Oil Painter, Former President George W. Bush Still Bullish on Democracy

SXSW chat touches on immigration, Jan. 6 attack, and MLB’s misstep

credit: SXSW

Former President George W. Bush walked the tightrope on immigration and election fraud during a SXSW featured session on Thursday. He condemned the Jan. 6 attack but expressed optimism about the state of American democracy. He also said that the country should embrace immigrants, while advocating for more border security.

Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed the 43rd president in a pre-recorded interview, primarily discussing Bush’s upcoming book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants, which includes oil painting portraits by Bush and vignettes about the lives of 43 immigrants. From former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Bush family’s housekeeper, Paola Rendon-Hart, the book highlights the many ways that immigrants positively impact the country, Bush said.

When asked about the timing of the book, Bush said that it shouldn’t be interpreted as a rebuke of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. “One of the problems is immigration has become overly politicized. It’s really a rebuke of Congress’ inability to come together to get something done on immigration,” he said. Standing by many of the tenets of his failed attempt at immigration reform in 2006, Bush added that border security will require investment in the border wall, electronics, and manpower, but also that expanding work visas would help with security.

Bush gave a shout-out to Austinite Gilbert Tuhabonye, founder of the local training group for runners Gilbert’s Gazelles and one of the profiles featured in Bush’s book. The life and work of Tuhabonye, who immigrated from Burundi, is an example of how immigrants have a positive impact, Bush said. “Gilbert is an inspiration,” he added.

Smith also asked the former president for his perspective on the 2020 election and claims of voter fraud. “All elections have some kind of improprieties. I think the results of this election were confirmed when Joe Biden got inaugurated as president,” Bush said. He added that he did not think the election was stolen and that he was “disgusted” by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Nevertheless, he pointed to turnout in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections as proof of the “vibrancy of democracy.” Misinformation on the internet poses a challenge to the country, he said, but “democracy of checks and balances work. It's a balanced system, and the courts work.” He also expressed confidence that the level of anger surrounding politics will eventually dissipate.

But Bush – a former co-owner of the Texas Rangers – saved his strongest opinion for the conversation’s end. Major League Baseball introduced a new rule in the 2020 season to have a runner start on second base in extra innings. Bush’s thoughts? It has to go.

Follow The Austin Chronicle's continuing SXSW Online coverage.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

South By Southwest Has a New Investor
South By Southwest Has a New Investor
With 50% ownership in SXSW LLC, P-MRC provides “lifeline”

Kevin Curtin, April 18, 2021

SXSW Film Review: <i>When Claude Got Shot</i>
SXSW Film Review: When Claude Got Shot
Documentary goes beyond the headlines of Black-on-Black crime

Shane Pfender, April 7, 2021

More by Benton Graham
Russian-Born Austinites Supporting Ukraine by Bringing Medical Supplies
Russian-Born Austinites Supporting Ukraine by Bringing Medical Supplies
Inna Adamovich is making sacrifices for Ukraine

June 21, 2024

As Transit Cops Near, Cap Metro’s Other Public Safety Personnel Thrive
As Transit Cops Near, Cap Metro’s Other Public Safety Personnel Thrive
Safe on the bus

Feb. 23, 2024


SXSW 2021, George W. Bush, immigration policy

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle