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Bush's Quiz-zical Expression

One more anti-Bush book to add to the pile.

12:00 AM, May 4, 2004 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
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ALTHOUGH JUST AS MEAN-SPIRITED as the recent spate of Bush-bashing books, Paul Slansky's George W. Bush Quiz Book redeems itself from its author's intentions by being, well, oddly amusing.

Though I couldn't summon the keen appetite of a real Bush-hater when I dug in, I share Slansky's weakness for puns ("Boy George," "Bush Men," "Bush Comes to Shove") and picking out Slansky's hobby-horses and secondary obsessions was entertaining in its own right. Imbedded in the answers to the multiple-choice questions that make up the book, one learns of the many evils of Ralph Nader's 2000 campaign, about Paul O'Neill's blunders, and that Slansky is an adherent to the Bush-as-dyslexic theory. Which, actually, starts to look pretty plausible about halfway through the book when you've read the 200th gem in the "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family" category: "What kind of expert did George W. Bush say was coming to his ranch to identify the different types of trees? Correct answer: (B) An arbolist."

Describing Bush as "looking as if he were smelling something bad" and "a chimp" are jokes that seems to hold infinite delight for Slansky--he repeats them both several times. For the most part, though, Slansky wisely confines himself to the embarrassing and revealing words of others and matters of the public record.

In his acknowledgements--which consist mostly of a single sentence that is over a page long--Slansky offers "special thanks" to Helen Thomas "for just coming right out and saying it: 'This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history.'" Slansky's fondness of Thomas's quip actually highlights the book's weakest point: It takes 215 pages for Slansky to convey what Thomas said in 16 words.

CERTAIN TIDBITS, calculated to fuel disdain for an administration which the Quiz Book's target audience already embraces, actually endeared some of Bush's associates to me. For example: "How did Spencer Abraham, George W. Bush's nomination for secretary of Energy, distinguish himself while serving as a senator from Michigan? Correct answer: (C) He was one of three senators who introduced legislation to abolish the Department of Energy."

Under the heading "It's Funny 'Cause It's True": "Aides to Attorney General John Ashcroft offered as proof of his sense of humor his propensity to lighten the mood at tense meetings with his imitation of what character from The Simpsons? Correct answer: (B) Mr. Burns.

And then there's my favorite entry: How did [the editor of a prominent conservative political magazine] describe his experiences with George W. Bush in his father's White House?" Correct answer: (D) 'He was fine . . . well, I don't know if he was fine. He was actually kind of a jackass, but . . . he was the president's kid."

The George W. Bush Quiz Book falls in that special class of books that I like to think of as Ideal Bathroom Reading. Don't spend any money on it, but if you have time to kill in the bookstore, take a look inside. If someone is about to quote from it--go ahead and listen. There are certainly worse ways to waste your time.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter for The Weekly Standard.