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Ego Wall

An “ego wall” is where people flaunt their political connections by displaying photos of themselves with more famous people.

As Mike Nichols observed:

“The ego wall is where the politician hangs pictures of himself or herself beside other, more famous politicians. It is why, when a president flies into town, there are usually about 495 lesser politicians waiting on the tarmac. They want a picture for the ego wall.”

And from Slate:

“Lobbyists have glory walls in the office to impress clients. Staffers have them to impress other staffers. Socialites have their glory walls on the piano… For aspiring Washingtonians, the glory wall allows you to brag about conversations you never really had with the chief justice and intimacies you never really shared with the president.”

More on “Ego Wall”

An age-old expression referring to the portion of an office festooned with photos of the office’s occupant posing with prominent politicians as an unspoken indicator of their lofty access as well as status. Such an accouterment is also known as a “me wall” or “glory wall.”

Tables or other furnishings can perform the same duty. Gore Vidal wrote in his 1967 novel Washington, D.C. that a piano’s “essential function was to serve as an altar on which to display in silver frames the household gods: photographs of famous people known to the family.”

Lobbyists are prone to ego-walling. Before the appendage disgraced was affixed to his name, superlobbyist Jack Abram-off got himself into half a dozen photos with then president George W. Bush. Abramoff also instructed one of his clients, a tribal leader in Louisiana, in a 2001 e-mail how having his own photo could help his reelection chances. “By all means mention [in the tribal newsletter] that the Chief is being asked to confer with the President and is coming to Washington for this purpose in May,” Abramoff wrote, according to Slate’s John Dickerson. “We’ll definitely have a photo from the opportunity, which he can use.”

But politicians do it, too. Ex-senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) displayed an assemblage of photos of himself with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and celebrities such as Bo Derek. “Part of it is memories. Part of it is maybe what we call name-dropping,” said Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. “From my standpoint, when Indians visit, some of them say, ‘By golly, we’ve arrived.’ They say, ‘Oh, boy, my senator has some clout.’ ”

Even journalists are guilty. One of every president’s least favorite, most teeth-gritting rituals is the annual White House Christmas party, at which he and his spouse are obliged to pose for hundreds of photos with the people who cover him. Or the people who, in many cases, have never set foot in the briefing room but who’ve managed to score an invite.

Veteran Senate Democratic staffer Jim Manley, now a lobbyist, has a variation on the ego wall at his Capitol Hill home—a collection of bills that his former liberal boss Ted Kennedy collaborated on with now House Speaker and conservative stalwart John Boehner. “I call it the Wall of Shame,” Manley told us.

Use of “Ego Wall” in a sentence

  • The Senator’s office features an ego wall filled with framed newspaper clippings, awards, and photos shaking hands with influential figures, ostensibly to impress visitors with his political clout.
  • During the interview, the camera panned to the ego wall behind the politician, revealing a carefully curated display of achievements meant to bolster her public image.
  • Political consultants often advise emerging politicians to develop an ego wall as a physical manifestation of their credibility and connections, despite the risk of appearing self-absorbed.