OPINION: Do ya miss DUBYA yet?
Former United States President George W. Bush is kind of awesome these days, don't you think?
“Awe-some” certainly is the desig-nation I would assign to anyone who gets a willing hug from the great Bono, lead singer of U2.
You've probably seen the widely-circulated photo online. It was recently taken at Bush's Crawford Ranch – the area once referred to as “The Western White House.”
So much is going on in this photo. Bono has pretty much cornered the market for combining “cool” with empathy and humanitarianism.
I think the coolest visual message any former world leader could send to the world is a photo of a hug between him and Ireland’s famous son.
President Bush displays a very open and friendly smile in the photo. He is standing alongside the famous singer. Both men face the camera and have an arm around each other.
There are many vibes that come with this visual message – not the least of which is love for one's fellow man and a connection to all humanity.
I figure anyone who gets to hug Bono probably gets access to his wonderful positive “save the world” energy.
Whether it was intentional or not, healing and love were not always the messages communicated by the American people when “Dubya” was back in the White House.
Au contraire. Folks back then were comparing Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, to Darth Vader on a fairly regular basis.
I have always had positive memories of Bono.
My best memory of Bono is his performance at Reunion Arena during U2's The Unforgettable Fire tour in 1984.
Bono still had his mullet.
Somewhere in the middle of this concert, a crazed fan leapt up on stage. As the band performed, the fan darted toward Bono, arms spread. He seemed to be trying to embrace the singer.
But the security guards were on their game. They intercepted the fan before he could make contact .
The guards then aggressively pulled the crazed fan away and started heading off stage, still carrying him.
Bono abruptly halted the band in mid-number.
“STOP,” he commanded.
Everyone stopped. The band, the guards, and even members of the audience.
Now that Bono had everyone's attention, be had a very specific message for the guards.
“Be gentle with him,” the rock icon said softly.
Complying, the guards released their tight grip on the fan just a tad, giving him a little more wiggle room as they resumed their trek offstage.
And U2 members resumed their performance!
Two words: AWE. SOME.
As you can probably imagine, I was very charmed by this photo of Bono and President Bush. They seemed so friendly and at-ease with one another!
I half-expected to see President Bush tagging along with Bono's U2 bandmates when they were later photographed visiting a local Whataburger.
The “Bono Hug” pic reminds me of another wonderful photo, the one of President Bush hugging (borderline cuddling) Michelle Obama.
That 2016 pic was taken during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Like the Bono photo, this picture is a revelation.
So much love, tenderness, humor and light between the former first lady and Dubya was communicated in this photo.
As a Texas journalist, I have met with and interviewed Mr. Bush more than once – most occasions when he was still the very open governor of Texas.
Despite my familiarity with Bush, I was astounded to hear the former president bust out with the one-liners during the Israel Bonds King David Award Dinner at the Omni Dallas Hotel in March 2015. (I was covering the event as a reporter for the Texas Jewish Post.)
Former President Bush, a staaaaaaunch supporter of Israel, was the featured speaker for the event.
This special dinner spotlighted Lillian Pinkus, pro-Israel advocate and then-enthusiastic president-elect of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.
To give you an idea of the event's impact, it ultimately helped sell $60 million in bonds for Israeli projects, programs and improvements.
Because of his administration’s close relationship with Israel, former President Bush was very warmly received at the event. He sat in an easy chair around center stage. Fred Zeidman, national campaign chair for Israel Bonds, sat by him in a different chair.
I'll admit I was prepared at this point for one of the president's standard stump speeches. But I discovered to my delight that President Bush could be up-close, candid, warm and incredibly funny.
I'm talking, “laugh until your stomach” hurts funny.
In my Texas Jewish Post story, I was forced to take a somber approach to crowbar in all the pertinent information. I left much of Dubya's humor out.
As seen below, Rodger Jones of the Dallas Morning New took the opposite approach, chronicling nearly all of Dubya's witticisms. These quotes below were in his story, not mine.
And, goodness! They WERE witty:
• Bush joked about former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon.
"Sharon was an interesting old bird,” Dubya said. “He was one tough dude. Of course, his English wasn't very good. But mine isn't, either."
• The former president was also charmingly self-deprecating about his burgeoning painting hobby.
"I'm an author and a painter,” Bush said. “The New York Times is somewhat confused. They didn't think I could read."
• And the former president continued to pour on the funny, discussing in more detail his aforementioned paintings.
"I know that the signatures are worth a hell of a lot more than the paintings,” he said.
I remember needing a hit of my asthma inhaler because of all that belly laughing.
When I try to quantify George W. Bush's funny and loving persona, Will Rogers' name keeps popping in my head.
Rogers, who died in 1935, was a beloved stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator.
A famous Will Rogers quote is cited on Wikipedia: “When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”
So, – is President Bush the new Will Rogers?
A QUICK ASIDE: Before I forget, I need to mention the reason George W. Bush became a topic in my column.
As you can see in the group photo below, Hidden Creek Golf Course Golf Pro, Greg Gregory, was invited to play in the George W. Bush Presidential Center Warrior Open.
The Bush Institute's Warrior Open began in 2011 for United States military personnel seriously wounded or injured since September 11, 2001. Each golf team consists of three warriors and one golf pro.
"It was such an honor to be chosen to participate in the open," said Gregory. "To be around these warriors and President Bush was an eye opening and humbling privilege."
This year's Warrior Open was played at Prestonwood Golf Club in Dallas on Monday, May 22. Gregory's team consisted of Scott Adams, sergeant first class, United States Army, Retired; Timothy Gaestel, sergeant, United States Army, Purple Heart recipient; and Michael Meyer, corporal, United States Marine Corps, Retired.
PS: So. Reader...
About former President Bush.
Miss him yet?
Ben Tinsley is a veteran Texas news reporter with over 25 years experience in the industry. He is the Burleson Star’s managing editor and senior reporter. He can be reached by cell phone, (702) 524-3773 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at @BenTinsley on Twitter, www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12 on Facebook, or https://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley on Google.