Among the consequences of Donald Trump’s erratic and crazy administration, there is one that until recently would have been unthinkable: He has been making George W. Bush look good. Or, in other words, he has succeeded in making Bush Jr.’s reputation look spotless. Only 15 years ago, Bush was the most hated president; half the world was demonstrating in support of “no to war” and no one, except for the “Trio of the Azores,”* was swallowing the lies about weapons of mass destruction. Not much later, Trump was in New York, and in more than one conversation with friends, Bush’s name came up. All right, they said, his decisions were awful and he was surrounded by a gang of nabobs (Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove). Maybe he was a puppet, but at least he was not a populist, a male chauvinist and a racist like Trump.
Then, as it turned out, he broke agreements on climate change, in line with Trump’s views, and took critical positions on issues like euthanasia, stem cell research and abortion, that Barack Obama had to work hard to reverse. The strange thing is that the restoration of Bush’s popularity has been accomplished through art. Since he left office, the former president has dedicated himself to painting portraits. At first, he painted world leaders with whom he had interacted, including people like Vladimir Putin, the Dalai Lama and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Success, however, arrived with a book of portraits of U.S. soldiers, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, wounded physically or mentally. The artistic quality? Yes, that is an issue. Search the internet. One critic said that he was influenced by Lucian Freud, but that is giving him too much credit. In any case, underlying it is the cynicism of his painting soldiers who returned alive from the killing fields of war to which he sent them.
Who would have imagined, then, that Bush would be the first one of the “Trio of the Azores” to be rehabilitated, thanks to Trump and the diversion of Bush’s art? Tony Blair is not talked about much, and in the U.K. he is only mentioned when he is being accused of war crimes or when attempts are being made to get him tried in the International Court of Justice. As regards José María Aznar, he shaved his mustache and has promoted conspiracy theories; his punishment is that not even Mariano Rajoy** is able to come up with a “Trump effect’” for him.
*Translator’s note: “Trio of the Azores” is the English translation of a phrase common in the Spanish press at the time, referring to George W. Bush (U.S.), Tony Blair (U.K.) and José María Aznar (Spain); these three were the only major world leaders who continued to try to justify the Iraq war on the basis of the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. ”Azores” refers to a meeting the three leaders held in those islands on March 15, 2003.
**Editor’s note: Mariano Rajoy is the prime minister of Spain.