Don’t mix politics with laudable pastimes

Contributing WriterMay 31, 2014 

Left-wingers may be keen critics of errors by conservative politicians, but they can be small-minded judges of the private accomplishments of those same officeholders.

Making wine, for instance.

Painting portraits, for instance.

We all have our classy moments from time to time, things we do well despite struggling a bit in other ways. For instance, I can string a few English sentences together, but I am clumsy at break dancing and sword swallowing.

I am reminded of that by George W. Bush and his sudden interest in painting pictures. Frankly, as a president, he seemed to be in a bit over his depth. But I am envious of Bush’s plunge into art.

Oh, he’s no Rembrandt. He’s not even a Winston Churchill, the World War II British prime minister who sloshed paint on canvass in ways that were pleasing and, more important, helped him relax. He was about the only painter I’ve ever known who painted still lifes of booze bottles.

During the long hours of World War II, Churchill fortified his energy and attitude with as much as two fifths a day of brandy, among other pepper-uppers. Soldiers wear steel helmets in war. Some of their leaders rely on liquid confidence.

When I heard that George W. Bush had taken up painting and was compulsively cranking out paintings night and day, I was glad for him that he had found something he was good at.

I enjoy his portraits of dogs, of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and of that moody Russian, Vladimir Putin. (Find “George W. Bush paintings” on the Internet.)

Some Republican-hating elitists will differ. But at worst, the paintings are fun, even if a lot of Bush’s work in the White House wasn’t much fun for anyone.

I was recently surprised when a young commentator on the MSNBC midday show, “The Cycle,” made snooty noises about the Bush paintings, snickering at the notion that the president would dare try something so sophisticated and regal as oil painting.

I differ with that. So what if Bush wants to try his hand at a more gentle and uplifting art form than war? When someone you differ with finally does something civilized and pleasurable, encourage him.

The Bush paintings remind me of a former Idaho senator, Steve Symms, who was not exactly one of the big brains of the Senate. But the farm family Symms came from went into wine making in Idaho. And it was a tasty wine. But I was surprised when some liberals started telling me they wouldn’t buy wine that had anything to do with Steve Symms.

That’s wrong, even stupid. He was finally involved in doing something constructive. When a person changes for the better with something like that, he should be encouraged not boycotted.

That’s cutting off your nose to spite your crabby face. And you’ll need your silly nose to check the bouquet of the wine.

I swear, some liberals, if they learn that farmers are almost all Republicans, might threaten to quit eating (although they will continue to smoke marijuana grown by geriatric hippies).

Churchill had the right idea. And I kid you not when I tell you he adorned several canvasses with still lifes of his own empty bottles of whiskey, brandy and wine. As a painter, he had personally gone the extra mile and spent hours each day emptying those bottles himself. The man was dedicated to his art.

As for wine farmers and booze paintings, Bush and I both quit drinking years ago. I never voted for him, but I do feel a kinship. He paints pictures of dogs and world leaders. I grow tomatoes and herd cats.

Bill Hall can be contacted at or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.

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