Cowboy George: That other George W.
In the wake of President Obama's graceless introduction of George W. Bush at last week's unveiling of the former President's official White House portrait, everyone is congratulating Dubya for the amazing grace and avuncular cheerfulness with which he carried his cross, the proud way he bore up under his persecutor's hail of arrows -- as if the man were nothing more, really, than some tolerably ludicrous voodoo effigy of St. Sebastian, a dotty but laughable bachelor uncle you have to invite to dinner every once in awhile (who never gets your subtle digs), or (my favorite) a good-natured old rube who just clomped back into town on his nag. (Yee haw.)
And yes, of course, Bush was gracious, as always -- but this time, not as always, to a fault. That chatty, easygoing grace belied his deft quickness on the draw -- a draw so quick and deft that the deadly bullet he dealt apparently whizzed right over the heads of most everybody within earshot! Folks, if verbal gun-slinging really were the equivalent of a shootout at the O.K. Corrall, then, now that the smoke has cleared, the only cowboy left standing in the Old West Wing is ... bizarrely ... St. Sebastian!
Obama drew first. "The months before I took the oath of office were a chaotic time .... We knew our economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans were in pain, but we wouldn't know until later just how breathtaking the financial crisis had been." (Ooooh, I don't know about you, but I'm breathless.)
Then, true to bad-guy form, he hid, like Ike Clanton, behind the nearest tombstone. Apparently, in Ike's upside-down moral universe, not even Wyatt Earp was a total loser. At least, the good marshal had the sense and dignity to clear out of Boomtown (the one he tore down, following a scorched earth policy) and head for them there hills in a hurry -- to, you know, "make sure ... the transition to a new [frontier] administration was as seamless as possible." And hey, he even bothered to pick up the place before he left, going out of his way to leave his successor a present on top of the box -- a "really good sports TV package."
Talk about blowing GUN smoke ... I'll bet Obama's butt's still burning.
And way out here on the Reservation, my ears are ringing. Did I hear Dude right? Let me back up and try again. Let's see if I got the message from the Head Honcho back at the Ranch -- lock, stock and barrel. As far as Obama's concerned -- am I following? -- the best thing George W. Bush ever did was get the heck outta Dodge? (And leave a full round of ESPN channels. Smokin'!) Right?
Sorry, uh, Sam Spade, but the ballistics on that one don't match. Besides keeping his territory safe for eight solid years (at least), quite possibly the best thing this Cojones ever did, he did quietly, with a winsome, self-effacing humility, as he did most things -- but in a way that was loud, too, filling the room with the powdery residue of all the things he did not say, but could have.
He got the last shot. And it was a killer. Aiming for Ike's old Lady (Tina), he drawled, almost deadpan (but with a slight, arch jive in his eyes ... ), "Thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging."
Ker-PLUMP. Now, I ask. Could he have been more pointed? To hit his target, did hereally have to say "lynching?" Was I the only one who caught the side-graze of that buckshot? Turns out this St. Sebastian's got a head on his shoulders, one that (arrows notwithstanding) has seen the real world without flinching -- even in the face of a ... well, wall-"hanging."
Folks -- dear, gentle readers! -- I can't help it. I love this man! (It seems the Devil has a wicked sense of humor.) I keep him tucked away in my heart, like a secret, shriven memory of a salt-drenched day on the wind-rustled plain, a space in time hidden deep within that soft, beating cave, right square in the middle of my own private American Kansas -- next to another stout patriot and humble outrider, Ronald Reagan.
Call me a sentimental fool. Call me a rodeo whore. With all due apologies to Ang Lee, I like my cowboys straight. I like my bullets real, not blank.
Karen Hathaway Pittman is a freelance writer, novelist and poet whose political commentary is widely published on the web. She lives in London, England with her husband and cat. Her work is archived online at http://karenhpittman.blogspot.com, but she prefers to be followed on Facebook. She receives email at email@example.com.