Inside the Beltway
February 18, 2003
Political tidbits and other shenanigans from around the nation's capital
Bob Weiner, a former Clinton White House communications
director who now owns his own consulting shop, charges that a presidential
photo exhibit in the sports bar of the downtown Renaissance Hotel is a
"deification of Bush, anti-Clinton and thereby partisan."
A snowbound Mr. Weiner told us in a telephone interview yesterday that he visited the bar on two occasions last week in advance of its preliminary "presidential pictures" opening so that he could donate a large photo of Mr. Clinton leading a group of joggers from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.
"I went with the idea that this would be a wonderful celebration," Mr. Weiner said yesterday. But he encountered an entrance corridor of four "dramatic" photos of President Bush, another flattering Bush photo inside the bar and "buried in the corner" a single photo of Mr. Clinton shooting pool.
Mr. Weiner says that there's nothing wrong with billiards, but that the Clinton photograph does little to reflect the man we've all come to know. Take two of the exhibit's other photos, he told us, showing former Presidents Reagan and Bush "riding horses over fences" and demonstrating "vitality and high adventure."
Mr. Clinton loved running -- 25-30 miles a week, Mr. Weiner observed -- not shooting pool in his leisure time.
"We offered the Renaissance a beautiful picture, free, of him running, poster sized, and even offered to quickly get a comparable outstanding frame from the National Gallery so it would match the other quite wonderful photos of the many other presidents the exhibit has," he says.
When Mr. Weiner approached the hotel's exhibit organizer, Bill Englar, with the picture of the former president in full stride, he says he got the response, "I paid a contractor, they organized it and there's no space."
So Mr. Weiner says he pointed to various open spaces on the wall, at which point Mr. Englar asked to see a higher quality photo.
Mr. Weiner reminded us yesterday that Mr. Clinton was the most popular president upon leaving office in Gallup polling history -- 65 percent job-approval ratings, compared with Mr. Reagan's 63 percent, Mr. Bush's 56 percent, and Jimmy Carter's 34 percent.
"If the hotel managers are playing to a perceived negativity in Clinton's popularity, they are missing a huge market," Mr. Weiner said.
The bar had what it calls a "soft opening" Friday. They are having a "grand opening" later this month or in March. The hotel manager has since met with Mr. Weiner, but it remains to be seen whether an additional photo of Mr. Clinton will be hung.
John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist
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If a picture's worth a thousand words ...
Former Clinton White House aide Bob Weiner is not very happy with Washington's Renaissance Hotel, part of the Marriott chain. It seems the new President's Sports Bar is not up to political standards.
Weiner is running hot because the photos that make up the décor venerate former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as well as the current president, presenting them in vital and adventurous settings. Former President Clinton, Weiner says, has one photo, "buried in a corner inside the actual bar" in which he is seen "playing pool."
"Clinton's sports love, as everyone knows, was running," he says in a release -- something to which the many thousands of Washington-area residents who found themselves stuck in traffic while Clinton went for runs around the city can attest.
In a release, Weiner, who worked for Clinton's drug czar, says he offered the bar a photograph of Clinton leading a pack of runners. The offer was refused for lack of space though Weiner says he fears that partisan motives are at work "because of Renaissance being a Marriott hotel and Marriott owners' history of strong Republic allegiance."
POLITICO MIFFED OVER PARTISAN PLAY IN HOTEL SPORTS BAR
By Christine Cube
A former political aide to President BILL CLINTON is not happy with the D.C Renaissance Hotel's seemingly partisan new presidential photo-themed sports bar.
BOB WEINER, public affairs director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under LEE BROWN and BARRY MCCAFFREY and a former WHITE HOUSE ATHLETIC CENTER board member during the Clinton administration, says the Presidents Sports Bar does not accurately portray the physically active former president.
Weiner says he was "genuinely excited" about the sports bar opening, until he walked into the place.
"I saw four current BUSH pictures that were just glorifying him every which way, and that's fine; he's the current president," Weiner says. "And then I saw a whole bunch of other Republican pictures all over the place, very few Democratic pictures and only one Clinton picture."
The bar's entrance features four large George W. Bush photos. The only Clinton photo, of the former president playing pool, is in the bar area.
Weiner calls it "stupid marketing" not to sport more Clinton photos because "thousands of people worked for President Clinton around here."
Weiner recently showed up to the bar's opening to offer a photo of Clinton leading a sea of hundreds of runners, including Congresswoman ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, D-D.C.
Renaissance Food and Beverage Manager BILL INGLER says there's a reason for the Bush-heavy setup: The entrance of the restaurant is dedicated to one who's currently in office. And, he adds, the picture of Clinton playing pool is "fantastic."
"We're putting in six more pictures of Democrats, and we're not done putting pictures in; we haven't selected the pictures yet," Ingler says.
He says the next set of pictures might include another snapshot of Clinton, with him either running or playing golf.
The Presidents Sports Bar opened Feb. 14. It features about 50 pictures of ex-presidents participating in sports: presidents golfing or throwing the first pitch at a baseball game. Others are fishing, swimming, horseback riding or sailing.
Hotel officials hired a designer to help with the selection of photos. The hotel paid for the rights for the pictures from various photographers.
Ingler says the bar currently has 30 Republicans and 20 Democrats. The additional six pictures will help smooth out the playing field.
The new bar plans to have a grand opening from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. The hotel (www.renaissancehotels.com) will be asking for a $10 donation to go to the CHILDREN'S MIRACLE NETWORK.