My former college roommate just retired from her job, and to celebrate, the two of us took in the Annie Leibowitz show at the Palace of the Legion of Honor this morning. I knew it would be fabulous, and it was; what an eye that woman has. But one photograph stopped me in my tracks. After admiring a gorgeous color portrait of Gen. Colin Powell, in full dress uniform as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I turned my head and saw it: a formal portrait of George W. Bush's first cabinet, in (I suppose) the Oval Office, right after the 2000 election. Dubya was standing casually in the center, his hands in his pants pockets, his coat pushed back. To his left, Condi Rice, seated. Colin Powell, standing at the left (viewer's perspective). Dick Cheney, seated in front of Powell. Donald Rumsfeld, seated to the right. There was one other, standing behind Rumsfeld, and I can't recall who it was (Ashcroft?). Everyone but Dubya had his or her suit coat buttoned. It was one of the few portraits done in color; Leibowitz normally works in black and white; but since all the suits were either dark gray or dark blue, only the faces and the walls had anything like color.
It was just a formal portrait, but the print was big enough that the figures were about half life-sized; they looked huge. Everybody was serious and sober; Dubya's face was serious and sober, but the stance just looked - cocky. I looked at that portrait, and thought of what those people were collectively and individually responsible for over the next seven years, and I went cold.