Not a Pretty Picture From the White House

Mr. President, why did you do it? What where you trying to prove? And to whom?

You know very well that the people who think you weren’t even born in this country won’t believe anything you say, no matter how true, so why even try to convince them by releasing a photo?

A picture from the White House is no more authentic to them than your original birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii.

I don’t like that latest official presidential photograph taken six months ago at Camp David — on your birthday, no less.

I don’t need to see my president (or governor or senator or any other public official) holding a gun as some badge of honor or proof of manhood.

I didn’t like it when George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter or Lyndon Johnson did it. And I was repulsed in 1994 when both candidates for Texas governor felt they had to be seen on the opening day of dove season holding a gun.

Gov. Ann Richards thought she was obligated to participate in the Texas political macho ritual to show everyone she could hold her own with the good ol’ boys by taking down a little bird in flight. As it turned out, there were no doves flying above the Terrell countryside that morning, and Richards didn’t kill anything.

She did look like a “real hunter” carrying a shotgun over her shoulder (on her 61st birthday), and she did take aim and fire at the clear sky a few times to give photographers something to shoot.

A couple of hundred miles away in Hockley, near Houston, George W. Bush had better luck, so to speak. Bush got off several shots that morning, and he actually bagged a bird.

As it turned out, the game Bush killed using a double-barreled 20-guage shotgun was a federally protected bird, a killdeer. Bush was good-natured about the mistake, accepted a citation from a game warden and paid a $130 fine.

Presidents seem obliged to be seen with a gun or piece of artillery, no matter how familiar they may or may not be with them. Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt (Franklin) were all seen with guns. And conservationist Teddy Roosevelt took great pride in his big-game hunting with his big guns.

Lately, however, the politician with a gun has been more for show than anything, a way to appeal to the gun lobby and those constituents who cherish firearms as a symbol of their loyalty to the Second Amendment.

Some people found it inconceivable that Obama, whom we are more accustomed to seeing with a golf club or basketball, had ever held a gun in his hand, much less fired one.

When the president noted in an interview with The New Republic magazine that he engages in skeet shooting at Camp David “all the time,” the doubters attacked. They wondered aloud why he had never mentioned it before or why no one had seen a photo of such a revealing Obama moment.

It didn’t take long for the photo “analysts” to decide that the president was a novice with guns, based on the way he was standing and how he held the shotgun.

This president can’t win with a certain crowd, no matter how he tries, which is why the White House should never have released that photo.

I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone say that the president is not a real gunman or hunter because, even though he was shooting, he was not killing anything.

You see, in skeet shooting, no real birds are ever harmed. The prey is clay pigeons.

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.