Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bush Misinterprets Painting, Or Does He?

Bush Misinterprets Painting, Or Does He?

By Brandon Barker
Jan 25th 2008 10:55AM

Depending on your political views, a recent article in Harper's Magazine--"The Illustrated President" by Scott Horton--is either further proof of our hapless Chief Executive or petty liberal smugness. Before we choose sides, here are the facts:

George Bush's favorite painting is an 28x40" oil on canvas by W.H.D. Koerner called "A Charge to Keep." Check it:

Bush loves the painting so much, his own autobiography is named after it. And here is his interpretation:

"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."

Bush not only identifies with the looks of the rider--who bears an eerie resemblance to the President--but also, according to author Jacob Weisberg, as a missionary spreading "Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century." Therefore, as a faith messenger, as a Christian. However, that interpretation is wrong. This is in fact the depiction of a criminal fleeing the law.

The original title to this painting was "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught," and it was drawn by Koerner to illustrate a short story in the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 called "The Slipper Tongue," about a horse thief who escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

For some, this is rich. The unpopularity of the War in Iraq and the President's overall indifference to public opinion has led many to believe that he either considers himself to be above the law or naively misinterprets his own mission in the same way he misinterprets Koerner's work. For others, this is a nice painting of a horseman being pursued by men with a noose. And that's that.

B. Brandon Barker is the author of the novel Operation EMU.

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