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  • A Heckuva Job
  • Written by Calvin Trillin
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  • A Heckuva Job
  • Written by Calvin Trillin
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307430397
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A Heckuva Job

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More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme

Written by Calvin TrillinAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Calvin Trillin


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-43039-7
Published by : Random House Random House Group
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Somehow, despite everything Calvin Trillin wrote about the Bush Administration in Obliviously On He Sails, his 2004 bestseller in verse, George W. Bush is still in the White House. Taking a philosophical view, Trillin has said, “We weren’t going to know whether you could bring down a presidency with iambic pentameter until somebody tried it.”

Now Trillin is trying again, back at his pithy and hilarious best to comment on the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq (“Then terrorists could count on what we’d do: / Attack us, we’ll strike back, though not at you”), his religiosity (“He treats his critics in the press / As if they’re yapping Pekineses. / Reporters deal in mundane facts; / This man has got the word from Jesus”), and whether he was wearing a transmitting device in the first presidential debate (“Could this explain his odd expressions? Is there proof he / Was being told, ‘If you can hear me now, look goofy’?”)

Trillin deals with the people around Bush, such as Nanny Dick Cheney and Mushroom Cloud Rice and Orange John Ashcroft and Orange John’s successor, Alberto Gonzales (“The A.G.’s to be one Alberto Gonzales– / Dependable, actually loyal über alles”). He tries to predict the behavior of the famously intemperate John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations in poems with titles like “Bolton Chases French Ambassador Up Tree” and “White House Says Bolton Can Do Job Even While in Straitjacket.”

Finally, in dealing with whether the entire Bush Administration, like the unfortunate Brownie, has done a heckuva job, he composes a small-government sea chantey for the Republicans:

’Cause government’s the problem, lads,
Americans would all do well to shun it.
Yes, government’s the problem, lads.
At least it is when we’re the ones who run it.


"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!" From the moment President George W. Bush uttered that phrase-- to Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-- we knew that it would be attached to his presidency forever...

A qualified guy, I wish I had added.
Your resume's super, even if padded.
We wanted the best to lead FEMA's forces,
And who would know more than a man who knows horses?
You saw that the storm was more than some showers,
And sent off a memo in four or five hours.
You found out that life in the Dome was not Super--
And only a day after Anderson Cooper.
A heckuva job! You know how to lead'em.
We hope to award yo uthe Medal of Freedom.

--October 3. 2005


(George W. Bush Explains the Interview Arrangements
He Has Made with the 9/11 Commission)

When called upon to testify,
I said I was a busy guy
So maybe we could do it on the phone.
They really want a face-to-face.
I said, OK, if that's the case,
I'm certainly not doing it alone.

I can't appear without my Nanny Dick.
For Nanny Dick I've got a serious jones.
I can't appear without my Nanny Dick.
I love the way he cocks his head and drones.

Cartoonists show me as a dummy,*
With voice by Cheney (or by Rummy).
I am the butt of every late-night satirist.
But I just can't go solitaire.

I need the help that's due an heir.
I need a dad, and Dad's a multilateralist.
I can't appear without my Nanny Dick.
He brings along a gravitas I lack.

I can't appear without my Nanny Dick--
The one who knows why we attacked Iraq.
Yes, Condi Rice is quite precise
With foreign policy advice

On who's Afghani and who's Pakistani.
I like to have her near in case
I just can't place some foreign face,
But Condoleezza Rice is not my nanny.

I can't appear without my Nanny Dick.
I wouldn't know which facts I should convey.
I can't appear without my Nanny Dick.
It's Nanny Dick who tells me what to say.

--April 26, 2004

The only time george w. bush seemed reluctant to talk about 9/11 was when he was asked to appear before the 9/11 Commission. Otherwise, he mentioned it constantly, usually just before mentioning the importance of taking our fight against terrorism to Iraq. Considering his attempt to make his case by what rhetoricians might call relentless juxtaposition, George W. Bush may someday be referred to by historians as the Great Conflater.

At the 9/11 hearings, the President's team seemed like unnaturally shy actors pulled onstage for a curtain call. Orange John Ashcroft was there, denying that in the pre-9/11 period he'd told the FBI that he didn't want to be bothered with any more reports about terrorism threats. Mushroom Cloud Rice appeared, insisting that there was no "silver bullet" that might have prevented the attack. She seemed reluctant to reveal the title of the daily intelligence briefing delivered to the President at his Crawford ranch one morning in August 2001, before the full day of brush cutting and mountain biking and general summer fun began. The title was, she finally acknowledged, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the United States."
Calvin Trillin

About Calvin Trillin

Calvin Trillin - A Heckuva Job
Calvin Trillin, who became The Nation’s “deadline poet” in 1990, has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1963. He is the author of Deciding the Next Decider, A Heckuva Job, Obliviously on He Sails, and About Alice. He has also written verse on the events of the day for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and National Public Radio. He says he believes in an inclusive political system that prohibits from public office only those whose names have awkward meter or are difficult to rhyme. He lives in New York.

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