After mistakenly believing that George Bush Jr had created prettified versions of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, I have reflected on why I could believe that he would do such things. Part of it is that I have a very low opinion of Bush. He’s a trust fund kid who skated through life into the White House. And the world is a far worse place for it. But that’s not really the main issue. I wouldn’t, for example, think the same thing of Dick Cheney who I dislike even more.
In my mind, if not in reality, Bush is still the cheerleader at Yale—a deeply unserious guy. Look at his paintings: he signs them “43.” To me this says that being president wasn’t about much other than the title. It reminds me of Primary Colors where Jack Stanton says, “You know as well as I do, that plenty of people playing this game, they don’t think that way. They’re willing to sell their souls, crawl through sewers, lie to people, divide them, play on their worst fears for nothing! Just for the prize.” That’s Bush. But of course, he didn’t have to crawl through the sewers.
Throughout the time that he was in office, he seemed to think it was all a joke. When he was serious, it was more like he was playing the part of the serious president—although maybe that’s all that any of them do. There was his response to the famous presidential daily briefing, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” There was his golf course moment, “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.” There was, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” But most of all, he was cavalier about the job generally.
So it wasn’t (and really still isn’t) that hard to imagine him approaching the history of his presidency with what he would think of as a rye sense of humor. The pictures from Abu Ghraib really are beyond the pale. At least in retrospect. But sad clown faces on Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? That’s entirely in keeping with what we know about George Bush’s sense of humor. And I think that’s the core of why I found the fakes believable.
The whole thing started with a gallery of a dozen or so George Bush paintings. (I can’t find the link.) It contained a number of authentic Bush paintings, and most or even all of these fake ones. None of them were distinguished. I eventually traced the source back to the original Vanity Fair article. And I found many other references to the paintings, none of which clearly indicated parody. In fact, the Vanity Fair article was completely straight except for the final paragraph. Of course, I should have noticed the headline, “Fauxsclusive…” But alas, I am clueless at times.
There you have it. In the end, embarrassment aside, I’m glad that George Bush has not taken to apologetics in his paintings. And on a more fundamental level, maybe thinking that he would was giving him more credit than than was due. He’s still more a cheerleader than a sad clown. Go team!
Thanks to Andrea for doing the image!