Already the media/leftist drum beat is starting up over the pictures of President Bush and Jack Abramoff together. This from Time sums the story up for me:
As details poured out about the illegal and unseemly activities of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, White House officials sought to portray the scandal as a Capitol Hill affair with little relevance to them. Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff's visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few "staff-level meetings" that were not worth describing further. "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him," McClellan said.
The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s. . . .
Most of the pictures have the formal look of photos taken at presidential receptions. The images of Bush, Abramoff and one of his sons appear to be the rapid-fire shots--known in White House parlance as clicks-- that the President snaps with top supporters before taking the podium at fund-raising receptions. Over five years, Bush has posed for tens of thousands of such shots--many with people he does not know. Last month 9,500 people attended holiday receptions at the White House, and most went two by two through a line for a photo with the President and the First Lady. The White House is generous about providing copies--in some cases, signed by the President--that become centerpieces for "walls of fame" throughout status-conscious Washington.
As I pointed out yesterday, I'm not sure why this is such a big deal. Yeah, Abramoff is corrupt scum. Yes, President Bush took a lot of money from him. But outside of some legally accepted campaign contributions from someone who was, at the time, not suspected of any sort of criminal wrong-doing, there is absolutely nothing to connect President Bush with Jack Abramoff and his dealings in Congress.
After all, Jack Abramoff is not in trouble for the personal donations he made to Republican politicians. He is in trouble for directing contributions from his clients to politicians of both parties in Congress in return for political favors. He wasn't buying political influence with his own money, he was buying political influence with the money of his clients.
Could Abramoff have bought some favors from Bush with the money he contributed? It is possible. Do we have any evidence of that outside of the contribution itself and some campaign photos of Bush and Abramoff together? Nope. In fact, right now it would seem as though the only thing Abramoff purchased with these contributions was the chance to get his picture taken with the Pres. I'd even go so far as to speculate that the person peddling these pictures to the tabloids is probably Abramoff himself, looking to get some money from the media to pay some of his legal bills. But again, that is just speculation.
Is it regrettable that Bush posed for a picture with Jack Abramoff? Sure, but Bush poses for thousands of those sorts of photos every year. It seems kinda stupid to hold him responsible for the actions of these people. I'm guessing that Howard Dean is probably regretting getting his picture taken with a gay porn star/producer, but that's the breaks.
Franklin Roosevelt in cahoots with Stalin? The photo evidence says yes.
You can read more from Rob Port at SayAnythingBlog.com