Opinion: George W. Bush attends his own hanging


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He doesn’t dominate the news much anymore, which is fine with his wife, Laura.

George W. Bush lit the nation’s Christmas tree for the last time the other night. He and the about-to-be-former-First Lady have bought a house in an affluent area of north Dallas (see photo here). Move-in date: Jan. 20.


His historically low favorability poll numbers have crept up to a little less unfavorable, as they historically do among Americans watching a president leave office.

Saturday Bush attended his final Army-Navy football game as the nation’s 43rd Commander-in-Chief and delighted the crowd with a spontaneous field goal attempt that didn’t go far. (See photos by clicking the ‘Read more’ line below.)

Earlier the Union League of Philadelphia unveiled its official historical portrait of Bush that will hang there while Bush retires far away. The president spoke at the unveiling and opened with the knowing remark, ‘Welcome to my hanging.’

Here’s a news video of the portrait unveiling and some of the 43rd president’s remarks. The full transcript appears on the jump. (Click the ‘Read more’ line below.)

--Andrew Malcolm

Bush may be leaving town. But The Ticket’s staying right here. Register right here for cellphone alerts on each new Ticket item. Sign up here for RSS feeds.

Now click the ‘Read more’ line to see more photos and the full transcript.

Remarks of President George W. Bush at the unveiling of his portrait, Lincoln Hall, Union League of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dec. 6, 2008.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Welcome to my hanging. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you for coming and thank you for your warm welcome.

First, I’d like to compliment Mark Carder. He did a really fine job with a challenging subject. (Laughter.) I was taken aback by how much gray paint you had to use. (Laughter.) It speaks more about my job than yours. (Laughter.) But thanks a lot, it’s been a joy to work with you and I’m confident this portrait will stand the test of time.

I want to thank Fred and Frank for welcoming me here. I thank you for the medal. I’m keeping pretty good company, which I will speak about in a minute.

First of all I do want to thank the board of directors of The Union League for taking time out of your Saturday to be here. And I appreciate all the guests who have come, as well.

I particularly want to say thanks to my friend, Arlen Specter, for joining us. (Applause.) It’s been a joy working with you -- most of the time. (Laughter.) He’s a pretty independent-minded fellow -- (laughter) -- who is honest and decent. (Applause.)

And like me, he married very well. (Laughter.) So Joan, thanks for being here, and I appreciate -- I appreciate you supporting this good man during some very difficult times. (Applause.)

I thank the Hoopers, for paying for this work. (Applause.) I thank Jim Straw and the Abraham Lincoln Foundation and the Foundation members who are here today. I appreciate you preserving the legacy of a -- of a good man.

I am -- it turns out this award had been given to folks I have had the honor of serving with: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, Secretary Tom Ridge -- three good men who are dedicated and patriot public servants.

I’m especially proud to be a co-recipient with a guy I call ’41.’ (Applause.) The 1987 Gold Medal Award Winner -- a guy I call ‘dad,’ you call him ‘President Bush.’

We owe our achievements to the same savvy political counselor and firm disciplinarian: Barbara. (Laughter and applause.) And they’re both doing well, by the way. (Applause.) Mother is coming out of the hospital. I hope they don’t put this on TV, but she’s a tough old bird -- (laughter) -- whose spirits are soaring high.

The motto of The Union League is ‘Love of Country Leads.’ You obviously love our country because you continue to lead in ways that make Philadelphia a more compassionate place, and I want to thank you for that. I appreciate the fact that you have mentoring programs and internships and scholarships. That basically says the dream is for all who live in this country.

I thank you for your efforts to preserve historical treasures. One can learn a lot from the past, and The Union League is doing its part to tell the true story of our great nation.

In short, I thank you for your service to your community and our country.

I also thank you for preserving the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. I’m about to be a member of the Ex-President’s Club, so I’ll just call him ‘Abe.’ (Laughter.) If he were around I could say, you call me ‘W.’ (Laughter.)

I don’t know if you know this or not, but there’s a place in the Oval Office where the President puts the most influential President -- portrait of, I guess you’d say ‘influential President.’ I’m somewhat conflicted about the ‘influential President,’ so I say, 41’s portrait hangs in my heart, 16 hangs on the wall. (Applause.)

I found it interesting that the League was founded in 1862, to support President Lincoln in a time when his leadership was deeply controversial. (Laughter.) I know how he felt. (Laughter.)

But the principles on which he stood have stood the test of time: All men are created equal under God, he said, unflinchingly throughout his presidency. (Applause.) Liberty is given to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. I

believe, like Lincoln, there is an Almighty - (applause) - and a gift of that Almighty to every man is freedom. He has taught Presidents that you must act on your principles and make tough decisions, regardless of the political consequences. (Applause.)

I have been a - I have drawn strength from his example. I have learned lessons by reading about Abraham Lincoln. And I want to thank you for preserving his legacy. (Applause.)

And most importantly, I thank you for your kind words and your heartfelt prayers during the last eight years. It has been -- somebody said, what’s it’s like to be President? I said, some days you’re happy, some days not so happy -- every day joyous to serve the United States.

God bless you, and God bless our country. (Applause) ###

Photo credits: Eric Draper / The White House