some media, photos of Gores fundraising efforts at the Buddhist Temple, not among those he wants remembered.
The most pronounced of the unintended effects was to dramatize for millions who would otherwise not have seen it now a truly stunning presidential photograph of the greatest historical significance. No photo editor could ever miss it, and anyone who has seen it can immediately understand why it was chosen. The attention now given to it will ensure that it becomes one of the defining photographs of the Bush presidency, for its compelling quality and ultimate meaning.
We fully expect that the White House will be besieged with requests for copies, going far beyond the fortunate few who will get one of the special, numbered prints. There are some symbols of any presidency that deserve the widest possible distribution. Mr. Gore should get a commission for calling attention to this one. Sometimes exploitation works; sometimes it backfires.May 17, 2002