“She kind of likes my sense of humor. Anybody who likes my sense of humor, I immediately like,” says Bush, in an interview to launch his first art book and new exhibit, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a collection of his paintings of post-9/11 war veterans.
Bush, 70, notes that he was regularly seated beside Obama, 53, at official events like Nancy Reagan’s memorial service, an interfaith memorial service for Texas police officers last year, and the September 2016 dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C., to mark the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. There, photos of the two of them cuddling on stage went viral.
“I can’t remember where else I’ve sat next to her, but I probably have a few wise cracks and she seemed to like it okay,” says Bush. “I needle her a little bit and around her, I’m fairly lighthearted. [The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other.”
Asked about that sweet moment at the Smithsonian, he says: “When I saw her, it was a genuine expression of affection.”