Bush’s Portrait: It’s Not Just About The Image

2009 January 13
by Ellen Noonan

When the National Portrait Gallery hung the recently unveiled portrait of our nation’s forty-third president, the accompanying caption characterized his presidency as having been shaped by “the attacks on September 11, 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” That is, of course, both grammatically (which is the correct word choice, not that) and factually incorrect. (Although, while there is no link between Iraq and 9.11, you could make the case that 9.11 “led to” the Iraq war by cowing Congress and the media into letting the Bush administration do whatever it wanted. But I feel pretty safe in assuming that’s not what the National Portrait Gallery meant.)

Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont wrote a letter to the Smithsonian protesting this formulation. And it worked: the National Portrait Gallery will remove the words “led to” from the caption.

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