Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grand Old Party Delusions

Legends are material to be molded, and not facts to be recorded.
Hervey Allen

During the recent weekend trip down to Charleston, South Carolina while my wife, daughter, and I were enjoying the culture and history of the Holy City I just happened to catch a glimpse of a strange sight. In the window of some store along Meeting Street was a Twilight Zone-like painting of several Republican presidents sitting around a table playing poker. I found myself amused at the sight of it because while I mean no insult my first thought at seeing the picture was its likeness to the series of schlock paintings collectively entitled "Dogs Playing Poker" by the early 20th century artist C.M. Coolidge. The second thought, which I found even funnier, was that with this being South Carolina this painting is high art if not an actual religious icon.

The eight men in the picture are all in good health and in obvious good humor enjoying each other's company, in the background appears to be some sort of a mural of a city with a podium above it. While the appearance of First and Second Bush complicates matters given that everyone else has long since passed away they appear to be in some form of Republican afterlife and are having a party later with a high-powered speaker attending. To the question of their actual supernatural location and the possible high-powered speaker I will leave that to the reader, especially with Dick Cheney not hovering somewhere nearby snacking on the bones of some tortured soul.

As for these men even with my liberal leanings, I consider Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt great presidents. Only the deluded and bizarre would consider anything other but such small and narrow minds do exist. Ike ranks right up there with them, he truly was a great warrior and leader of men and his years as president held their own unique and difficult challenges. They were not perfect men even in their own ages and today all three would be castigated in some manner for things accepted as normal in their times. However, they were without a doubt honorable men and the country was damn lucky to have them.

I will have to include President Ford in the ranks of a good president for his efforts in restoring the confidence of the nation and building bridges of trust after the nightmare of Watergate. Although his pardon of Richard Nixon, while saving the country from having to go through another nightmare none the less allowed his immediate predecessor to escape the full measure of justice. I agree with those that say allowing Nixon to essentially get away without fully being exposed set the stage for other presidential misadventures. As far as I am concerned, even having Nixon in the painting insinuates that the person who created it is separated from reality to a great degree.

As for Reagan and First Bush everyone has their own opinion of them and even mine is complicated. In an attempt to avoid digressing into the predictable political degradations I will only say that they were just normal men, full of faults and weaknesses that we all share but many of their actions hurt the country with only its innate strengths allowing it to move on. However, the damages they inflicted have festered and edged the country ever closer to disaster.

I save special condemnation for Second Bush whose incurious leadership and illegal behavior has killed untold thousands overseas and who by himself took the country from a budget surplus to doubling the national debt by the time he left office. He left such a mess that President Obama may end up saddled with the greatest part of the blame for the chaos he created.

My biggest issue with that bizarre painting is how the arrangement of presidents suggests a certain pecking order with a nod to current Republican ideology. Instead of it centered on Lincoln and Teddy who are undeniably the greatest men in the bunch, Reagan and Second Bush appear dominant, huddled close together while Ike is set apart and behind them. In fact, all we see of Lincoln is his back with him appearing to be telling a joke. Teddy, relegated to second tier status, is position uncomfortably close to Nixon for me. First Bush is so close to the edge that it seems he could almost fall off, of course he was only a one-term president who raised taxes. Its a wonder he even made the cut at all when you think about the cardinal sin he committed. For me President Ford is in the best position, Lincoln is still a great hero in my eyes and if such a place as heaven actually exists and I am lucky enough to get there, finding Abe and talking with him would be high on my list of things to do.

I have no doubt that this painting is a piece of pure propaganda, meant to reinforce a view of self-centered righteousness and superiority. That American greatness can only come from one narrow political viewpoint instead of a mix of views and ideas. If this painter wanted this picture to represent a true American spirit presidents from other parties would be sitting at the table enjoying the humor of Lincoln. I am sure that somewhere some Democratic painter has his own sanctimonious version with Jefferson, Jackson, Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton gathered around Franklin having their own good time. However, for me the problems that the country faces right now are too damn great to wallow in petty self-justication that only polarizes the nation further.

It is a disturbing tendency in this country to view any one that opposes you as the enemy and to paint them as evil. Which is very sad since I am certain that there is at least one man in that painting who would be the first to stand up and proclaim how such behavior is totally un-American.


sunshine said...

The question going through my mind is .. why in the HELL would anyone want to have such a piece of "art" hanging in their home/office or wherever?
That's weird but.. I would love to see it! :P


Jack Jodell said...

Conservative Republicans (many of themn) are fanatical blind and loyal ideologues, and I think that's why that type of person would openly display such a picture.
Beach Bum,
Thanks for sharing this. I have seen a similar picture somewhere before. I think the reason you like Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt so much is that they were actually LIBERAL Presidents who challenmged their status quo and who enacted legislation beneficial to average citizens and the downtrodden. They understood that government must play a regulatory role to ensure the public hood. Ford I am ambivalent about: yes, he helped heal the country after Watergate, but he did nothing else except rule the country by veto. He vetoed tons of Democratic social legislation and did virtually nothing else. Ike was good in many ways, but he let his cabinet run the country for the most part. He could have and should have played a much bigger role than he did in civil rights and attacking poverty in the midst of a great plenty. And while Reagan helped restore a sense of pride and purpose in the country, he was heartless when it came to programs for the poor and the way he cut taxes mainly for the rich. But worst of all, he instilled in far too many people a hatred of the government which exists to this day. And he laid the groundwork for Bush II to shower the rich in cash and to turn federal regulatory agencies into cozy bed partners of big business.

With the exception of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Ike, and Ford, the rest of those in the picture should be dressed as jokers!

TomCat said...

Beach, I agree that Lincoln and TR were great Presidents. Of course, once the GOP found out what TR was really like, they rejected him, and he formed the Bull Moose (no relation whatsoever to Mooseolini) Party. I was four months short of 21 on election day, 1968, or I would have voted for Nixon, because he promised to end the war. I liked Ike, even though I liked Stevenson better. I liked Ford, but liked Carter better. There were Things about Reagan that I like (albeit not many) and also GHW (albeit fewer), leaving Crawford Caligula and Lincoln.

GW Bush is the worst leader in US history. From the way he strutted on the aircraft carrier in his flight suit to the way he let New Orleans drown to the way he cackled in glee over the execution of a woman in Texas, he and his associates personified evil.

If Lincoln could have foreseen what would happened to the Republican party after the 'Republican Revolution' of 1994, he would have saved John Wilkes Booth the trouble.

Beach Bum said...

Sunshine: Given my location you would be shocked at what I have seen hanging in the homes of people considered "pillars of the community." But I guess art is always in the eye of the beholder.

Jack is right, while I enjoy certain aspects of living in the South I get very uncomfortable whenever I'm around anyone who glorifies the Confederacy with art and relics. Makes me think sometimes that I would fine specialy made sheets and hooded masks someplace nearby.

Jack: Lincoln and TR being for the common man is the reason I like them. Plus Glenn Beck called TR a "weird Progressive" and complained about him starting the National Parks. I have a strong tendency to like anyone and anything Beck has issues within the bounds of commonsense.

I agree with you complete about Ford, Reagan, and First Bush. The only real credit I will give Reagan is his handling of the Soviet Union. What I am curious about is while the budget has gone insane with Obama in office, something that was esentially handed to him, the people that worship Reagan have forgotten that teh US went from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor under him. And of course I mention that Second Bush came in with a budget surplus but alone doubled the national debt before he left.

Tom: I give Ike some credit mainly for being moderate, its a wonder the repubs have not disowned him since I have some understanding Ike hated Eugene McCarthy and one of the Teabaggers I'm around still believes all our problems are due to hidden commies corrupting society.

I believe Bachmann has said something close to the same thing.

I have a special loathing for Second Bush that I don't speak about much since he has left office. It fairly easy to say something nice about Ford, Reagan, or First Bush but for George W. the world simply would have been a far better place if he had never lived.

Teresa said...

I was walking down King Street last weekend and saw the same print in a store window. My first thought was the "Poker playing Dogs" and then thought OMG, who would buy this creation? I share your feelings..."I get very uncomfortable whenever I'm around anyone who glorifies the Confederacy with art and relics. Makes me think sometimes that I would fine specialy made sheets and hooded masks someplace nearby."

Lot's of GRACE and I usually keep my mouth shut and opinions to myself!

Randal Graves said...

I love how Chimpy's sporting swanky duds.

Nice visual commentary on a collection of predominantly wankers. You have a strong stomach, sir.

One minor quibble: Holy City? There's only one Holy City, and I believe that you shall not be among those saved at the second coming, hippie.

Beach Bum said...

Teresa: You know, that might have been King Street, I was running after my wife and daughter and I barely got the picture. Yeah, the Confederacy stuff is creepy. Have you ever run into any of the "League of The South" people who want the reestablish the Confederacy? Fun bunch, a lot of them are Teabaggers.

Randal: Yeah, but I tried to be cool. I can dig Lincoln, TR, and Ike but the rest not so much. You know though, if Chimpy had even half a clue after 9/11 and moved to get us off imported oil and kept us out of Iraq he could have been a decent president. But then again the man was/is a spoiled little shit whose daddy had lots of powerful friends. Had W been a "normal guy" the best he would have done would have been a second-rate insurance agent.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Here are my grades, double b; Lincoln - A, T.R. - B plus, Eisenhower - B plus, Nixon - F, Ford - B plus, Reagan - B minus, Bush 1 - C plus/B minus, Bush 2 - D minus. I forgot the 8th one......Reagan is the tough one. He was a strong leader with solid scores on arms control and dealing with the Soviets. BUT, the savings and loan fiasco, the Lebanon marine barracks fiasco (granted, unlike Bush 2, he cut his losses on this one), the Iran Contra fiasco, the humungous deficits, etc., I'm not so sure that I would put him in the top 10 of U.S. Presidents. Bush 2 and Nixon I would both put in the BOTTOM 5.

Beach Bum said...

Will: Like I said at site once I have to give Reagan credit for handling the Soviets. Some say that the Soviet Union would have fell with or without him in office but I maintain even now that their fall could have taken everyone. Working on that principle I have to give First Bush some points for his steady hand during the attempted coup that tried to dump Groby.

But on the down side I agree with the points you mention about Reagan. First Bush pissed me off with many things but his campaign tactics and his picking of Dan Quayle was frankly bizarre.

I didn't mention this before but in some ways I consider Ford a tragic figure. I actually think history would have screwed him no matter how he went on Nixon's pardon. Because if he had allowed Nixon to go to trail I believe there would have been riots.

I have tried very hard to find something good to say about Second Bush. Its just a Southern thing, but I can't it would have been better if the guy had never been born.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I gave Bush 2 a D minus (instead of an F) for a few reasons; 1) his AIDS relief package for Africa and 2) the fact that he at least tried to do the right thing on immigration. Other than that, though, I agree, he was a disaster.

Beach Bum said...

Will: You are right, his AIDS work was good.

TomCat said...

If only GHW had practiced abstinance. :-(

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

It is on King St. and I am pretty sure there is a Democratic version. Let me take a second look next time I go by.

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

I knew there was a Democratic version. They are called:

Democrats - Big Dawgs Playing Pocker
Republican - Grand Ol Gang

Link: Big Dawgs Playing Pocker

Beach Bum said...

TomCat: So true.

Joan: Wow! I stand totally corrected on my assumptions. Still though I wouldn't hang around several of the Republicans. Now with Bill Clinton I'd hang out with him because he knows super-models.

TRUTH 101 said...

I had a rather long, for me, treatise on this painting. After I was done I read and decided there was really nothing in it worth reading. It had all either been said or just wasn't that interesting to begin with.

I'm sorry Beach Bum. Anything with George W.'s image just doesn't interest me these days. He's an idiot and I deal with enough of them in real life.

On the other hand, this could be the artist's rendition of Reagan's congratulations party for getting his head on Mt. Rushmore.

Beach Bum said...

Truth: Frankly I am so burned out on politics it ain't silly. Except like the fool I am I keep making some damn comment only to feel even more foolish for saying anything. I hope I feel better after vacation.

Rhiannon said...

I think GWB is right where he should be over Ronald Reagans shoulder with the smirks on their faces. Neither of them were of much substance and never dealt with the "important details" of a president. However I don't believe Eisenhower belonged near GWB smirking and laughing..he belonged more at the "serious side" of the painting.

It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting "gone wrong". Some might like to have this painting on their wall, to remind them of who really were the "serious ones" taking the presidents job as a great responsibility and trying to make a difference in the world and who were the "charismatic" ones without the substance...who often screwed the world and this country up big time!

Beach Bum said...

Rhia: Frankly, I think TR, Ike, and Lincoln would cut the rests asses just for the embarrassment they caused.