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Thursday, May 22 2003

When it comes to public appearances, the Bush administration leaves little to chance.

Last week, President Bush swooped down on Indianapolis to tout his tax-cut plan. To make it seem that the plan will help ordinary people, VIPs sitting behind Bush were told to look like average Joes and Jills. They obliged and took off their ties. Indiana House Minority Leader Brian Bosma told WISH-TV after the televised speech, “When the guy from the White House tells you to take your tie off, you don’t ask why.”

A few weeks earlier, Bush made an Oscar-worthy attempt at a photo op with his Top Gun landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. White House aides, who were onboard days before his arrival, choreographed the event down to the crew members’ coordinated colorful shirts to the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background.

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It’s not cheap. Bush’s image-makers — experts in lighting, camera angles and backdrops — play with an annual budget of around $3.7 million. Staffers include a former ABC producer, who, among other things, co-designed the $250,000 set at the Qatar headquarters of the United States Central Command during the Iraq war. Also in place are a former Fox News television producer in Washington, D.C., and a former NBC cameraman who is known to be a lighting mastermind.

Reach the writer at cpelisek@laweekly.com

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