Bush's memo to his staff said this:
When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.
[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.
Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors.
Bush's inspiring, prosyletizing Methodist is in fact a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing from a lynch mob. It seems a fitting marker for the Bush presidency.
Also appropriate to mention is the fact that there are 360 days and 2 hours remaining in the Bush occupation, at which time he will very much resemble a smooth-talking horse thief fleeing a lynch mob.
Credit should go to Jonathan Hutson, who discussed the painting ("Horseshit! Bush and the Christian Cowboy" at Talk 2 Action) in May 2006--a year before Blumenthal wrote his piece at Salon.