In dry runs, White House planners send to the podium a stand-in who is Bush's height in order to set the lighting and camera angles. Before the president emerges from behind the curtains to deliver a speech or participate in a town hall meeting, they show him a precise diagram of the event's layout, including camera positions.
Though such stagecrafting has won admiration even from political adversaries, excessive use of imagery can be counterproductive, said David Gergen, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents. "If you over-stage, and if people think there's something not authentic about it, it doesn't work." Gergen also said striking images can haunt a president. Gergen said that in his view, Bush's "most important" public relations event backfired. He was referring to the president's May 2003 landing by military jet on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and his speech under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," after Hussein was toppled. Bush proclaimed an end to major combat operations in Iraq, but far more U.S. troops have been killed there than before Bush donned a flight suit for the announcement.