Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Somebody buy the President some watercolors

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 11.10 am


Of all the things I ever imagined happening after George W. Bush left office, this is not it — and I love it.

I love it partly because these paintings really are oddly earnest; and they are not very good; and for reasons totally unknown, Bush has decided to exhibit them in public places while his wife talks about his work with just a hint of condescension.

But I mainly love it because this whole painting project is so very un-presidential. While many post-presidency activities try to perpetuate the glory of the ex-President’s time in office, this does not. Presidential libraries, speaking tours, charitable activities — all of these things are designed to bolster the former Presidents’ prestige (and sometimes their bank accounts), adding to the personality cult that surrounds the White House.

And while I understand a desire for our head of state to have some degree of pomp and circumstance, a healthy cut-back in the celebrity that the Oval Office brings is much overdue. The President is not our national dad or the “boss of the country,” as some have bizarrely suggested, and his job ought to be one of public service. Yet America too often maintains an obsession with the presidency which isn’t conducive to reasoned critiques of any administration’s policies.

And that brings me back to Bush and his paintings (especially the bath and shower self portraits). He signs them “43” — as in 43rd President — and they are not exactly commanding of respect. But where Bush’s paintings may indeed excel is in diminishing the cultural power of the presidency.

I only wish he’d starting sharing them a few years earlier…and I wish someone would buy Barack Obama a set of watercolors.

7 Ways Republicans and Democrats are exactly the same

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4.49 pm

Thanks to Rare for publishing this piece! Original version here.

Cats vs. dogs. Coke vs. Pepsi. Democrats vs. Republicans.

These are the great divisions of life. But what if one of those rivalries isn’t actually much of a division at all?

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to reignite the cola wars of the 90s. (Besides, we all know Coke is the clear winner: Do you order a Jack and Pepsi?)

No, I’m talking about Democrats and Republicans—or rather, the out-of-date and out-of-step establishments of both parties.

For libertarians, saying both parties are the same is a common theme. Democrat and Republican partisans dismiss such critiques as cynical or unserious, but there’s a real case to be made if we look at the cold, hard facts.

Here are 7 big reasons there’s no difference between establishment Democrats and Republicans:

1. Both support endless war. It’s been more than a decade since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and America’s entanglements are far from over. Though Bush is remembered as the consummate hawk, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama has used his time in office to start or maintain additional wars in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Now, he wants to add Syria to the list. My generation can barely remember peace—and there’s no end in sight for a foreign policy with devastating human and financial costs.

2. Both engage in out-of-control spending. Yes, deficit spending has accelerated under Barack Obama. But you know what? There was also a massive acceleration under Bush. The fact is, debt is a bipartisan problem, and neither party is innocent. With $17 trillion of debt (and rapidly counting) as the consequence of decades of bipartisan irresponsibility, the time has passed for pointing fingers and dubbing a slightly slower rate of spending growth a “historic cut.”

3. Both ignore our most basic rights. CNN recently asked “When can a government kill its own people?” but for President Obama and some old guard GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain, that question has already been answered: Pretty much whenever it’s convenient. In fact, the U.S. government has already assassinated a 16-year-old American citizen by drone strike, killing a boy who was neither accused nor suspected of any crime.

Read the final four reasons here!

Ozymandias W. Bush

Posted on May 1, 2013 at 11.14 am

I’ve never been one for poetry — prose is my game. But one poem I’ve always appreciated is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias, a short poem which tells of a once-glorious statue to a powerful king, now abandoned and decaying with time. Here’s the text:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Our modern kings take Ozymandias’ lead, but they tend to be less interested in statues and more interested in libraries — specifically, Presidential Libraries.

Above, the five living U.S. Presidents stand in front of the newly-dedicated George W. Bush Presidential Library while literally being heralded by a row of trumpeters. Ozymandias would be proud.

In the wake of the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Reason has a good piece from Gene Healy calling for an end to tax-dollar funding of Presidential libraries. “Let America’s former presidents burnish their legacies on their own dimes,” cheekily declares the tagline.

I completely agree. Not only are these fluff projects expensive:

At 226,560 square feet and a cost of $250 million, the Bush Presidential Center is the biggest and most expensive yet of the 13 presidential libraries that one scholar has derisively called “America’s Pyramids.” [...]

Though the libraries’ construction is privately funded, they’re managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, using federal tax dollars. Last year, it cost the American taxpayer some $75 million to keep them open.

…but they also (in this case, at least) seek to justify the unjustifiable, serving as a new wing of the self-glorification campaign in which ex-Presidents apparently love to engage:

One of the key exhibits at the Bush megalith is Decision Points Theater, a virtual Situation Room wherein visitors can “consult” video advisers and make their own calls on some of the “Decider’s” key decisions, like war with Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and bailing out the banks. [...]

In Decision Points Theater, if you decide not to go to war with Iraq, “43” himself comes onscreen to tell you flatly that you’re wrong: “Saddam posed too big a risk to ignore. … The world was made safer by his removal.”

Wow. Should we count the theater among the waning minority of the American public who agrees with Bush on this one? (Perhaps Mitt Romney is really the one to ask if theaters are people.)

All sarcasm aside, let’s be honest: These libraries are vanity projects, nothing more — fodder for field trips and president-worship incarnate. Erected to memorialize the greatness of Presidents not yet dead, they’re Ozymandias’ statue modernized: “My name is George W. Bush, Decider of Deciders: Look on my works, ye Tourists, and accept that I’m right!”

Let’s be honest again: These guys are not poor. Of the living ex-Presidents, Clinton clocks in as the wealthiest with an estimated net worth of $38 million, and even Carter, the “poorest,” is not exactly struggling at $7 million.

If former Presidents want to play Ozymandias, let them also play financier. They’re better situated to it than are we. Healy concludes, “As it happens, our recent presidents have mainly left us a patrimony of mounting debt, intrusive government, and permanent war. If you seek their monument, look around you.”

Perhaps our Presidents have surpassed the ancient king in one regard: They’ve skipped straight to the decay.