What is left in the life of a former U.S. president? Nothing. Playing golf and kicking the bucket. The curse descended on George W. Bush, as it had on his father: to be part of history while still alive.
There is already a presidential library named after him, with a fine courtyard and a burial plot that awaits. This week, when a hacker exposed the private emails of the Bush family, we got a peek into the president’s life as a pensioner. It turns out that he paints. Among the three paintings by Bush discovered among the emails, two of them were self-portraits – one in the shower and one in the bathtub.
The many who detest the 43rd president felt vindicated in their opinion of him: Here were what looked like dim-witted pictures by a dim-witted artist. This they see as some sort of decisive proof that he was a dim-witted president, too: The paintings are used to analyze his presidency retroactively.
What comes through in Bush’s art is not talent or the lack thereof (Churchill and Hitler were also mediocre artists) but his current frame of mind. Bush is creating sad, materialistic works. The man who led his nation’s army into two distant wars and tried to foist the Republican-American spirit on the world at large now shuts himself in the bathroom and paints his water-logged shins.
At the beginning of the month, Bush posted a touching portrait of his late dog, Barney, on Facebook. He signed the painting “43.” In Bush’s eyes this is apparently all he is: the 43rd president. And that’s what he will always be, even when the numbers change and 44 gives way to 45. It’s sad. And on top of it, his dog died.