Originally posted to Speak Liberty Now. February 8th, 2013, DALLAS – These two paintings were completed by former President George W. Bush recently. Since his retirement, he has reportedly taken up the hobby. A hacker posted the paintings and other private pictures online; they can be found via Smoking Gun. While it is deplorable that anyone would violate the former president’s privacy, the images provide insight.
Do these renderings hint at a guilty conscience for the disastrous decisions he allowed himself to be manipulated into making by neoconservative war-hawk academics. Though stopping short of admitting the Iraq War was an expensive, fruitless blunder, Bush admitted he still has “a sickening feeling” about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In these representations, is he trying to get clean? Is he staring at his own feet and in the mirror? His back is presented to the viewer; a sign of closed communication, but the image in the mirror is only a partial view. Perhaps Bush believes we have only seen a portion of the man he is, or perhaps he only understands a portion of himself.
As a Vanity Fair writer commented, “Psychologically, it’s telling that the artist puts his reflected face in the center of the shower painting but then has his actual figure off to the side, with his back to the viewer. One imagines that a president might feel that the public has only seen a small portion of himself, and even then only a facsimile and not the real man. Intriguingly, you can read the figure with his back turned to the viewer as both defiant and, in being almost literally marginalized, melancholy. One can easily imagine Bush—a proud man but also an ex-president widely seen, even within his own party, as a failure—harboring both those emotions. If this is indeed his work, I wonder how conscious he was about choosing these compositions.”
But no matter how much water he submerges himself in, he can’t avoid the decisions he made, where he allowed himself to take the American people, or the man in the mirror. No amount of hot water can erase the blood of millions of Iraqis and thousands of my countrymen, no cleansing can erase the guilt he must feel over establishing a national security Leviathan steadily destroying the great American experiment. I almost feel sorry for him now. Almost.
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