Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

George W. Bush Can’t Paint His Way Out of Hell

By Sarah Jones, Intelligencer

The chilling spectacle of watching the political class redeem a criminal, again.

I am not an art critic, but I don’t think George W. Bush’s new portraits are very good. They inspire nothing but malaise and communicate a dilettante energy. Painting is to Bush what politics used to be: a hobby for a wealthy man. Yet there is something revelatory about them, though this may be unintentional on the part of the artist. For his new book, Out of Many, One, Bush has selected immigrants for his subjects. Most are well-known, wealthy or established in some way, as if the American dream requires an M.B.A. One is Henry Kissinger, whom Bush describes as a “good friend.” Kissinger is by rights a war criminal, responsible for an American bombing campaign that murdered tens of thousands of Cambodian civilians. Here Bush’s hand slips, just a little. Amnesia is as beneficial to Bush as it is to Kissinger. Bush’s body count may even exceed that of his friend were they ever to compare notes.

The reality of the Bush legacy is at painful odds with his post-presidential reputation. That discrepancy isn’t news. Here is what we know about Bush. Ever so eager to establish himself as the avatar of something he calls “compassionate conservatism,” he is responsible for torture and death on a mass scale. Because these abuses did not occur on American shores, did not target American citizens, the political class has decided to pretend the death does not matter. Bush has assumed the role of elder statesman, a sensible voice in a Republican party gone mad. His complicity is fading out of view.

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