“You can be enamored with so many things about a president, but in President Bush’s case, I think it’s just his pure humanity and his willingness to open up and be accessible. He used such common language and was so colorful and witty and quick turning a phrase, that it’s different than he’s sometimes portrayed.” —Natalie Gochnour, chief economist, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, May 29, 2013
All of the former president’s talents were on display last week at Zions Bank’s 12th Annual Trade & Business conference. One enamored conference attendee went into raptures over “his casual demeanor and his candidness.”
Indeed, the easygoing Texan’s attire was quite a bit more casual than that of the nearly one thousand fans who crowded into the Marriott City Creek ballroom to be entertained by the one-time commander-in-chief’s pure humanity. While everyone else in the overheated room was dressed in standard business attire, the former leader of the free world took to the stage in Bermuda shorts, flip-flops and a Polygamy Porter T-shirt.
In his delightful twang, Mr. Bush warmed up the crowd with a series of brilliant one-liners, including, “I see a few gals here—I guess all the sister wives is at home fixin’ grub for all the little growlers.” Mr. Bush had obviously done his homework, as demonstrated by references to how eager attorneys general Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow were to help out the business community with “all them piddlin’ regulations that suck free enterprise out of your gut like one of them zombie vampires. And I don’t see no reason that them guys can’t get rich themself in the process. It’s what makes America great.”
Mr. Bush also had fun kidding his “old friend Orrin Hatch—and when I say old, I mean it. Orrin is so old he shared his vitamin pills with Brigham Young.” The former commander-in-chief reminisced about what a fan of Orrin his wife, Laura, was. “I’m kinda jealous of Orrin. Bushie—that’s my wife—goes all google-eyed when Uncle Orrin starts singin’ his love ballads. She just love the one called ‘I Dream of Laura With the Kinda Brown Hair.’ So one night, I turned to the Big OH—Orrin Hatch for short—and quote his favorite Henny Youngman joke to him. ‘Take my wife—please!’ Bushie wouldn’t talk to me for weeks, and just glared and squinted at me while she was smokin’ her Marlboro Lights.”
After a few more jokes, including one about a traveler and the farmer’s daughter, and another about the bishop and the ward chorister, Mr. Bush spent several minutes talking about what a big fan he was of the Utah Jazz. “You know, I’ve always felt kinda simpatico, as they say in France, with the Mailman, and I’m real happy to see that the Jazz is bringing him back to make some more deliveries. I’ve kinda let myself go, physique-wise, since leaving the Oval Office, but the Mailman here is still a fine specimen of a man. I don’t think he’s lost a step.”
Many in the audience were eager to hear about Mr. Bush’s latest hobby, and once the subject came up, he kept the attendees on the edge of their seats. “The world would be a better place if every dang one of us took up painting. The great thing about painting is, you don’t need to go huntin’ for things to paint. Look at me—and once you see my paintings, you’ll have no choice but to look at me—I just got bored painting Barney and Bushie sittin’ there smokin’ another cigarette, so one night I was relaxin’ in the tub, and one of them light bulbs went off inside my noggin.
“I jumped outta the tub and grabbed my oils and easel and canvass and just started paintin’ away. Good thing I was in the tub, cuz I was nekkid as a jaybird, and my naughty parts was covered by bubbles. I’m proud as heck of my nekked self-portrait, though my mom thought it was just disgusting. But as I always say, you gotta do something where your wings take dream. I don’t see no reason why you can’t put your pure humanity on display, as long as you keep some of it under the suds.”
Mr. Bush concluded his remarks by saying how great it was not being president anymore, especially having to spend hours with that Dick Cheney dude, who kept inviting him on duck-hunting trips.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.