Does the Bush Administration sound any better in rhyme? In this biting array of verse, it at least sounds funnier. Calvin Trillin employs everything from a Gilbert and Sullivan style, for describing George Bush's rescue in the South Carolina primary by the Christian Right ("I am, when all is said and done, a Robertson Republican"), to a bilingual approach, when commenting on the President's casual acknowledgment, after months of trying to persuade the nation otherwise, that there was never any evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11: "The Web may say, or maybe Lexis-Nexis / If chutzpa is a word they use in Texas."
Trillin deals not only with George W. Bush but with the people around him--Supreme Commander Karl Rove and Condoleezza (Mushroom Cloud) Rice and Nanny Dick Cheney ("One mystery I've tried to disentangle: / Why Cheney's head is always at an angle . . .") The armchair warriors Trillin refers to as the Sissy Hawk Brigade are celebrated in such poems as "Richard Perle: Whose Fault Is He?" and "A Sissy Hawk Cheer" ("All-out war is still our druthers-- / Fiercely fought, and fought by others.").
Trillin may never be poet laureate--certainly not while George W. Bush is in office--but his wit and his political insight produce what has been called "doggerel for the ages."
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May 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Obliviously On He Sails by Calvin Trillin
THE EFFECT ON HIS CAMPAIGN OF THE RELEASE OF GEORGE W. BUSH'S COLLEGE TRANSCRIPT
Obliviously on he sails,
With marks not quite as good as Quayle's.
--November 29, 1999
The fact that those marks at Yale got him into Harvard Business School is yet another reminder of which class of Americans has always benefited from the original affirmative action program. When George W. Bush began to be spoken of as a possible presidential candidate, he had to counter a widespread impression that he was just a shallow rich boy who had failed at everything except riding along on family connections. Given what Bush's college transcript revealed, it occurred to me that Dick Cheney, who flunked out of Yale twice, might have been put on the ticket because he was the only living American politician who had a less distinguished academic record at Yale than George W. Bush.
The theory prevalent more responsible observers was that Cheney, who had been in charge of finding the Republican vice-presidential nominee, selected himself as a sort of nanny to the relatively inexperienced Bush. I have always thought of Cheney as The Droner. His greatest talent has been to create a public persona that makes him appear to be, despite his congressional voting record and his views, too boring to be extreme.
In the past, I'd suggested campaign slogans to candidates of both parties--sometimes the same slogan, as in the tried-and-true "Never Been Indicted." In that spirit, I offered Bush a campaign slogan that I'd once offered Quayle, a student of similar limitations who was in the DePauw chapter of Bush's college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon: "Definitely Not the Dumbest Guy in the Deke House." The offer was not accepted.
a SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION ON THE SPEAKING PROBLEMS THAT SEEM TO RUN IN THE BUSH FAMILY
He thinks that hostile's hostage.
He cannot say subliminal.
The way Bush treats the language
Is bordering on criminal.
His daddy had the problem:
He used the nounless predicate.
Those cowboy boots can do that
To people from Connecticut.
--October 9, 2000
ON THE WHITE HOUSE DRESS CODE
The President's demanding proper dress--
A tie, a coat, a shine on shoes or boots.
I guess we're meant to find this a relief:
We've now returned to government by suits.
--April 2, 2001
DICK CHENEY'S PRIMER ON THE CONSTITUTION
So what's it called if during war you criticize the President for any reason?
And how long does this war go on (and this is where this theory's really pretty clever)?
--June 10, 2002
CHENEY'S HEAD: AN EXPLANATION
One mystery I've tried to disentangle:
Why Cheney's head is always at an angle.
He tries to come on straight, and yet I can't
Help notice that his head is at a slant.
When Cheney's questioned on the Sunday shows,
The Voice of Reason is his favorite pose.
He drones in monotones. He never smiles--
Explaining why some suspects don't need trials,
Or why right now it simply stands to reason
That criticizing Bush amounts to treason,
Or which important precept it would spoil
To know who wrote our policy on oil,
Or why as CEO he wouldn't know
What Halliburton's books were meant to show.
And as he speaks I've kept a careful check
On when his head's held crooked on his neck.
The code is broken, after years of trying:
He only cocks his head when he is lying.
--June 24, 2002
A SHORT HISTORY OF DICK CHENEY AS MINDER
At first, we thought we should be glad
To have a nanny for the lad--
Young Bush, who might be overawed,
Who'd barely even been abroad,
Who seemed to us a lightweight laddie
Who'd need a sitter sent by daddy.
But Cheney's shop became the place
Where fantasists would make their case:
Iraqis threaten. At the least,
We'd rearrange the Middle East
And rule the world forevermore