Encouraged by today’s dramatically lowered bar for integrity, former President George W. Bush has been on a real comeback tour of late, basking in the sudden adulation of a public nostalgic for a kindler, gentler form of mendacity. Whether it’s showing off his paintings, hugging Michelle Obama, playing peekaboo with his poncho at the Inauguration, or offering a bog-standard defense of the importance of the press and not being racist, America’s 43rd president has been presenting himself as a cuddly rejoinder to the current administration—a reminder of a simpler time, when lying your way into an unending war that kills hundreds of thousands of people just seemed, y’know, friendlier. Like the kind of propagandizing war profiteering puppet of the oil industry you’d want to have a beer with.
After all, as he showed on last night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bush can even take a joke about himself that doesn’t have anything to do with his cataclysmic domestic and foreign policies, laughing with Kimmel while reminiscing about Will Ferrell’s old Saturday Night Live impersonation. Ha ha, remember that? “Strategery” and so on? Bush remembers, although as he recalls it, he was the one who actually came up with that phrase—even challenging Lorne Michaels himself on it at dinner, during what is apparently one of Michaels’ regular fraternizations with toxic politicians he’s looking to normalize through benign mockery:
So you wanna hear something terrible? So I had dinner with Lorne Michaels, the head of Saturday Night Live, and he said, “So I put a great speech writer on you, and he came up with strategery.” And I said, “Wait a minute, I said strategery.” And he said, “No, you didn’t say strategery.” I said, “I damn sure said strategery!” He said, “We invented it.” I said, “Well let me ask you this, did he come up with ‘misunderestimate’?”
Bush is right: He absolutely did say “misunderstimate,” just one of many hilarious malapropisms and catchphrases Bush Jr. said during his career, from “Put food on your family” to that time he imitated executed death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker whimpering, “Please, don’t kill me.” Yes, these beloved “Bushisms” are all part of the reason why he’s remained America’s favorite goofball guy-who-let-poor-people-drown-next-door, and he remains a pretty good sport about it. As Bush told Kimmel, “I love humor, and the best humor is when you make fun of yourself [and doesn’t involve anything about the actual disasters you wrought on the economy, environment, education, global stability, and basic civil liberties].” Isn’t it great to see a president who actually has a sense of humor about himself, which is the incredibly low standard we’ve set now?
Anyway, Bush’s Kimmel appearance followed a Wednesday guest spot on Ellen where they had a good time joking around about his “poncho problem” and not the time he called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.