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A Charge to Keep
January 26, 2008 4:00 PM   Subscribe

The Illustrated President.
posted by homunculus (60 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
well, all i can say to president bush is this

fuck you and the horse you rode in on
posted by pyramid termite at 4:16 PM on January 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


A lot more on this subject.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:21 PM on January 26, 2008


It seems a fitting marker for the Bush presidency.

Well, except that Bush is too scared of horses to keep any on his neverland "ranch."
posted by ibmcginty at 4:25 PM on January 26, 2008


Damned with paint phrase.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2008 [20 favorites]


Amusement to injury.
posted by three blind mice at 4:29 PM on January 26, 2008


That's some awesome imagery and turnaround "rest of the story.." - hope it's true and not white lies and propaganda, hard to tell.
posted by stbalbach at 4:35 PM on January 26, 2008


(Ooops -- I didn't realize that was a link back to the Slate article there in the Harper's piece.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:40 PM on January 26, 2008


One begins to get the impression that Babs and Herbert Walker Armoire Pomegranate never said "no" to the child.
posted by maxwelton at 4:47 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hard to believe that anybody could be so selfdelusional. His favorite painting?
posted by francesca too at 4:52 PM on January 26, 2008


Heh. It's all in the eye of the beholder..
posted by vivelame at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2008


This presidency was brought to you by the letter I and the color Blood Red. And cowboys.
posted by XMLicious at 5:00 PM on January 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The original description that Weisberg tracks down doesn't mesh with the painting either. He says it depicts a horse thief escaping a "lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska". The Sand Hills (previously) are gently rolling sand hills covered with short grasses. Koerner's painting is of trees and steep hills.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:00 PM on January 26, 2008


I always assumed he only liked fingerpaintings.
Although he has caused in Iraq and Afghanistan is reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock.
Or Guernica.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2008


What amazes me about this is not just how well it illustrates his delusions but also his vanity. It's a not really heroic looking scene, but the guy on the horse looks like George, so he let his fancy run wild with it. Paint a portrait of him as a sad clown and he'll see himself as Gene Simmons leading the KISS Army.
posted by maryh at 5:05 PM on January 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


What happened to critical theory? If that's what it means to GW, that's what it means, right? The artist's original intent is moot.

Just saying.

I do think "That's us." would have been a funnier FP title, but hey, whatever. :)
posted by rokusan at 5:09 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was a delightful read.

If anyone else is curious about the name "Tolstoy syndrome," Wikipedia says:
The behavior of confirmation bias has been named after a quote from Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910):
"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life".
A related Tolstoy quote is:
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on January 26, 2008 [11 favorites]


The Sand Hills (previously) are gently rolling sand hills covered with short grasses. Koerner's painting is of trees and steep hills.
Looking at the post you link to, there's a National Forest on that area. So the painting seems to match up pretty well.
posted by Llama-Lime at 5:21 PM on January 26, 2008


My dad, in his youth, went on a trip around the world. He once related a story to me about how, during his trip, he was in Italy and he went to visit an art gallery where he happened to meet one of the artists whose work was on display there. Dad took a look at the artists painting, in front of which they were both standing, and asked the artist what it was meant to be. The artist pointed to a gallery tour guide, who was approaching with a group of people viewing the paintings in the gallery and said "When they get here, I'll let you know."

Dad's story was something I always think about when I go to art galleries or when I paint or draw myself. Yes, it has a meaning that the artist meant to convey, but art is art and it can mean different things to different people, and this is no bad thing.

I hate Dubya with a burning passion. I hate him, his presidency and what America has become under him and his goon squad. But this article, while relating an interesting story (which made me chuckle, granted), forgets that to Bush the painting means what it means to him. And that is no bad thing, irony be damned.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:41 PM on January 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


If they hadn't caught that horseman, I'm sure he would have found the missles!
posted by ardgedee at 5:42 PM on January 26, 2008


I thought we already knew the neocons make their own reality?

Effigy2000: I accept your point re: the meaning(s) of art, but the point at hand is not interpretive, it is a factual matter of the subject matter of the painting. It's as if the Last Supper turned out to be a portrait of the seven dwarves dining with the four horseman of the apocalypse, with cortex sitting in the middle.
posted by Rumple at 5:49 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, but the Nebraska National Forest is not a natural phenomenon. It was hand-planted starting in 1902. Those trees would still have been small in 1916.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:52 PM on January 26, 2008


Yes, of course, a painting's strength or meaning is whatever the viewer takes from it, we are all living the postmodern condition, blah blah blah, but that's kind of missing the point.

Bush chose that interpretation and inspiration, and his choice of interpretation speaks more about him than the choice of artwork does. And in an administration that is known for letting their worldview determine the facts rather than the other way around, the painting anecdote is just a cute little metaphor. Nothing more, nothing less.
posted by Llama-Lime at 5:56 PM on January 26, 2008


The Cartooned Candidates
posted by Rhaomi at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2008


I was raised to believe that any child in America had the potential to grow up and become president. I no longer believe that is the case, but even if it were, there's a lot of us that really shouldn't. I mean, if I grew up to be president, we'd be in even worse shape than we are now, and that's not cuz I woulda led us to war. Quite the opposite. I don't believe war is the answer, but when it comes to bullies - there's no choice. That's a lesson I woulda had to learn the hard way, at the Commander-In-Chief's pants expense. So, what Georgie fears would happen if he didn't get his way is just what I woulda brought to the table.

Conversely, what he's wrought? It's what I feared. Loss of freedoms. Systematic dismantling of the constitution. Turning the rest of the world against us to where they see us as worse than Lex Luthor. I don't think Georgie shoulda been president either.

I still think the U.S. presidency shouldn't be a job one volunteers to lobby for. I think we should draft somebody. It's not a job that anyone who wants to do it should be allowed to have. And it's not a job that someone who looks at a bad painting and sees himself fulfilling his god's destiny should be allowed to have. That's what missionaries do. Georgie missed his calling.

It's too late now. It was fun while it lasted, but I don't give these "united" states much longer with the unitediness.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:06 PM on January 26, 2008


Plastic_animal—it's not clear that Koerner had ever visited the territory depicted in the painting. The phenomenon of painters depicting scenes they'd never seen is not that unusual, especially WRT the western states.
posted by adamrice at 6:11 PM on January 26, 2008


I was raised to believe that any child in America had the potential to grow up and become president.

and now we see exactly how that works out, don't we?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:20 PM on January 26, 2008


I wish I could communicate how tired I am of hearing the same trite sound bites about politics around Metafilter. It's like listening to a stuck CD. If Bush cries, it's a fake tear. If Bush likes a painting, it shows off his vanity. If Bush does some good, he's just done bad made to look like good. I feel like I have to defend Bush just because the tiresome attacks are so outrageous. Let's say (just say) I'm an independent, sanely religious conservative who loves Metafilter (is't possible!?) In a blue world where neocons are Nazis, Republicans are wacky, and religious folk are deluded nutjobs, what's a dissention opinion to do? Leave? Start a 1000 comment MetaTalk thread that is eventually closed after a handful of oldtimers terminate their accounts? Argue and dissent and argue until the community paints you that nasty internet character, despite your loving goodwill to the flesh and blood around you? Give up and join 'em with the same old eff you to everyone I disagree with? I don't like to be that way.

I'm running out of options. And maybe after a hundred snarky replies, one of them might help.
posted by Avenger50 at 6:22 PM on January 26, 2008


Ron Paul.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:28 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's like listening to a stuck CD.

then don't push play
posted by pyramid termite at 6:29 PM on January 26, 2008


Avenger50: maybe the criticisms are accurate. Give it a thought.

In a blue world where neocons are Nazis, Republicans are wacky, and religious folk are deluded nutjobs, what's a dissention opinion to do?

fixed that, etc etc

posted by Rumple at 6:32 PM on January 26, 2008


then don't push play

I was hoping the snark would at least be clever.
posted by Avenger50 at 6:37 PM on January 26, 2008


In a blue world where neocons are Nazis, Republicans are wacky, and religious folk are deluded nutjobs, what's a dissention opinion to do?

I dunno, make a big wordy cri de coeur about wearying haterz like me? That seems to work well enough.
posted by maryh at 6:37 PM on January 26, 2008


Please, don't feed the troll.
posted by ssg at 6:38 PM on January 26, 2008


"sanely religious conservative"

I saw one of them once in a clearing along with Bigfoot, Howard Hughes and a UFO.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:55 PM on January 26, 2008


I was hoping the snark would at least be clever.

who's snarking? you pretty much knew the kind of things people would say - and yet you clicked to read anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 6:57 PM on January 26, 2008


I can't wait to fuck that president.
posted by Balisong at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2008


I find it hard to believe that there aren't 4 horsemen in Bush's favorite painting.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


What's more, I'm shocked that he actually wrote a book.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:18 PM on January 26, 2008


This would be funny, if it wasn't so retarding-ly and terrifyingly stupid.

Look at the painting closely. It shows a very exciting idealized sense of purpose and action, but what you don't see is where the rider is headed. It's outside the frame...for all we know he may be riding his horse off a cliff...

It says a lot about the man. The sense of purpose is all, everything else is up to some unknowable all powerful deity.
posted by Skygazer at 7:33 PM on January 26, 2008


Rumple: "Effigy2000: I accept your point re: the meaning(s) of art, but the point at hand is not interpretive, it is a factual matter of the subject matter of the painting."

Oh, I know that. I was just sayin', is all.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:39 PM on January 26, 2008


What annoys me about the painting is that the horse's gait seems not only unsuited to the terrain, but impossible.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:57 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


avenger: my sincere advice is to stay out of politics threads here. I'd suggest finding a conservative blog to comment on, but I can't think of any decent ones that even allow comments.
posted by empath at 8:02 PM on January 26, 2008


Firstly, please don't confuse me with Mr. Un-Avenger above.

Secondly, anybody who looks at the painting in question for more than 2 seconds can see that it's theme and general "feeling" is very dark. Not just the colors, either. Look at the trees: all but one seem to be barren and lifeless. The logs at the horses' feet are gray and spiny, like the bleached bones of some dead monster. Also, and I realize this may be a minor detail, the cowboy in the front isn't wearing a hat. He left in such a hurry that it either blew off or he left it behind.

It's a dark painting which should unsettle anyone who sees it, yet President Chuckles thinks that its "super" because the guy looks like him. Obviously they must not teach art criticism in those special courses that Yale offers for their wealthy trust-fund brats.
posted by Avenger at 8:58 PM on January 26, 2008


I was raised to believe that any child in America had the potential to grow up and become president. I no longer believe that is the case ...

So, there's this guy who just won the South Carolina Democratic primary this evening. He hasn't won the presidency, but he's at least in the top three final contenders. He's the half-black son of a Kenyan student and an American hippie, and spent a lot of his pretty-damn middle class childhood in Indonesia, and worked as a relatively low-paid community organizer before heading for law school.

So, the sky isn't exactly falling here...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:08 PM on January 26, 2008


Can we make this the general purpose politics thread, because I really want to say this:

Go Obama!
posted by empath at 9:10 PM on January 26, 2008


Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert and tonight it's my privilege to celebrate this president. We're not so different, he and I. We get it. We're not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We're not members of the fact-inista. We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say I did look it up, and that's not true. That's cause you looked it up in a book.

Next time, look it up in your gut. I did.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:16 PM on January 26, 2008


“Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”

May the fates be so kind as to befall the same fortune on Bush and Co.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I!
posted by hadjiboy at 9:23 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always assumed he only liked fingerpaintings.
Although he has caused in Iraq and Afghanistan is reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock.
Or Guernica.


This administration doesn't like Guernica.
posted by homunculus at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama's not big on taking a stand on gay rights. He's charismatic though. America loves it some alpha males.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


plastic_animals is skeptical that the seemingly authoritative explanation of the painting's subject is accurate.

I share that skepticism, but not in the basis of an appeal to fact. The ultimate meaning and interpretation of a work of art is in the mind of the viewer. When President Bush tells us he sees a Methodist missionary, I don't think it's unreasonable to accept that he sees a Methoedist missionary.

Is that what the painter saw? Certainly not. So what?

When I look at it I see a competent pastiche crafted to satisfy a commercial illustrative demand; I don't see a horse thief and I don't see a missionary. I do see a painter quite expertly quoting Frederic Remington and go him, were we to apply Doctorow's rules of quotation in the service of commercial expediency. I also see a generic illustrative composition intended since the day of its' creation to support and further romantic mythologies of the idea of American expansion, which it clearly has been doing since its' entry into the White House.

The truth of the matter in this matter is that there is no truth at all, and that in and of itself might tell an interested observer all that need to be learned of the importance and value of truith in the Bush White House.

Please do note, however, that the issue of truth or falsehood with regard to twentieth-century American illustrative art is wholly a fool's debate and cannot ever be won on the basis of truth.
posted by mwhybark at 9:55 PM on January 26, 2008


Obama's not big on taking a stand on gay rights.

Associated Press: Campaign frustrates some gay activists.
posted by ericb at 10:01 PM on January 26, 2008


Associated Press: Campaign frustrates some gay activists.

It's hard to know which is worse: Republican bigots or Democratic moral cowards. At least you know where you stand with the Republicans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:04 PM on January 26, 2008


At least you know where you stand with the Republicans.

On the other hand, pure distilled hatred vs. spineless pandering. American politics suck.
posted by cmonkey at 3:51 AM on January 27, 2008


The story of Bush and his relationship with this painting show conclusively a thing that ought to give Bush-haters (and lovers of justice) tremendous satisfaction: Bush knows what he has done, and is absolutely terrified of retribution for it-- and he perceives that retribution to be right behind him, gaining fast.
posted by jamjam at 6:43 AM on January 27, 2008


Obama wants to repeal DOMA, wants to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, voted for Hate Crimes legislation, was a sponsor of the gay rights bill and he went out of his way to scold african americans for not accepting gays at his MLK speech.

What else do you want?
posted by empath at 7:12 AM on January 27, 2008


plastic_animals wrote: The Sand Hills (previously) are gently rolling sand hills covered with short grasses. Koerner's painting is of trees and steep hills.

It's what Koerner envisioned the area to be like; it's not a photograph. I imagine it was pretty hard to find an artist that didn't want to paint Yellowstone, Saguaro or the Grand Canyon every time they were charged with painting a scene in "the west".
posted by robla at 9:16 AM on January 27, 2008


This story actually came out over a year and a half ago, May 12 2006, in a piece by lawyer and author Jonathan Hutson entitled Horseshit! Bush and the Christian Cowboy

Sidney Blumenthal, for Salon.com, did an earlier version too, in April 2007 - "From Norman Rockwell To Abu Ghraib"
posted by m39 at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2008


Bush knows what he has done, and is absolutely terrified of retribution for it-- and he perceives that retribution to be right behind him, gaining fast.

I can imagine him sitting distracted behind his desk in the oval offive, daydreaming of "the west", while his advisers and handlers tell him about his low numbers and the deteriorating state of the nation, and he's probably like "Heck, I don't care fellas, I'm gettin' the fuck out of Dodge soon, spend some time on my ranch."

Someone should paint the next panel in that little western drama; The thief with a rope around his neck and his hands tied behind his back.
posted by Skygazer at 11:57 AM on January 27, 2008


ZachsMind: As is so often the case, Marge Simpson said it much more succinctly:

"I guess one person can make a difference. But most of the time, they probably shouldn't."

Of course, Popper et al were way ahead of her...
posted by Pinback at 4:31 PM on January 27, 2008


Link to the Blumenthal piece on Salon
posted by ooga_booga at 11:17 PM on January 27, 2008


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