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Bush family e-mails hacked: Was anything stolen of value (beyond privacy)?

Hacked Bush family e-mail released to date shed light on George H.W. Bush's 'kindness and good nature,' the family's concern for his health, and, perhaps, a preview of a W. art exhibit.

Luch Nicholson/Reuters/File
Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, stand during the national anthem at the NCAA Final Four college basketball championship game in Houston in this April 4, 2011, photo. The US Secret Service is investigating whether the former president's e-mail was hacked, along with e-mail of other family members.

The Bush family has been victimized by a hacker, in case you haven’t heard. Someone who calls himself “Guccifer” has managed to penetrate the e-mail accounts of an unknown number of relatives of ex-Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush. We’ll leave the technical analysis to others, and focus on the stuff that’s actually been published: Are these sensitive secrets that shouldn’t have come into the public domain?

Yes, in the sense that nobody should have stuff like this stolen and then plastered all over the Internet. Presumably, the FBI will get involved in tracking this person down. But no, in the sense that what we’ve seen so far makes the Bush family seem more sympathetic, if anything. It reveals their concern for George H.W.’s health during his recent hospitalization and indicates that it was more serious than publicly known.

According to summaries of some of the material published on The Smoking Gun website, one Dec. 27 e-mail from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to his four siblings saluted his father’s “kindness and good nature." It talked about how he’d helped Bill Clinton reestablish his reputation by treating him well, for instance.

In a Dec. 26 e-mail, George W. asked relatives for anecdotes, thoughts, and other material that might be useful in a eulogy. “Hopefully I’m jumping the gun,” he wrote.

Thankfully, he was. At the time, news organizations hadn’t reported on the seriousness of Bush pere’s illness. But here’s a little journalistic secret: Most in the mainstream media knew that something was up. This is not due to any publishable inside knowledge, so don’t cry conspiracy. It’s due to rumors and the context – when an elderly ex-president is hospitalized for any length of time, it is best to begin planning coverage for all eventualities.

As to the rest of the stuff, the thing that jumps out at us is George W.’s artwork. Yes, he’s a painter now. That’s been known for some time. So were Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. That’s pretty good artistic/political company to keep.

W. mentioned this last year at a semiprivate gathering in Memphis, Tenn., where he was interviewed by daughter Jenna about his life for an audience of business and civic leaders. At the time, he said his artistic subjects were mostly dogs.

“I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks,” he said.

But the hacker-obtained material includes at least two images of current W. paintings, and they’re not dogs. Apparently, he e-mailed some examples of his latest work to sister Dorothy Bush Koch, and they’re self-portraits of him in the shower and bathtub.

Amateur mind-readers, start your engines! In the shower one, you see Bush’s torso from behind, staring at the wall, while his face shows in a wall-mounted mirror. To us, it appears as if he’s actually looking in another direction, and the face should not be showing. Is that a subtle comment on the nature of self-observation? Or a mistake? You decide.

The one in the bathtub has a nice geometry to it, with his toes sticking out of sudsy water, the faucet and handles in the background. Brushstroke might use a little work, though.

There’s also a photo of Bush painting something that appears to be a church, and him posing with cardboard cutout of himself as an artist. Very meta. We’d be unsurprised if a Bush art show, all proceeds to charity, is not far away.

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