Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Unknown Known

It seems that George Bush has graduated from dogs to portraits of world leaders.  I have to admit his painting of Vladimir Putin is pretty good, but not sure whether he is quite ready to take his one-man show on the road.  You can view it at his Presidential Library in Dallas.

Meanwhile Donald Rumsfeld has been given the Errol Morris treatment, a full length documentary in which I assume Morris was hoping to get out of Rummy what he got out of McNamara some years back in Fog of War. Instead, it sounds like a very unapologetic Rumsfeld offering up his explanation of The Unknown Known.   You do get the sense that Rumsfeld has studied The Art of War and has a pretty good head for this sort of thing, but for him it is largely about tactics, and he sized up Morris pretty quickly and never let his interlocutor get the better of him.

If Rumsfeld wasn't comfortable with George Bush as President he never showed it.  By this stage in his political career he seemed to accept his role as one of the men behind the curtain, despite having once had presidential ambitions of his own.  He often provided the most engaging sound bites during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Bush deferring to the elder statesman on the logistics of the two wars.

You get the sense that Bush's passion for painting started in the White House, as it seemed he all too often deferred to Rumsfeld and Cheney, and later Condoleeza Rice on pressing issues.  He gives no date in this WP blog other than to say he was inspired by Winston Churchill and hired an instructor to bring the "Rembrandt" out of him.


Whenever it started, it has kept Bush occupied, who purportedly spends up to four hours a day painting.  He has kept a surprisingly low profile these past five years, never once to my recollection criticizing Obama.  It seems Laura and Michelle have a genuinely friendly relationship.  While the two couples were touring Africa on separate itineraries, they met at a memorial service in Tanzania, which again implied a cordial relationship between the two couples.

This is in sharp contrast to Rumsfeld, who has been very critical of the President.  Most recently Rumsfeld questioned the President's leadership in foreign policy, saying a "trained ape" would have better management skills than Obama.  Beyond the obvious racist implications of such a statement is the bitter reminder that it is the Obama administration drawing down the two wars he orchestrated while Secretary of Defense under Bush.


If nothing else the documentary gives us a very lucid reminder of the pompous ass that Rumsfeld was during his years as Secretary of Defense, which ended in a rather ignominious resignation early into Bush's second term because of his mismanagement of the two wars.  I would think that Robert Gates would be a good subject for Morris' next documentary, as I'm sure Gates would have a few choice things to say about Rummy's competence.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for Bush's Presidential Cabinet cycle to see how he paints Rummy.

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