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October 16, 2006

Straight Party Line


by Chris Maynard

This U.S. State Department press release photo is mentioned in Frank Rich’s column in yesterday’s NYT, showing Laura Bush watching as Secretary of State Condi Rice swears in Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Mr. Dybul’s partner, Jason Claire, holds the Bible.

Rich’s piece points out the irony of the Republican Party, famous for using homophobia to stir the nasty vat of resentment in its campaign efforts, suddenly having to admit that the party does, (choke), employ (gasp), gays in their straight and narrow offices. After years of acting as if gay people were a symbol of the end of the American way of life, unfit to teach our children or sully our armed forces, here’s living proof that even the State Department can invite them into its ranks and survive.

What’s interesting, in a technical sense, is how low the quality of the photo is; usually White House pictures are pretty slick. This one, taken with flash on camera, looks like a tacky “gotcha” private eye photo from the Fifties, with shiny faces and heavy shadows in the background, almost like a bad high school graduation picture from that era.

The best part, of course, is the dance performance going on.

The two men look serious about their business, pretty much like any guys in suits in that corporate environment. Laura Bush beams from the left; either she could care less about their private life (we sincerely hope), or she hasn’t realized the oddness of her presence. One has to wonder, since, in Rich’s words,  the AIDS initiative “may prove to be the single most beneficent achievement” of the President’s tenure, why Mr. Bush himself didn’t show up for the photo op like he did with the snowflake babies for July’s stem cell research veto.

(image: Michael Gross/U.S. State Dept. Washington. October 10, 2006.

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