I know this has no meaningful political content but I think it is a funny story. Plus, Bush opened up his State of the Union address last night with a reference to “A Charge to Keep” .
In addition, I think Bush do not even like horses or does not like to ride horses otherwise he would have had them on his so-called ranch outside of Waco, TX (i.e Crawford). You know it would have been cooler to get a photo-op on a horse versus a mountain bike that he kept wiping out on. The riding horse photo would have really help his want-a-be cowboy image.
As president, George W. Bush loves to talk to those who visit the Oval Office about the rug on the floor. (He claims to have tasked Laura Bush with helping come up with a design that communicated “optimistic person” to those who saw it.)
But as governor, Bush wasn’t excited about his carpet; he was excited about a painting: “A Charge to Keep.” In 1995, he issued a memo to his Texas staff, describing the painting, by W.H.D. Koerner in 1916, which he kept on his office wall. Bush told his aides:
The reason I bring this up is that the painting is based upon the Charles Wesley hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have”. I am particularly impressed by the second verse of this hymn. The second verse goes like this: “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will”
This is our mission. This verse captures our spirit. […]
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.
When one looks at the painting, you see a man on horseback — who actually looks a little like Bush — apparently leading a group of missionaries. It worked for Bush on a couple of levels: the title comes from one of the president’s favorite Methodist hymns, the man in the picture looks like him, and he related to the missionary work depicted in the painting.
He liked all of this so much, Bush used the title for his autobiography (which he admittedly did not write). He even brought the picture with him to Washington upon taking office.
The funny part is the truth about the painting and what it represents.
In his new book, “The Bush Tragedy,” Jacob Weisberg explains:
[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.
Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”
Slate’s Tim Noah added: “The painting was subsequently recycled by the Saturday Evening Post to illustrate a nonfiction story. The caption that time was, ‘Bandits Move About From Town to Town, Pillaging Whatever They Can Find.'”
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Scott Horton concluded, “So Bush’s inspiring, proselytizing Methodist is in fact a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob. It seems a fitting marker for the Bush presidency.”