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Powerline, Free Beacon Praise Bush's "Stroke of Genius"

February 8, 2013

There's nothing funny about the news that the Bush family emails have been hacked. Well, almost nothing. As it turns out, this episode has literally produced a "life imitates art" moment for the conservative movement. After all, back in 2005 blog of the year Powerline likened President Bush to "a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile." Now that pictures of Dubya's bathroom portraits have been released, the Washington Free Beacon crowed that the "greatest living president is also [a] fantastic painter."
A quick glance at the apparent self-portraits of Bush in the shower and bathtub suggests the 43rd President would be banned as a Boy Scout troop leader. (At least, for now.) But in those flat forms and distorted figures, Bill Kristol's son-in-law Matthew Continetti saw something greater. The Sarah Palin hagiographer turned right-wing "combat journalist" at the Washington Free Beacon saw strokes of genius:

The paintings demonstrate a command of line and color that is rarely seen in the modern-day "art" world. Former President George W. Bush appears to be influenced by such painters as Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet.

If this kind of Bush bath water drinking sounds familiar, it should. In the summer of 2005, Powerline's John Hinderaker, too, saw a "stroke of genius" in President Bush's latest initiative on climate change:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

Of course, when Hinderaker was on the receiving end of some of that hostility--and the side-splitting mockery his paean understandably produced--he updated his piece to announce that he had been joking all along:

The tone of the post is obviously tongue in cheek, but liberals never seem to notice. They are, to put it charitably, not big on nuance.

Perhaps. It could also be the case that the subtle editorial staff as the Washington Free Beacon was punking Bush's liberal critics. After all, Matthew Continetti's nuance and subtlety was on full display in his 2009 ode, The Persecution of Sarah Palin. In it, Continetti defended the "young, attractive, and pro-life conservative mom who connected with ordinary Americans" from the left's campaign of "distortion, exaggeration, fabrication, vilification, ridicule, and abuse." Disgusted that Palin on the one hand is branded a "true Stepford candidate," Continetti argued on the other:

If you had gone into a chemical laboratory to concoct a politician whose background and manner would sound liberal alarms, you probably would have come up with someone like Sarah Palin.

Now that's a stroke of genius.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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