Rhyming Illustration Makes Obama Shine

Using the Obama ‘Hope’ poster by Shepard Fairey as inspiration, this illustration shows George Bush and John McCain in the same style, but with less than confidence-inspiring messages.

Bush, in characteristic ‘Bushism’ guffaw, looks rather a dope indeed. And Cain is certainly unlikely to haul in the necessary votes with such a clueless expression, and his prospects of taking office after the 2008 presidential election are summed up concisely with the word ‘nope.’

LINE 'EM UP - In this set of three similarly drawn illustrations, Obama shines next to then President George Bush and 2008 running-mate John McCain.

Only Obama, full of intention and contemplating a vision, shows any promise. He stands in sharp contrast to the two Republicans, which is the primary reason this illustration is so powerful. Bush and McCain look like amateurs next to Obama’s obvious sense of identity and purpose. Obama’s ‘Hope’ poster alone is effective, but stacked up against these two, it positively shines.

Obama is hope personified in this illustration—hope for the people, the country, and the future.

Yee-Haw: Bush’s Cowboy Persona

Quick on the draw and trigger-happy, George W. Bush is portrayed a sharp shooter on a brick wall in Sydney, Australia. His played-up Roy Rogers image evidently carried overseas.

SET 'EM UP - Former President George W. Bush Jr. depicted a true cowboy on a brick wall in Sydney, Australia. The subject of much mockery, his identity as a cowboy was not received well overseas.

Almost from the beginning of his presidency, Bush was graced with an American cowboy stereotype. His propensity to speak in Bushisms (common characteristics include, but are not limited to: malapropisms, mispronunciations, unconventional words, and grammatically incorrect subject-verb agreement) certainly didn’t harm the image.

An article in Americana, an American Pop Culture Magazine, notes that editorial writers and public figures frequently began describing Bush in ‘cowboy-esque’ terms following the September 11, 2001 attacks. As terrorism surfaced a topic of hot discussion, commentators began to portray Bush as a sheriff in the Old West “who would go it alone without a posse if need be in order to defeat what he saw as lawlessness and evil.”

In the months leading up to the start of the War in Iraq, the representation of Bush as a straight-shootin’ Wyatt Earp-wannabe continued. In an address to the nation on March 17, 2003, Bush declared, “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.” (Americana)

Bold and threatening, the ultimatum added fuel to the fire. Bush, not one to cool his guns, was depicted by several news articles as a Matt Dillon-type who told outlaws to get the hell out of Dodge or face the consequential shootout. Reuters even ran a story on March 19, 2003 entitled “High Noon for Cowboy Era,” in which the opening sentence declared that Bush’s ultimatum was a throwback to the Wild West for Arabs.

Turns out, the cowboy image was received fairly positively by Americans, especially among conservatives, who (at the time, anyway) found the good-ole-boy-from-the-South-persona endearing. The American fascination with the cowboy is a long-standing one, after all. Among other parts of the world, however, a negative image of the cowboy reinforced disgust with Bush’s handling of various policies, including his actions toward the Iraq situation.

This image, an outright mockery of Bush’s cowboy identity, clearly sides with those feelings of disgust.

Bush Butchery Slaughters America

These two graffiti illustrations are not found together, but are in fact two separate pieces on different walls in different cities. I thought it appropriate to group them together, given the common butchery theme.

The first is designed in the spirit of a company logo with a name (Bush & Sons), a slogan (‘family butchers since 1989’) and a fitting icon (recently used butcher knife). Compared to the second piece of art, a stencil graffiti piece, it’s fairly mild in nature.

BUSH BUTCHERY - The first of these two commonly themed graffiti illustrations resembles a company logo.

Behold the not-so-mild work of art: George Bush sporting the American flag as an apron and looking all too ready to exact vengeance on his next victim. Notice the butcher knife in hand (also recently used), and if I’m not mistaken, what appears to be blood dripping from the side of his mouth. I can’t quite make out the words, but given the Jack-the-Ripper theme, I’m sure they’re not pleasantries.

BUTCHERING AMERICA - The second graffiti illustration has Bush wearing an American flag for an apron and holding a butcher knife, clearly symbolizing that he has butchered America. More accusatory than the first, it also employs a much more controversial graphic.

Obviously Bush has plenty of haters. Under his administration, a lot of controversial legislation and widely-disliked policies were enacted. Bush initiated the No Child Left Behind Act and pushed for socially conservative efforts like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and faith-based welfare initiatives. He declared a War on Terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks and during his term, the U.S. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq. He pushed huge tax cuts, collectively known as the ‘Bush tax cuts,’ and was also confronted with an economic recession and massive immigration problems. A number of these policies, actions, and initiatives were strongly opposed by a large portion of the public, and by the end of his second term in 2008, Bush had lost a lot of his popularity and support and suffered through scathing criticisms.

But does that warrant art like this? I don’t know. The focus of these pieces seems not so much an attack on policy or action, but on the man himself. There’s a clear message that HE butchered America (figuratively speaking, of course). But one man is not responsible for the state of America today, just as one man could never fix it.

For whatever reason, as Americans, we expect the President to fix everything. We vote based on who we think can change everything for the better. That’s naïve. The President is just another person like the rest of us, and therefore, all we can really expect of him is his best effort.