... signing a poster--of himself--for some adorable children during a road trip across Siberia in a Lada. There he is, tranquillising a polar bear in the Arctic. Or horse-riding, shirtless, in the wilderness, presumably on a wild stallion he broke in just half an hour ago.
But Whitworth doesn't see anything so out of the ordinary about Putin's frequent pectoral displays. "Despite the frequent mockery in the West," she writes, "there are vast similarities between what Putin is trying to say to his people and the photo-ops staged for many US presidents." She admits that this view tends to draw some objections from her "American friends."
Yet what, she asks, is really the difference between "contrived images of Putin as action man" and similarly contrived images of " George W Bush pretending to be a ranch hand"? Bush, she reminds readers, was "a privileged Connecticut boarding-school boy reinventing himself as a good ol' boy to appeal to Middle American voters." Whitworth "laughed and laughed" the time "Bush landed on an aircraft carrier, all gussied up in fighter-pilot gear," and "strutted around on deck" for a while. Concludes Whitworth:
There should be a blanket ban on world leaders being allowed to use the cameras for the benefit of their boyish fantasies. ... At least Bill Clinton had the sense to fulfil his behind closed doors.