What's with this picture?
It's historic, grotesque or cheesy or maybe a little of all three depending on your political bent.
Historic because it shows our president in the very first hours after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 aboard Air Force One, talking on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney one of the first photos Americans saw of our president taking command. Grotesque, disgusting and disgraceful, Democratic Party leaders call it, because using that picture in a campaign plea for donations, as Republicans have done, politicizes a tragedy that united Americans. To me, it's just plain cheesy to offer the picture among a three-photo set as a thank you for $150-on-up donations.
It's something I would have expected from cash-hungry Democrats like Al Gore of Buddhist temple fame and Bill "Sleep in my Lincoln Bedroom" Clinton. Yet Gore calls the cheesy offer "disgraceful."
Had Bush really wanted to cash in on the war against terrorism, he would have used his hard-hat picture at Ground Zero the ruins of New York's World Trade Center at his feet, rescue workers cheering him on to raise money for his party.
Just as Democrats are making much about nothing more than politics as usual, the White House has become overly defensive. It would be refreshing for once if a politician stood up and simply admitted making a mistake.
The use of the picture is legitimate in campaign literature. What makes it cheesy is the offer of the pictures in exchange for campaign cash. It's not as blatant as Clinton's offers to top campaign contributors for overnight stays at the White House or those infamous pardons, but it still makes the Bush campaign look cheap.
In Cheney's fund-raising letter offering Republicans the pictures, he notes that an upcoming fund-raiser for congressional candidates "takes on special meaning" as "an opportunity to honor President Bush for his courageous leadership during this historic time."
Historic it is. The president's presence at the Republican National Committee's black-tie gala Tuesday raised $33 million, mostly in so-called soft money a national record that tops Clinton's $26.5 million in one sitting and comes barely six months before a new campaign-finance law is scheduled to take effect. That law, which is heading to court, would no longer allow corporations, labor unions and the rich to give unlimited amounts of cash to political parties.
Nineteen gala chairmen plunked down $500,000 each for the big bash. Fifty-six vice-chairmen dropped $250,000 apiece; 49 deputy chairmen, $100,000 each; and 25 other RNC members, $50,000 a pop.
Among the top donors: weapons makers, accountants, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, high-tech firms and mortgage lenders. The issues: war on terror, Enron mess, escalating drug prices, health-care mess, the economic recovery.
Follow the money to make the connections. Donors met with top White House staff and were briefed on issues. Ca-ching. Same old.
As for the infamous Air Force One picture, cheesy, yes but grotesque, disgusting or disgraceful, as the Democrats suggest?
Oh, please. The Democratic Party may be cash poor but its leaders are rich in hypocrisy.
Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her e-mail addess is firstname.lastname@example.org.