The first picture of Bush in the same frame with Jack Abramoff has surfaced in The New York Times and Time. It shows Bush shaking hands in May 2001 with Raul Garza, the head of the Kickapoo Indian tribe and an Abramoff client, who's now up on federal embezzlement charges. Rove is seen on the right. Abramoff's way in the back. Garza supplied the photo.
There's at least one suspicious detail in the stories. The Times:
Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Abramoff's name had not appeared on the invitation list of the May 2001 meeting and that it was unclear how the lobbyist had entered the White House grounds.
Shown the photograph today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the White House had still found no record of Abramoff's presence but confirmed that it is Abramoff in the picture.
I used to work for the publisher of Hillary Clinton's first book, which went to the printer in December 1995 and hit the stores the next month. The people who worked on the book were invited to a White House Christmas party in '95 -- and I watched an editorial assistant carefully compile a list of everyone who was going to attend, with names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers. She had to forward this list to the White House, for security reasons. And this was years before 9/11. So I don't accept for a second that the White House doesan't have a complete record of everyone who attended this gathering.
(And don't forget the list of overnight guests the Clintons released in 1997. It wasn't just a list of friends and contributors who slept over -- it included that editorial assistant and the editor she worked for, who did some work on the book at the White House. The Clintons released another such list in 2000. And not only has George W. Bush released White House sleepover lists in 2002 and 2004, he released lists as governor in 1997 and 2000, clearly with an eye toward the White House.)
One other detail. The Times tells us,
Mr. Garza ... did not seek payment from The Times for the photo -- and two others in which he appears with Mr. Bush -- but insisted without explanation that they be published only in black and white.
And yet the photo on the Time Web site is in color.
Why the restriction on the Times? In the print edition, color photos in the A section appear only on the front page. The restriction was a reason for the Times to put the photo inside.
Hmmm -- whose interest does that serve? Garza's? Or maybe Bush's?
Of course, I'm suspicious about the way the photos are being parceled out. As I said last month, I think the White House wanted us all to be slavering for the pictures. We were, and now the first one comes out -- and it shows Bush (and Karl Rove) very, very far from Abramoff. Almost certainly, the White House, the right-wing press, talk radio, and righty bloggers are ready with a carefully calibrated message ridiculing our eagerness to see these pictures when what they show (or at least this one shows) suggests no closeness whatsoever between Abramoff and Bush. (Blogs for Bush gets the ball rolling tonight.) I think we're being fed this stuff very carefully, so it suggests what the White House wants us to believe, rather than telling us the truth.