Shirtwipegate: What Really Happened?


Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton clasped hands with residents of one of Haiti’s massive tent cities Monday on a tour of its quake-devastated capital – a visit intended to remind donors of the immense needs facing the recovery effort.

After shaking hands with residents, Bush appeared to wipe his hand on Clinton’s shirt, according to a video shot at the scene.

But is that indeed what we’re seeing? I’ve watched the clip several times now, and here are the possibilities I’ve come up with.

• George W. Bush is, in fact, wiping his hand on Bill Clinton’s sleeve, quite possibly out of disgust with the sweaty palm embrace he’s just received from a Haitian person. This theory will find many adherents in those who believe that the former president is uncomfortable with or even actively disgusted by those of a different race or socio-economic status.

• George W. Bush, in a moment of shocking reflection, is overwhelmed by the plight of these poor people whom he and his colleague have pledged to help, and needs to share that emotion by patting his pal on the shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and awe, but somehow withdraws at the last moment, perhaps because he’s worried that it will look a little gay. This postulation will prove favorable to Bush supporters who have never doubted the man’s compassion and feel he has been denied the credit he deserves for his good nature.

• Bill Clinton wears really slippery shirts. This will make sense to everyone who feels that there is something essentially slippery about Bill Clinton, either sartorially or otherwise.

• George W. Bush is pulling the old fraternity gag where you put a booger in your hand and put it on someone else’s shirt. This will seem reasonable to anyone who has read about George W. Bush’s fraternity days. (I’m assuming here he placed the booger on his person earlier and was just waiting for the right moment to “give Bubba a nose nugget.”)

• George W. Bush doesn’t care about cotton.

A wipe or a pat?

In any event, I’ve scoured this thing over and over as if it were our age’s equivalent of the Zapruder film. You can make your own decision about what happened on this fateful day, but one thing is certain: Oliver Stone will definitely have a much more intense take.