Politics as Usual

Even in waste, you can't escape the inanity of politics.

To help enliven “The Candidates on Waste,” [which begins on page 88] Waste Age Contributing Editor Kim O'Connell attempted to acquire photos of Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush in outdoor settings.

She was having a little difficulty — Gore's office sent a formal black and white headshot, and Bush's campaign sent a digital photo no bigger than a matchbook — so I decided to tackle the task.

What I discovered was endless frustration and a new cynicism for government. In fact, the Democrats and Republicans fit the political stereotypes.

First, it was difficult to navigate through the bureaucracy of both parties. Phone numbers on Gore 2000.com and georgewbush.com are obscured, and no press contacts are listed. I called each's headquarters, only to run into more roadblocks.

Initially, Gore's press office referred me back to the candidate's website for links to high-quality photos. However, when I clicked on the image I wanted, the wrong one appeared. I explained the problem when I made my third call to the campaign office, but was told it didn't work because of “user error.”

“What do you mean?” I asked Adam, the press contact. (By now, we were on a first name basis.) “I click on the informal image and the formal image downloads.”

“I don't know what to tell you,” Adam responded. “I'll talk to IT (code for computer people). Why don't you call back later.”

I tried to get over the shock that the “environmental” candidate was not being very helpful in providing an outdoors photo and decided to take a break by heading to the Republican camp.

The Bush Presidential Library e-mailed me a photo that's large enough to use, except it was a picture of George W. during his shrub phase — the governor approximately 20 years younger. And, to add insult to injury, it was accompanied by a bill for $15.

Because the photo wasn't usable, I called them to see if I could get something better or a refund. The answer to both was no, but the library sent me a formal black and white headshot.

Meantime, Bush's campaign office said outdoor photos were available — for a price anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more, plus I must fill out a credit application.

Back to the Gore camp, I finally convinced them that their website needed to be fixed and I was able to download the correct image, but only after daily calls for more than a week.

The bottom line? The Republicans will deliver what I want — if I meet their qualifications and pay a hefty price. The Democrats on the other hand, will provide what I want for free, but they make it difficult, at the very least, to get it.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The author is the managing editor of Waste Age Publications.