Ever since the BBC and The Daily Telegraph revealed that President Obama had sent George W. Bush’s Jacob Epstein Oval Office bust of Winston Churchill packing (while retaining the bust of Abraham Lincoln), the media has been abuzz with speculations over the implied symbolism.
Personally I think the media just demonstrates its degenerate irresponsibility to keep fanning these non- issues. Fifty years ago a different media would have published some thoughtful pieces on the future of the US-UK relationship. Not any more.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose….When President Bush had a Churchill bust in the Oval Office, zealots would occasionally demand its return, since in their view Bush was undeserving, or was using it to proclaim himself another Churchill. (In fact, he was simply an admirer, like most of us.)
You can’t win: Now that Barack Obama has returned Churchill’s bust, we are encouraged to protest its removal. But Barack admires Abraham Lincoln, and it seems to me perfectly understandable that he should have the bronze totem of his choice in his office.
Meanwhile, James Kirkup reported in the March 2nd Telegraph that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was presenting the President with “a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert’s seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill.” (“Seven volumes” was a typo; Sir Martin was short Volume V, but Chartwell Booksellers in New York City helped him out and the full eight volumes were delivered.) So now, effectively, “Winston is Back” in the White House, and President Obama has arguably more Churchilliana than President Bush had!
Forgive me for making light of this, but 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 my pastiche on a future “Bust Out” which might very well erupt four years hence. Will the media please file this for future use:
WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 15, 2013—
A bust of Abraham Lincoln, loaned to President Obama from the State of Illinois art collection after his inauguration four years ago, 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 now tracked it to the palatial Springfield, Illinois residence of Rod Blagojevich, who was reinstated as Governor in 2011 after the State Supreme Court ruled that his 2009 impeachment was unconstitutional, following Blagojevich’s two-year campaign for redemption on Oprah and Larry King.
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.
Billy-Bob Calhoun is not among the American politicians who praise Lincoln’s Civil War leadership. It was Lincoln, remember, who sent General William Tecumseh Sherrman to march through Calhoun’s home state of Georgia to defeat the Confederacy. Among Confederates allegedly imprisoned by the federal regime was one Aloysius Beauregard Calhoun, the President’s great-great grandfather.
Ever determined, Governor Blagojevich says he will offer another evidence of Illinois’ esteem to the new President when he meets Mr. Calhoun in Washington this month. 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.