- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The White House yesterday shrugged off complaints by Democrats about congressional Republicans using a September 11 photo of President Bush for party fund raising.
"The Democrats are having a very difficult time coming to grips with the fact that this is a very popular president," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
"They take some of the items that lend themselves to the president's popularity and they try to lash out without any solid basis about it," he said. "That's Washington."
Mr. Fleischer was responding to accusations by Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, that the sale of the photo "is nothing short of grotesque."
The photo, taken by a White House photographer, shows Mr. Bush on the phone aboard Air Force One talking with Vice President Richard B. Cheney after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"We know it's the Republicans' strategy to use the war for political gain, but I would hope that even the most cynical partisan operative would have cowered at the notion of exploiting the September 11 tragedy in this way," Mr. McAuliffe said in a written statement.
"I call upon the White House to cease and desist from any further political use of this photograph," he said.
The White House explained it merely released the photo to the media, including Reuters news service, which then sold it to Corbis, a commercial photo vendor. Corbis, in turn, sold the photo to the Republican Party, which offered it as part of a triptych of images to donors who gave $150.
"What the media does with these pictures after they are released by the White House is the media's business, between the media and the commercial vendor, not the White House's business," Mr. Fleischer said.
Reuters was not the only media outlet to profit from the photo. The Washington Post used it to help sell a series of articles by Bob Woodward titled "10 Days in September." As of yesterday, the paper's Web site still was using the photo to tout the series about the terrorist attacks.
Still, the press expressed incredulity that the White House was not objecting to use of the photo by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"The president has no problem with what the Democrats are portraying as blood money here?" asked John Roberts of CBS News.
"Blood money?" Mr. Fleischer asked. "And how is that blood money?"
"That's how they're portraying it using the tragedy of September 11 as a fund-raising tool," Mr. Roberts said.
"I'm hard-pressed to see how that characterization can be anything even close to resembling anything accurate or fair," the spokesman said.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who once headlined a political fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple, issued a statement calling the sale of the photo "disgraceful."
"I cannot imagine that the families of those who lost their lives on September 11th condone this," said Mr. Gore, who lost to Mr. Bush in the 2000 election. "And neither should the president of the United States."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle also expressed concern.
"Clearly, there would be a very serious ethical violation were White House photographers, or any government property, involved in this affair," the South Dakota Democrat told reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott emphasized that the White House is a "separate entity" from the Republican Party and said the DNC "certainly wouldn't be in a position to be pointing fingers at anybody else."
But Mr. McAuliffe had no compunction about pointing fingers.
"White House photographs are meant to create, present and document a real-time historical record," he said. "This potentially illegal misuse of a White House photograph is incredibly disrespectful to the families of the thousands of Americans who lost their lives just hours before this photo was taken."


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