What I Think of George W Bush

Bush Sad ClownAfter 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!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “What I Think of George W Bush

  1. Again, as I posted on the "sucker!" thread, it doesn’t matter worth a whit if Bush was/is a sociopathic cretin or philosopher king. What matters are the laws and decisions he, and our other employees, enact and employ. They’re paid quite well, not CEO-of-Countryside-well, but still handsomely, to work for us. And they all behave like fucking Nero on his most egotistical day.

    Bush always struck me as a privileged idiot, though I well may be wrong about that. Obama strikes me as a smart, responsible systems manager. If I were starting a company, I’d gladly take him on as my HR director. He’d be very good at firing people I told him to fire.

    Kennedy was a certifiable sex offender. Nixon was a raving lunatic. Reagan was a cult follower. Each did good and bad things in office. Their personalities are not important, except that their position wields entirely too much power. Being president turns anyone into a madman. (It’s no coincidence that they all age visibly in office; as Orwell noted, "by 50, everyone has the face he deserves.") If I saw paintings attributed to Theodore Roosevelt featuring dead Cubans with pretty flowers attached, I’d believe in them.

    I’m fucking sick of Internet pranks, though. Really. A vast compendium of human knowledge one click away, and the coolest thing we do with it is establish who’s privy to the secret treehouse fort before anyone else. Hah-hah, Judy is the last to know we all call her "poopy doody Judy" behind her back.

    This hipster "everything is nothing" bullshit has degraded us all. I can’t count the number of books I’ve read recently, thoroughly researched and documented, that reveal crimes and fuckups Deep Throat would have gagged on and run screaming from his hiding place in the parking garage to tell the world, anonymity be dammed. (Much like Manning and Snowden did.) It’s all just crap amidst the info-stream, now. Nobody cares for more than the time it takes to read the next tweet. Nothing matters; nothing is true.

    I am a negative person, by nature and nurture, but this instance has really soured me more than usual. It was a fake joke that made a very believable commentary on the inappropriate power of the presidency in one person’s hands. Done, why? To fool gullible schmucks like myself into thinking our media actually can reveal something of importance to a democratic society? And then go, "har-har, you’re poopy doody Judy?" What kind of cynical assholes even conceive of such a thing?

    It’s insanely depressing.

  2. @JMF – My take on it is much more positive, even though I’m the idiot in all of this. I think the original article was clear enough. It was social satire that really does highlight some very important things. There is a disconnect. Let’s not forget the terrible things that Bush did. He may not be painting flowers in front of torture victims, but his pictures of landscapes and dogs is a kind of effort to move beyond his evil deeds, and even to try to cover over them. "Bush can’t be that bad; just look at the cute puppy!"

    What bothers me is not the satire and parody (although I wish it were a tad clearer–it often seems more prank than parody). It is the fact that real life is so fucked up that parody isn’t clear. As I said: the clown faces could easily be Bush’s. And when you live in that kind of world, anything really is possible.

    On the other hand, I do joke posts on April Fools Day, and people always get confused. It really is hard.

  3. I understand. Skillful parody is hard. Still, if one’s point is to use parody and satire to lampoon the moral nullity of a powerful, corrupt figure, it’s horribly wrong to use an image that references a real human being tortured. The parody’s blithe use of that searing photograph is almost as insensible as the parody accuses Bush of being. Not in five lifetimes can anything about that picture be funny.

    But, hey. Images become icons and lose their meaning. This is not new. Images, words, all describe experience in an abstract fashion. They can all be reduced to jokey rubble. I wish an Intelligent Designer had given us better ways to communicate with one another. No such luck, alas.

    Maybe we’re just a beta test, and the next experiment with self-conscious life forms will be version 2.0

  4. I actually feel a certain amount of culpability in all this. Because Frank is far more knowledgable about politics and the economy (and science, and math, and a myriad of other tiresome fact-based areas of knowledge) than I am, I don’t question his comments or sources. Sometimes I don’t even read beyond his headlines. Had I actually bothered to look at the Vanity Fair article myself, there’s a good chance I would have picked up on the ruse – if for no other reason than the obvious use of photoshop – but more likely because I am FAR more cynical than he is. Such a gentle trusting soul as his can be, at times, easily misled.

    The problem here is with the source. Had the "story" and images appeared on the Colbert Report (or published in The Onion) it would have been very clear – and funny – satire. Vanity Fair is no hotbed of investigative journalism, but it is considered a publisher of legitimate information. Even with a title like "Fauxsclusive! A New Batch of Oddly Disturbing George W. Bush Paintings?" with its subtle word mashup and obscure question mark, the reader is still unprepared for oblique satire.

    As it is, knowing what I do of Bush the human hand puppet, I am predisposed to despise him and everything he says, does, or might possibly think and with good reason. It irritates me that I quickly jumped at such questionable bait.

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