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A picture is worth…

Ken Fowler | Sunday, November 21, 2004

It’s tough to describe adequately a powerful picture with pedestrian words, but there are some times when it’s worth trying. One I saw Saturday night deserves the effort, as it accomplishes what only the great pieces of art do – it tells the story of something seemingly unrelated to the subject matter that is terribly important.

On the left, this photo shows Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and first lady Laura Bush smiling at reporters as they enter the ballroom in which an APEC gala dinner is about to commence. To the right, President Bush has stopped his progress, and he appears to be deciphering the reason for the commotion coming from the background.

He is stuck between going forward and turning back to resolve the problem.

In this case, his problem is that a Chilean police officer refused Bush’s top on-site Secret Service agent entrance into the building. Clearly, a question of security arises when a foreign police force prevents the American president’s personal security detail from escorting him into a large building.

Stuck with the options of either continuing on the path set before him – walking away from the confrontation and trusting a foreign force to maintain security and safety in what could be a dangerous situation – or going back and ending the possible security threat immediately, Bush chose the latter. Not surprised at the decision? Then picture is doing its job.

The scene that ensued was not as breathtaking as some have made it out to be. Bush reached into the pile and snapped his fingers, and the dispute was settled – the Chilean police would allow his Secret Service agent into the dinner. It took a little while for the scene to calm down, but Bush’s presence was the deciding factor in how the situation would turn out.

In analyzing the sequence of events, maybe you will affectionately joke about the brazen attitude of our cowboy president and that he solves problems the way real people do.

On the other hand, the Pacers-Pistons brawl may come to mind, and you might think that the most powerful man in the world should not be meddling in the middle of a melee.

Whatever you think of the situation, the picture itself includes that story of something completely unrelated but incredibly important – a foreign leader walking ahead (to the left) as an American president, to the right, says “Hold on, I have to take care of something.”

It demonstrates how tough decisions can tumult a president and a country, and it embodies the active, provocative policy of the Bush administration in foreign lands.

In a picture full of personifications, that’s the overriding theme; in a world full of analogies, that’s the main conflict of the day.