Smoker of the House Boehner lights up
Last night was the annual Members of Congress picnic hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle Obama, and held on the South Lawn of the White House.
Tradition calls for the entire back yard to be converted into a happy place for a one-night lawn carnival for all U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to make themselves at home while playing on the lawn with their families.
Invitees are encouraged to leave their briefcases in the car, remove their ties, and enjoy an off-the-record and easy night of relaxed conversations and friendly bonding with their political rivals.
Children are allowed to run freely around brightly decorated picnic tables, eat foot-long hot dogs while listening to live music performances as guests of the president. Even Obama’s personal photographer, Pete Souza, couldn’t resist and grabbed a free dinner before returning to work.
A “friendly” pie tossing game is generously provided by the White House for those who can’t leave their political bickering on Capitol Hill.
The White House escorts a “tight pool” of reporters, photographers and television crews to a chained-off press area at the far edge of the massive lawn about 10 minutes before the president and first lady are scheduled to welcome the crowd.
Just long enough for the photographers to search out and photograph the usual political power brokers or grab a quick shot of any current headliners before being escorted off the lawn immediately after the president finishes welcoming everyone.
Even if a senator, or representative, is embroiled in a major financial, or juicy sex scandal, and is successfully evading the press along the way the reality is he, or she, would show themselves and attend the Congressional picnic. No one turns down an invitation from the White House!
Last night’s picnic offered no chance to photograph either one of political Washington’s two biggest news subjects; Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is up to his belt buckle in a scandal for sending lewd photos of himself to women over the Internet, was busy preparing his resignation letter from Congress and Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is still recovering in Texas from an assassination attempt in January.
That left only the congressional leadership to focus on.
While the president and first lady were introduced and walking towards the podium I noticed Speaker of the House John Boehner darting away from the press area towards the center of the lawn. After walking about 200 feet he seemed to vanish into the crowd.
I stayed focused on him with my longest telephoto lens (300mm) while the president spoke because it seemed unusual for him to move that fast away from the podium. As the president wrapped up his remarks Boehner reached up with his right hand and sucked on what looked like a lit cigarette. Not once, but, surprisingly, twice. I still wasn’t sure what he had in his hand because he seemed so far away.
I shot full speed with my motordrive and hoped for the best. Once back at the White House press room I opened up the pictures in Photoshop and discovered I was correct. It was a cigarette…