We’ve learned the hard way over the past seven years that George W lives in his own fantasy world – a place in which reality is whatever he wants it to be, and facts are not allowed to intrude.
We should have known this from the start of his White House tenure, for he practically painted a picture of it for us. More accurately, he showed his predilection for delusion by hanging his favorite painting in the Oval Office. It’s a 1916 cowboy scene by W.H.D. Koerner titled “A Charge to Keep,” and, in Bush’s own words, it depicts “a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail.”
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In Bush’s head, that rider epitomizes George’s own courageous political journey, dashing ahead against steep odds and naysayers (who are embodied in the art work by two other horsemen following the daring hero). Indeed, many visitors who’ve been shown the painting by Bush have commented that the hard-charging character bears a remarkable resemblance to George himself.
Over the years, Bush has added a Christian morality tale to the painting, declaring that the artist based it on a Methodist hymn, and that the indomitable horseman really is a circuit-riding minister rushing passionately ahead to spread the religion of Methodism (which happens to be George’s own chosen faith).
It’s all very inspiring, except for one small detail: It’s not true. It turns out that W.H.D. Koerner painted the work to illustrate a Saturday Evening Post short story entitled: “The Slipper Tongue.” The story is about a slick-tongued horse thief, and Koerner’s painting – far from illustrating bold moral leadership – depicts the horse thief frantically fleeing a lynch mob.
So when Bush says that he sees himself in the painting, he might inadvertently be revealing the truth. Let’s see – George W… Horse thief. Works for me.
“Bush mistakenly compares himself to a horse bandit,” www.slate.com , January 15, 2008
“Memo “A Charge to Keep I Have,” www.pbs.org, April 3, 1995