The summertime photo op.
In pursuit of public affection, political leaders just about everywhere take a midsummer holiday and allow themselves to be photographed at leisure -- sometimes embarrassingly so.
The goal is to impress upon their people the tirelessness of their efforts the rest of the year.
Democratic leaders are especially good at it, whether putting in a hard day's work at the ranch or catching a wave in Hawaii.
But it's a game that dictators and autocrats can play, too.
It might be North Korea's Kim Jong Of-The-Moment stiffly inspecting troops or doffing his hat to adoring crowds at the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground. Or Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, emblazoned with the no. 1, gliding to presumed victory on inline skates. Or even an almost certainly doctored image of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev facing down his opponent across the net in a tennis match.
But Vladimir Putin inevitably outshines them all, frequently donning outdoorwear, heading into the Russian outback, then shedding his outdoorwear.
And the Kremlin spinmasters kicked it into high gear this week -- just one week after Putin braved the milder depths of the Gulf of Finland -- offering up a new clutch of photos showing outdoorsman Putin during his recent holiday in Tuva, in southern Siberia, where in addition to catching fish and rafting he spent some time with sidekick Dmitry Medvedev:
Russian state broadcaster RT even aired a video of the Russian president landing a sizable pike on rod-and-reel from the waters of Tuva:
There was no word on whether Putin and Co. cooked up that fish (UPDATE: they did, says Reuters) or it was just a catch-and-release -- a technique that rights and democracy advocates would certainly like to see extended to Kremlin critics currently languishing in jail or appealing their prison sentences.
UPDATE: Russian blogger Andrei Malgin cast doubt on the date of the incident, essentially suggesting the whole fishing episode was recycled from 2007.
-- Andy Heil