By way of Martini Revolution, I came across this Scott Horton post about Bush’s favorite painting, “A Charge to Keep.” We definitely need better art history education in the U.S., if for no other reason than to prevent people from embarrassing themselves. Horton:
Bush was so taken by it [“A Charge to Keep”], that he took the painting’s name for his own official autobiography. And here’s what he says about it:
I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.
So in Bush’s view (or perhaps I should say, faith) the key figure, with whom he personally identifies, is a missionary spreading the word of the Methodist Christianity in the American West in the late nineteenth century.
Erm, not so much:
Now, however, Jacob Weisberg has solved the mystery. He invested the time to track down the commission behind the art work and he gives us the full story in his forthcoming book on Bush, The Bush Tragedy:
[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.
Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”
So Bush’s inspiring, prosyletizing Methodist is in fact a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob.
Something else your President may have slightly misconstrued (from a book review in Sunday’s UK ‘Observer’ )
Quentin Wheeler, keeper of entomology [at the Natural History Museum], and a colleague named a series of slime-mould consuming beetles after the US administration: Agathidium bushi, A rumsfeldi, and A cheyneyi. He also named one after Darth Vader. One day he received a phone call that began “This is the president of the United States.” He was about to answer “Oh yes? Well this is Darth Vader . . .” when he realised it actually was the president of the United States, who claimed to feel honoured to be immortalised in beetle nomenclature.
Can you imagine?
“President Bush here. Hear you name some slime-eating bugs after me, Don and Dick. Phoned to say mushpreciated. Lot of folks out there bad-mouthing us right now …” !
What do you say?
I think there is an extra layer of irony in the fact that the painting depicts the horse thief escaping from a lynch mob–or “justice” as Bush would characterize it. As governor, Bush showed himself as a man who would never stand in the way of a good hanging (even if they did use injections).
The irony, actually, is that Bush not only fails to grasp how badly he has screwed the country and the world, but in fact thinks that somehow he has been the great President, nobly leading America.
That sounds more like tragedy than irony.
I would say “Err. No problem.” 🙂
Pete, here’s the money quote about the beetles:
“We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular,”
Hi Graculus – do you have a link to that quote please? (I think I’m about to suffer an irony breakdown.)
thanks for all
thanks for all
think there is an extra layer of irony in the fact that the painting depicts the horse thief escaping from a lynch mob–or “justice” as Bush would characterize it. As governor, Bush showed himself as a man who would never stand in the way of a good hanging (even if they did use injections)