Cover image for Obliviously on he sails : the Bush administration in rhyme
Obliviously on he sails : the Bush administration in rhyme
Trillin, Calvin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2004]

Physical Description:
112 pages ; 19 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3570.R5 O25 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3570.R5 O25 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



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."

Author Notes

Calvin Trillin attended public schools in Kansas City and went on to Yale University and graduated in 1957; he later served as a Fellow of the University. He was born on December 5, 1935. He worked as a reporter for Time magazine before joining the staff of The New Yorker in 1963. His reporting for The New Yorker on the racial integration of the University of Georgia was published in his first book, An Education in Georgia. Family, travel and food are also themes in Trillin's work. Three of his books American Fried; Alice, Let's Eat; and Third Helpings; were individually published and are also collected in the 1994 compendium The Tummy Trilogy. He has also written a collection of short stories Barnett Frummer Is An Unbloomed Flower (1969) and three comic novels, Runestruck (1977), Floater (1980), and Tepper Isn't Going Out (2001). Among his recent work, is Dogfight: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse. He was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor for Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, in 2012.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

There's nothing for improving a satirist's form like having a good target. Case in point: New Yorker regular Trillin, whose earlier verse sampler, Deadline Poet (1994), was mostly less amusing than last year's political cartoons. The present presidential administration, led as it is by the least articulate politician in living memory (as Trillin notes, W is no Dan Quayle), seems heaven sent for satire, however, and Trillin rises to its benison. In 12 topical sections, each including a prose page of backgrounding, as the bureaucrats say, he offers couplets, quatrains, and songs on the Bush-Cheney ticket (remember that movie The Nanny?); the 2000 campaign; the supporting cast (from Ashcroft to Boykin to Powell); the administration's corporate-criminal and lobbyist pals; and the many facets of the War against Terrorism, Saddam Hussein, the Axis of Evil, . . . whatever. Trillin so wryly yet accurately reflects the deep feelings of so many Americans that his rhymes may come to constitute a critical introduction for students of these times. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist



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 Excerpted from Obliviously on He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme by Calvin Trillin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.