Painting Over W’s Sins

by Brendan James


Marc Tracy explains why Bush’s critics are captivated by his art:

The paintings are proof that Bush is an artist—that he invests his energies and imagination in creating works that are meant to be aesthetically pleasing and serve no utilitarian purpose. And being an artist is proof that Bush is an honest-to-God person, not the nightmarish, vague presence we all remember. It’s not even that Bush has a soul, just as it’s not even that the paintings are all that good. (And, I mean, are they, really?) It’s that he is of the same species as we are. He possesses an inner life—the very thing whose apparent absence seemed to connect all of his worst outer traits, from his intellectual incuriousness to his bullying nature (the nicknames!) to his economic cruelty to his foreign militarism.

The paintings are a reminder that—as Philip Roth wrote of the White House during the Clinton years—a human being lived there. Someone who provided unprecedented funding for combating AIDS in Africa and evinced tolerance at a personal level. A son, a husband, a father.