George W. Bush to Leno: ‘I Am a Painter’

“There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body,” the former president said on the Tonight Show.

Former President George W. Bush during an interview with host Jay Leno on November 19, 2013.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Nov. 20, 2013, 3:35 a.m.

Former Pres­id­ent George W. Bush is no longer a politi­cian. He is no longer the de­cider. No, as he told The To­night Show‘s Jay Leno on Tues­day night, the former pres­id­ent is a paint­er.{{third­PartyEmbed type:nbcvideos id:n43429}}

“You may not think I’m a paint­er,” Bush told Leno, “I think I’m a paint­er.”

Bush made a rare na­tion­ally tele­vised ap­pear­ance on Leno’s show, billed by Bush as a send-off for the host. And he came loaded with the paint­ings he’s been work­ing on with a Dal­las tu­tor once a week. “There’s a Rem­brandt trapped in this body,” Bush said he told the in­struct­or. “Your job is to find it.”

{{third­PartyEmbed type:nbcvideos id:n43430}}

The former pres­id­ent showed off a paint­ing of his dog Barney (RIP), and a por­trait of his new cat, Bob. Bush also proved that there’s no late-night show an­ec­dote bet­ter than a Putin an­ec­dote:

“I in­tro­duced Barney to Putin, and he kind of dissed him,” Bush said. “So a year later, Putin in­tro­duced me to his dog. Huge hound, bound­ing across the lawn, and he says, ‘big­ger, faster, and stronger than Barney.’”{{third­PartyEmbed type:nbcvideos id:n43431}}

Bush also came armed with a por­trait of his host, just to push the whole thing over the edge in­to the semi-sur­real.

The former pres­id­ent does genu­inely seem like a dif­fer­ent per­son. He re­ceived sol­id ap­plause throughout the in­ter­view, but no more than after re­peat­ing his post-pres­id­ency rule for talk­ing about Obama. “I don’t think it’s good for the coun­try to have a former pres­id­ent cri­ti­cize his suc­cessor,” he said. 

Asked if he was glad to be out of the White House, Bush didn’t hes­it­ate. “Yes, I am,” he said. “Eight years is plenty.”

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