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Portraits: George W Bush   Leave a comment

The White House selected Robert Anderson, a Connecticut portraitist and a Yale classmate of the President, to create this painting for the National Portrait Gallery.

The White House selected Robert Anderson, a Connecticut portraitist and a Yale classmate of the President, to create this painting for the National Portrait Gallery.

George Walker Bush (1946 – )

The 43rd President of the United States, 2001 – 2009

AKA: Dubya, W, Bush 43

From: Texas

College: Yale University, Harvard Business School

Married to: Laura Welch

Children: Barbara, Jenna

Party: Republican

Previous Jobs: Lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard, Oil industry entrepreneur, Owner of the Texas Rangers – a Major League Baseball team, Governor of Texas

In His Words: “The protection of America itself will assume a high priority in a new century. Once a strategic afterthought, homeland defense has become an urgent duty. For most of our history, America felt safe behind two great oceans. But with the spread of technology, distance no longer means security.”

“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens.”

Bush, George W, photo by Eric Draper

White House photo by Eric Draper

“My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers.”

“If the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. And as we saw in the ruins of two towers, no distance on the map will protect our lives and way of life. If the greater Middle East joins the democratic revolution that has reached much of the world, the lives of millions in that region will be bettered, and a trend of conflict and fear will be ended at its source.”

“Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

“Returning to the moon is an important step for our space program. Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the costs of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth’s gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost. Also, the moon is home to abundant resources. Its soil contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. We can use our time on the moon to develop and test new approaches and technologies and systems that will allow us to function in other, more challenging environments. The moon is a logical step toward further progress and achievement.”

“A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone. Ah, those were the good ol’ days.”

“We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging.” – a statement made at the unveiling of his Official White House Portrait

Not true: There was wide-spread reporting during the Bush administration that he was not intelligent. Mix in a little Texas accent, some verbal miscues and a healthy dose of parody from late night comedians, and that image remains common. Here’s an alternative view from Keith Hennessey, former Bush economic advisor and current Stanford business and law professor. Read it, here.

True: Bush was the first President to have an MBA.

Bush won the 2000 Presidential election by winning 29 states, including Florida. The closeness of the Florida election resulted in  an enduring controversy that ended up in the Supreme Court. They ruled that the use of different standards among Florida’s counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This ruling resulted in the machine recount being certified as official, which showed Bush won Florida by 537 votes out of 6 million votes cast. Bush lost the popular vote nationwide, but won the election 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.

The 9/11 attacks transformed Bush into a wartime President. George H W Bush, his father and the 41st President, said that his son “faced the greatest challenge of any president since Abraham Lincoln.”

Bush formed a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.

His most controversial act was the invasion of Iraq, on the belief – supported by his advisors – that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and posed a grave threat to the United States. Hussein was deposed, but the weapons of mass destruction were not found, which became an enduring crisis.

The war against terrorism focused on the Taliban and its leader, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban was disrupted, but Bush was blamed for not capturing bin Laden.

With America drawn into an extended war against terror, the domestic economy entered the largest recession in the post-WWII economy. This was exacerbated by the housing crisis, fueled by subprime mortgages and the meltdown of the housing industry. The combination of the war and the economic crisis has lead many historians to rank Bush as one of the worst Presidents.

Bush was one of the most popular, and unpopular, Presidents in history. He received the highest recorded Presidential approval ratings in the wake of the 9/11 attack, and one of the lowest approval ratings during the financial crisis in 2008.

The Official Portrait: John Howard Sanden painted the White House Portrait of Bush, which was unveiled in 2012. There’s an excellent article on Artnet.com, link below, that describes the process and interviews both Sanden and Robert Anderson (who painted Bush’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery).

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George W Bush Signature

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Artnet.com: Painting The President

Unveiling The Bush Portrait

Portraits: William Howard Taft   Leave a comment

William Howard Taft (1857 – 1930)

Taft was not a small man.

Taft was not a small man.

The 27th President of the United States, 1909 – 1913

AKA: Big Lub, Big Chief

From: Ohio

College: Yale University, University of Cincinnati College Of Law

Married to: Helen Herron

Children: Robert, Helen, Charles

Party: Republican

Previous Jobs: Journalist, lawyer, Collector of Internal Revenue, Superior Court Judge, US Solicitor General, US Court of Appeals Judge, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War, Provisional Governor of Cuba, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (after his Presidential term)

In His Words: “The welfare of the farmer is vital to that of the whole country.”

“The diplomacy of the present administration has sought to respond to modern ideas of commercial intercourse. This policy has been characterized as substituting dollars for bullets. It is one that appeals alike to idealistic humanitarian sentiments, to the dictates of sound policy and strategy, and to legitimate commercial aims.”

“The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.”

“We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.”

“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”

“Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.”

“Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.”

Not true: Many accounts credit Taft with the creation of baseball’s “seventh inning stretch,” but this is not proven.  Indeed, the practice is described as early as 1869, well before Taft’s supposed 1910 stretching of his legs at a Washington Senators game.

True: William Howard Taft started the tradition of the President throwing out the first ball at the beginning of baseball season.

He was the first President to take up golf, which was thought by some to be indecent if not immoral. His love for the sport did help spur an increase in the number of golfers in the nation, doubling the number of players on public courses. As with all Presidents, Taft’s affection for a recreational pastime caused political problems when critics suggested he should work more and play less.

Blame Taft: under his watch, the 16th Amendment was passed, legalizing the income tax.  No wonder he’s viewed poorly by many Presidential scholars.

Taft was the fattest President, tipping the scale at over 300 pounds.

After getting stuck in the White House bath tub, he had a very large bathtub installed, supposedly large enough for four men.

His close friend Teddy Roosevelt offered him a Supreme Court nomination many times, but Taft always refused because of unfinished work (principally while he was Governor-General of the Philippines).

His later break with Roosevelt (who felt he was not Progressive enough) led Roosevelt to oppose Taft’s re-election and found the Bull Moose party for the 1912 election.  The three-party election was won easily by the Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Taft is the only President to also serve as the Supreme Court Chief Justice, where he initiated many reforms and administrative efficiencies.

Taft is the last President to have facial hair.

The Official Portrait: Painted in the White House Blue Room by Anders Zorn.  The portrait still hangs in this room.

William Taft, Official Presidential Portrait

Taft,-Williiam-FINAL

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