Paul Slansky,
The George W. Bush Quiz Book
(Broadway, 2004)

I'm not sure if my wife will ever be allowed back in our local Borders Bookshop. While the friendly bookseller is certainly never so strict about noise as your average library might be, I'm fairly sure the staff and customers must have been mildly irked by the gales of laughter that resounded through the stacks and shelves one recent evening.

It's my fault, really. I probably shouldn't have picked up a copy of The George W. Bush Quiz Book, and I probably shouldn't have read so many of the quotes within aloud. But I did, and poor Kate sprained her larynx with resounding guffaws.

OK, so a quiz book isn't the usual grist for the Rambles.NET mill. Nor do we dabble often in politics. But this book is a treat -- a whimsical look at The Man Who Would Be President (again).

The book is riddled with great quotes that put the old Dan Quayle days of public misspeaking to shame. Consider this pledge: "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes!" What? Or this one, regarding terrorists: "They will not hold America blackmail." How about the time Bush tried to reassure voters that he was up to the job of being president by saying: "I've been elected governor twice in an incredibly important state."

A few months following the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush shared his recollections of the event with a crowd in Florida. His priceless reaction ("There's one terrible pilot," he remembers thinking when he saw coverage of the first jet hitting the tower -- and what channel was he watching that showed coverage of the first jet crashing, anyway?) is just one incredible nugget from this hard-to-believe account.

It's important for American citizens -- nay, citizens of the world -- to take the measure of the man who holds so much global power. It's important to learn that, when asked in 1999 who his heroes were, Bush could only come up with pitcher Nolan Ryan. That his favorite childhood pastimes included playing baseball, collecting baseball cards and "blowing up frogs with firecrackers," but that he can't remember any specific books he might have read. Or that he said his wife, Laura, is "the perfect wife for a governor" because she wasn't "trying to butt in and always, you know, compete." (Of course, he also referred to her as "the lump in the bed next to me.")

Even more importantly, Bush categorically explains the difference between terrorists and Americans in terms we all can understand: "They hate things, we love things." And we love to hate folks who hate things.

Bush does not suffer ridicule alone, however. His landmark quotations are compared to those of Republican greats such as Quayle ("For NASA, space is still a high priority" and "We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world"), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ("I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty" and "There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know") and even the first father, former President Bush ("We're enjoying sluggish times, and not enjoying them very much").

Let's be honest, this is a book you're not going to find on the nightstands of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rupert Murdoch, while Michael Moore probably finds it a delightful little read. (Dan Quayle probably does, too, although he'd never admit it -- but hey, it makes him look smart.) And certainly it's not going to change anyone's mind about politics; Bush supporters will remain Bush supporters, and his detractors will, at best, have some new ammunition.

But it's fun, and believe me, at times like this, a little bit of fun is important. For many Americans today, it's a choice of laughing at this president or, well, crying.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 4 September 2004

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