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It’s not often that the climate-controlled world of Washington politics allows photographers to get really meaningful pictures. Today’s New York Times has a shot by photographer Stephen Crowley that is not only unexpected but also filled with political context. Crowley photographed President Bush awkwardly sliding through a door on his way into a press conference. The image presents a commander in chief who doesn’t look like he’s in command in his own White House. To me he looks like a kid who’s just been called into the principal’s office.
Is it a cheap shot? No, it’s a brilliant piece of political reporting. During the press conference Bush complained that Congress wouldn’t negotiate with him over a children’s health bill, forcing him to veto the measure because “that’s one way to ensure that I am relevant.” Perhaps inadvertent, the statement seemed to reveal a distinct lack of confidence by a lame-duck president whose approval ratings have sunk to an all-time low of 24 percent. Crowley’s picture, made before the press conference began, captures Bush’s insecurity perfectly.
Those who still support the president should not immediately attack the Times for displaying a lack of respect. Elsewhere in the paper they ran a different Crowley picture from the press conference—this one a more traditional image of the president.
–David Schonauer