Calvin Trillin, like many of us subject to the increasingly mysterious and nonsensical whims of the Bush administration, was obviously a man in pain. While some blogged and others made YouTube videos, Trillin decided to let it all out in verse.
The various doings and undoings of the Bush Administration are extremely painful to look back at without a shield of humor such as the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. But in a pinch, Calvin Trillin’s poems and songs and etudes to the previous administration—as well as the 2008 election—provide us a way to look back without losing our lunches, while preserving the fact that these last eight years have been majorly fucked up.
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Each part of this book opens with a poem, continues with some commentary to provide context, a little jolt to your memory, before easing out into much poetry and verse. This model is followed by the other two books as well.
A sample poem from Part 7: Just Invade Something.
We Speak Not of Osama
(With apologies to Cole Porter, the master, who wrote “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”)
The towers fell. We knew full well
The villain in this awful drama.
His name held sway, ’til he got away,
Now we speak not of Osama.
We said we’d pound him once he’s found
So flat that he’d cry for his momma.
Forget that jive, that “dead or alive,”
‘Cause we speak not of Osama.
He’s not even in the axis.
No, his evil did not make the grade.
For the the thing he mostly lacks is
A country that we can invade.
He could be in Yokohama,
Or Bahrain or Belize or Dubai.
But to get back at Osama
We’ll just pulverize some other guy.
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A sample from part 8, “Secrets: Keeping Them, Leaking Them, Extracting Them, and Listening In on Them:”
The President’s Measured Response to Criticism of His Secret Domestic Spying Operation
Since I am commander in chief,
My powers to spy or debrief
Are limitless. That’s my belief.
So go somewhere else with your beef.
I’ll do what I want when I want to.
Since terror is not like croquet,
The NSA does what I say.
Despite your softheaded dismay,
My Nanny Dick says it’s OK.
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Probably the best book of the three, with a different approach: instead of prose commentary, we have parts where the commentary has been turned into verse and is interspersed, appropriately at times, by smaller songs and poetry. This works better, I think, although we’re not going to come anywhere close to the quality material ((Fertilizer, I like to think of it as.)) from the Bush years.
Although some of it does come pretty damn close. From part 22, “So Where’s the Blowout?”:
The prospects for the GOP looked dim
Before the credit crisis got so grim
That economic sages weren’t averse
To saying things were bad and could get worse.
McCain had said forthrightly all along
His grasp of economics wasn’t strong.
McCain’s main man on economic matters
Said our economy was not in tatters.
The problem was, he said, our point of view,
And that’s been whiny rather than can-do.
Phil Gramm Says We’re a Nation of Whiners
As senator, Phil was among the designers
Of laws that helped Enron, which showed no decliners,
Manipulate prices of oil from refiners.
(Its stock can be used in your cat box, for liners.)
His laws helped the mortgage thieves rook naïve signers
Who then lost their houses and can’t afford diners.
So now he decides we’re a nation of whiners.
Oh Bush. There are some things we’ll miss about you. There will be a time of nostalgia for your era. Like the nostalgia that exists for the Cold War era.
I welcome our new Democratic overlords. Including the unicorns they came riding in on.