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The Literalist Mind of George W. Bush, Artist

You get the sense from Jenna Bush Hager’s interview with her father, former Most Powerful Man in the World George W. Bush, this morning on the Today show that even his family would have been less surprised to see him have become a house painter in his retirement than an artist.

The occasion was the opening of a new exhibit featuring Bush’s portraits of world leaders at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

I’ll leave the art criticism to our Peter Simek. What I found most revealing about Mr. Bush in this segment is one short exchange with Jenna about his picture of Tony Blair:

Jenna: Has he seen this portrait?

W: I don’t think he has. No telling how these people are going to react when they see their portrait. I think I told Tony I was painting him, and he kind of ‘brushed it off,’ so to speak. <wheezing laugh>

Jenna: No art pun intended there?

Bush (serious faced, irritated): That was an art pun.

Jenna’s trying to help her dad carry his corny joke forward, and instead of just going along with her bit of canned irony, he reacts to her statement at face value and feels the need to underline the fact that, yes, he was just joking.

This is the man we knew as president of the United States for eight years, a man of a decidedly black and white worldview. A man who repeatedly said things like “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”  Even if he’s now spending his days painting pictures of his dog, it’s still him.