An Undiplomatic Display

By Al Kamen

Wednesday, September 17, 2003; Page A25

State Department types were taken aback last week to find that a
longtime diplomatic photo exhibit along a busy corridor to the
cafeteria had been taken down. The two dozen mostly grainy black and
white shots were a historic progression of great diplomatic moments,
sources recalled.

There was an original political cartoon from the Jefferson era
showing Britain and France pick-pocketing the Americans; there were
pictures of negotiations with Indian tribes over land; President
Woodrow Wilson at Versailles; former secretary of state Elihu Root
somewhere; Roosevelt and Churchill signing the Atlantic Charter;
former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former Soviet
foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze in cowboy boots at Jackson Hole;
a splendid shot of the old State Department building; and a photo of
President Ronald Reagan at a meeting with a very young Colin L.
Powell seated behind him.

Then they were gone. And what was put up in their place? What else? A
George W. Bush family album montage of 21 large photos of the
president as diplomat. He's speaking at the United Nations and
meeting with foreign leaders. There are several shots of Bush with
first lady Laura Bush -- exiting a plane, touring the Forum in Rome
and visiting Japan. (There's one of just Laura Bush and Jordan's
Queen Noor at a U.N. conference.) There's one of Bush meeting in
happier days with his very good friend Jacques Chirac, president of
France, and another with his even better friend, Gerhard Schroeder,
chancellor of Germany. There's a fine shot of him yucking it up in
Beijing with former Chicom boss Jiang Zemin, aka the Robin Williams
of the Middle Kingdom.

The new exhibit -- actually it was on a lesser-traveled corridor on
the first floor for several months -- was sent over from the White
House at the request of State's administration folks. It's part of an
effort to "spruce up the building . . . liven up the halls," one
official said. There are other similar photos on other floors, we
were told. The old photos are to be re-hung in that other corridor
once it's painted.

But such a stunning collection of Bush photos and only a couple of
Secretary of State Powell -- both with Bush? "Well, the president is
our boss," the official observed.

Quite true. But no picture of Bush swimming in the Potomac?

Our personal favorite is a shot of the president looking out from the
official limo in Beijing. The ID placard, done at the State
Department, says he's in Tienemen Square.

No. No tiene men. No tiene women either. That would be Tiananmen Square.