The Spectacle Blog

The Abramoff Grip and Grin Shots

By on 1.25.06 | 8:52AM

Much is being made on the potential impact of the media getting their hands on photos of President Bush shaking hands with convicted fraud Jack Abramoff. So far, the White House is refusing to turn over any of the pictures.

The Washington Post called me about this and published my unsolicited advice to the White House, namely, put out the photos with an explanation for each. Party sages like Mary Matalin disagreed.

My reasoning follows. Does anyone think that the photos are not going to make it into the public domain? Heck, Jack Abramoff’s lawyer Abbe Lowell is probably behind the threat to sell them to the supermarket tabloids. Have no doubt. The pictures will come out.

Jack Abramoff is a consummate scam artist. He scammed his tribal clients. He scammed the Republican and Democrat politicians he lobbied.

People might not like the system, but it is what it is (though it won’t be for much longer).

Back to the impact of a photo. There is a major difference between the Abramoff scandal and the Clinton/DNC Chinese money scandals and the impact a photo has on public perception.

In the Abramoff case, the donations and perks were legal. The politicians and staffers had no way of knowing that Jack was defrauding his clients and bragging to those gullible clients about access he didn’t really have. Abramoff had always been a Republican and like thousands upon thousands of lobbyists, supported his political leanings with donations (although like most lobbyists in this town, he donated plenty to Democrats as well). Even after all of the stories about his activities, it is clear that he did not get any special access to anyone in the White House. He didn’t even really get that much special access to anyone in Congress. That’s not to say that he didn’t meet with anyone, but as a lobbyist in Washington and a donor, he was no different in the eyes of the policymakers than any other lobbyist.

Now let’s look at Charlie Trie, John Huang, Johnny Chung and millions of dollars in ILLEGAL donations to the DNC and Clinton campaigns. So much so, that over 120 people pled the Fifth or fled the country to avoid prosecution.

First, the millions of dollars in donations were ILLEGAL (including $300,000 from the head of communist Chinese Intelligence through Johnny Chung). Second, the DNC and Clinton administration officials exerted an enormous amount of pressure on Huang, Trie, Chung and others to pony up. The reward for their illegal largesse: high-level meetings in the WH with Bill, Al, Hillary, DNC chairman Don Fowler, and others.

Add to the mix a major federal investigation that results in several convictions, the aforementioned “pled and fled” list and Al Gore’s infamous, weasel-worded “no controlling legal authority,” and I don’t recall the substance of the meeting because “I was drinking a lot of iced tea that day and had to step out of the meeting to use the bathroom.”

Add the grip and grin photos with Bill, Al, Hillary, and the rest and you have damage. That’s when the American people look at Al and say, “crook, liar, weasel.” No bio of Bill Clinton will be without pictures of Bill and Monica, Bill and John Huang, Bill wagging his finger at us in a blatant lie about “Ms. Lewinsky.” Those are the iconic shots of the Clinton years.

So I stand by my unsolicited advice to the White House. Release the photos with full explanations of the very routine nature of the events that brought Jack to the White House (and cheat Jack of his ability to make a little $$ from the sale) and remind the world that you were victims of a scam artist -- just like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is claiming.

One more thing to chew on: yes, when the photos are public they are forever part of the story. In fact, from now on, every time someone does a story on Jack Abramoff, the best of the POTUS snapshots (face it, they are going to come out) will be included. But the Abramoff story is not something that history will remember about this president. History will show the President atop the rubble of the WTC with one arm around a fireman and the other grasping a bullhorn rallying a nation to fight back. History will remember the picture of George W. Bush standing on -- not in front of -- the pitchers mound at Yankee Stadium throwing a strike to Derek Jeter. History will record the picture of the Commander in Chief standing in the well of the House telling America and the world that America will fight back and destroy the terrorist enemy.

Those are the iconic pictures that history will remember about this great and very honest president.

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