President Obama and the Churchill Bust – Out

President Obama and the Churchill Bust – Out

Let the bust hang out

epsteinThe BBC and The Dai­ly Tele­graph revealed that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had sent George W. Bush’s Jacob Epstein Oval Office bust of Win­ston Churchill pack­ing. The media went  abuzz with spec­u­la­tions over the implied symbolism.

Per­son­al­ly I think the media just demon­strates its degen­er­ate irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty to keep fan­ning these non- issues. Years ago they might have pub­lished thought­ful pieces on the future of the US-UK rela­tion­ship. Not any more.

Plus ça changeplus c’est la même chose. When Pres­i­dent Bush had a Churchill bust in the Oval Office, zealots would occa­sion­al­ly demand its return. In their view Bush was unde­serv­ing, or was using the bust to pro­claim him­self anoth­er Churchill. (In fact, he was sim­ply an admir­er, like most of us.)

Never complain

You can’t win. Now that Oba­ma has returned Churchill’s bust, we are encour­aged to protest its removal. But Barack kept the bust of Lin­coln. So? It seems per­fect­ly under­stand­able that he should have the totem of his choice in his office.

Mean­while, James Kirkup report­ed in the March 2nd Tele­graph amaz­ing news! Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown was pre­sent­ing the Pres­i­dent with Mar­tin Gilbert’s “sev­en-vol­ume biog­ra­phy of Win­ston Churchill.” (“Sev­en” was a typo. Sir Mar­tin sent the books but was short Vol­ume V.  Chartwell Book­sellers in New York City helped him out and the full eight vol­umes were deliv­ered.) So now, “Win­ston is Back” in the White House.  And Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has arguably more Churchilliana than Pres­i­dent Bush had.

Sure­ly the Pres­i­dent seems to have more press­ing mat­ters to con­cern him—as do we. So for the nonce (with acknowl­edge­ment to the Dai­ly Telegraph’s Wash­ing­ton bureau), here is a pas­tiche on a future “Bust Out” which might very well erupt four years hence. Will the media please file this for future use:

Washington, 15 February 2044

A bust of Abra­ham Lin­coln, loaned by the State of Illi­nois to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has now been for­mal­ly hand­ed back. But when Illi­nois offi­cials offered to let the new Pres­i­dent, Bil­ly Bob Cal­houn, retain the bust for his own term of office, the White House said: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Where has the Lin­coln bust gone, devo­tees of the 16th Pres­i­dent are won­der­ing. Inves­ti­ga­tors have tracked it to the pala­tial Spring­field, Illi­nois res­i­dence of Rod Blago­je­vich, who served again as Gov­er­nor in 2030, a decade after his jail sen­tence was ciom­mut­ed by Pres­i­dent Trump.

Lin­coln is a major hero to most politi­cians, but not Mr. Cal­houn, who prefers to quote Win­ston Churchill, author of the famous alter­na­tive his­to­ry, “If Lee Had Not Won the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg.”  Today, a bust of Win­ston Churchill, retrieved from stor­age at the British Embassy in Wash­ing­ton, has replaced Lincoln’s in the Oval Office. One state sen­a­tor has sug­gest­ed that, giv­en Pres­i­dent Calhoun’s inter­est in the Civ­il War era, Mr. Blago­je­vich should offer a bust of Stephen A. Dou­glas, Abra­ham Lincoln’s lead­ing oppo­nent dur­ing the 1860 Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion.

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