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  • Obliviously On He Sails
  • Written by Calvin Trillin
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  • Written by Calvin Trillin
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The Bush Administration in Rhyme

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

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-43154-7
Published by : Random House Random House Group
Obliviously On He Sails Cover

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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
poetry (31) politics (26) humor (25) political (8)
poetry (31) politics (26) humor (25) political (8)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

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.”

Excerpt

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?

Treason.

And how long does this war go on (and this is where this theory’s really pretty clever)?

Forever.

—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

If we just smashed them in a war.

Dick bought this bunk, and sold it, too.

He lied back then, and he’s not through.

He’d fooled the rubes like you and me

Who never thought that he would be

A zealot once he got installed.

Stealth Nanny’s what he should be called.

—December 8, 2003

i’m an old cowhand, as sung by george w. bush

(With apologies to Johnny Mercer)

I’m an old cowhand from the hinterland,

Which an Eastern wuss wouldn’t understand.

Ain’t a rich folks’ tax cut I wouldn’t sign,

But I don’t know no one who drinks white wine.

How ’bout Kenneth Lay? Weren’t no friend of mine.

Yippee i oh ti-ay! Yippee i oh ti-ay!

I’m a cowpoke, folks. Don’t eat artichokes.

Burgers do me fine. Wash ’em down with Cokes.

In my battle flight suit I’ll stike a pose,

But I got compassion, down to my toes.

It’s for unborn babies and CEOs.

Yippee i oh ti-ay! Yippee i oh ti-ay!

I’m a cowboy, guys. This is no disguise.

I don’t flip or flop. I don’t agonize.

Ain’t no bad guy goin’ I won’t bombard.

Kerry’s soft on bad guys and I am hard—

Toughest hombre ever hid in the Guard.

Yippee i oh ti-ay! Yippee i oh ti-ay!

—April 5, 2004
Calvin Trillin

About Calvin Trillin

Calvin Trillin - Obliviously On He Sails
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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