Of posers and politicians

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It’s time for Word Badger—The Political Edition. Please do not read any political leanings into the following. Word Badger is a nonpartisan animal.

I learned one of my favorite political phrases from Gary Achterberg, a former congressional staffer and later an editor here at The Gazette.

“Posing for holy pictures!” Gary scoffed one day when some politician was trying to get us to take a photograph of him promoting a worthy cause. I don’t remember the details, but the concept is easy: Be seen by voters as having compassion by getting noticed together with a cause such as veterans, the hungry, the homeless, mothers, schoolchildren. The possibilities are endless.

Not to pick on hometown Janesville hero Paul Ryan, but the recent photos of him washing pots at a St. Vincent DePaul dining hall were a perfect example of posing for holy pictures.

Hurricane Sandy provided another opportunity, and both the major-party campaigns are taking advantage of it. They’re collecting funds for storm relief. The people donating and collecting have good motives, of course, but the political purpose is to show how this campaign or that one is compassionate and wants—desperately?—to serve the country.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with promoting a good cause, but it's also good to remember that politicians aren't out there getting their pictures taken with Girl Scouts for their health. They do it to get elected. Hence the phrase "posing for holy pictures," which reminds us to be skeptical after our initial "awwwwww!" reaction.

Those who aren’t Catholic might not know the reference to holy pictures. When I was a kid in Catholic grade school, children collected them. They were pictures of the saints, sometimes at the moment of martyrdom, often sporting halos--a sure sign of holiness--with facts about their lives on the back. Yes, they were similar to baseball cards. (At least, those are the holy pictures I am familiar with. Maybe there are holy cards from other religious traditions? If so, please enlighten me.)

It was a clever person who made the connection between holy pictures and politicians. What’s your favorite political phrase? Bonus points for keeping the discussion nonpartisan.

Last updated: 10:06 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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