September 4, 2007

"'You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency -- until I'm dead.'"

"George W. Bush slipped a piece of cheese into his mouth."

Yes, I'm reading "Dead Certain," by Robert Draper, which just came out today. And those are the first 2 lines of the Prologue. Why does Draper start that way?

We get the basic proposition that Bush is playing for the good opinion of history or that that's his excuse anyway for the low opinion in the current polls. We get the surprise in the second clause that it's Bush himself speaking, and Althouse laughs to see her President referring to himself in the third person. We get the expression of perplexity: it's impossible to figure things out as they unfold in the present. And we get the image of a dead Bush -- so pleasing to Bush haters, yet so acceptable because it's Bush himself conjuring up the image of the dead Bush. And "dead" is one of the two words in the title of the book.

Althouse, are you going to simulblog your reading of this book sentence by sentence, with that unhealthy level of stream of consciousness?

You never know! Look out. This blog could go years reading a book that way. But perhaps that is the direction a blog like this will take. Keep reading.

Are you telling us to keep reading the blog or telling yourself to keep reading the book?

Mmm. Well. There's some perplexity in figuring that out. Let's go on to the second sentence.

"George W. Bush slipped a piece of cheese into his mouth."

There's something so loathsome and slovenly about slipping a piece of cheese into one's mouth.

Did Draper really remember the exact point in the 5 days of transcripts when Bush slipped cheese into his mouth? And how long did Draper search for the mot juste and come up with "slip"? What went through his mind? Surely, it wasn't anything about the way Bush actually put the cheese in his mouth. I bet he popped it in. Why would he slip it in? Because he was just too lazy to open his lipless orifice any more than a thin slot? Or is Draper shaping our malleable brains for what he's about to slip in like a piece of cheese?

-- it reminds us of all the slips Bush has made. Slip it in -- that's sexual innuendo. Bush is screwing us!

And why cheese? It's that bland, fatty fare so widely consumed in the parts of the country where they don't notice when Bush is screwing them.

It's a slang term:
In modern English slang, something "cheesy" is kitsch, cheap, inauthentic, or of poor quality.
Like the Bush presidency.
One can also be "cheesed off"— unhappy or annoyed.
As we are with the Bush presidency.
Such negative connotations might derive from a ripe cheese's sometimes-unpleasant odor.
Bush stinks!
Almost certainly the odor explains the use of "cutting the cheese" as a euphemism for flatulence, and the term "cheesy feet" to mean feet which smell.
Bush cut the cheese! [ADDED: On page 9, we're informed of Bush's "farting on the plane," as an aspect of his "realness," which made the politicos love him in 1999.]
A more upbeat slang use is seen in "the big cheese", an expression referring to the most important person in a group, the "big shot" or "head honcho."
That would be Bush.
This use of the word probably derived not from the word cheese, but from the Persian or Hindi word chiz, meaning a thing.
"Cheese it" is a 50's slang that means "get away fast."
Impeach him!
A more whimsical bit of American and Canadian slang refers to school buses as "cheese wagons," a reference to school bus yellow.
Bush is dumb.
Subjects of photographs are often encouraged to "say cheese!", as the word "cheese" contains the phoneme /i/, a long vowel which requires the lips to be stretched in the appearance of a smile.
We can only smile fake smiles now because of Bush. We are so glum these days that without artificially stretching our mouths, we can only slip in tiny bits of sustenance.
People from Wisconsin and the Netherlands, both centers of cheese production, have been called cheeseheads. This nickname has been embraced by Wisconsin sports fans — especially fans of the Green Bay Packers or Wisconsin Badgers — who are now seen in the stands sporting plastic or foam hats in the shape of giant cheese wedges.
Go Badgers! Where's my hat?

Althouse, are you capable of reading a book anymore?

You can't possibly figure that out until I'm dead.

ADDED: As the Prologue continues, Bush does proceed to pop cheese into his mouth. Page x:
He had flung himself into his chair like a dirty sweatshirt and continued to pop pieces of cheese into his mouth. Stress was hammered into his face.
Aw, come on now. Why does the sweatshirt have to be dirty? And why flung? We're given a sense of his carelessness -- just from the way he lounges or sprawls in his chair. (How was Draper sitting? Did Draper drape himself across the chair?)

And note the violent imagine of hammering into his face. But Bush is not hammered. He hasn't had a drink in 20 years -- page xiii -- though he still remembers "the feeling of a hangover," and he realizes he wouldn't be President if he'd kept drinking: "You get sloppy, can't make decisions, it clouds your reason, absolutely." Good point!

Anyway, back to the food. While slipping/popping cheese -- eschewing the menu -- Bush orders a hot dog.
Bush ate rapidly, with a sort of voracious disinterest. He was a man who required comfort and routine.
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats his hot dog.
The food even falls out of his mouth as he talks about Iran. He speaks "through an ample wad of bread and sausage." An ample wad of bread and sausage? That sounds dirty. And not like a sweatshirt flung on a chair.


Publius said...

Evidently you can take the woman out of Wisconsin, but you can't take the obsession with chesse out of the woman.

Simon said...

It's certainly true that no genuinely fair and accurate assessment of the Clinton or Bush administrations will be possible until the partisan heat around them has faded. Which probably won't be during either of their lifetimes, and certainly won't be until the 45th President is in office.

MadisonMan said...

You can pop a cube of cheese into your mouth, but if it's a thin slice, it's really much easier to slip it in. Who knows how a slice will deform once it leaves your fingers if you do anything but gently place it on your tongue.

Meade said...

Well, that big dumb blonde
With her wheel in the gorge
And Turtle, that friend of theirs
With his checks all forged
And his cheeks in a chunk
With his cheese in the cash
They're all gonna be there
At that million dollar bash

Oh! Oh! Can you slip me your Badgers hat before you're dead?

EnigmatiCore said...

This post is really cheesy.

rhhardin said...

I'd have expected turkey.

Bush slipped a piece of turkey into his mouth.

The turkey stands alone.

jane said...

I was expecting

"'You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency -- until I'm dead.'"

"George W. Bush then slipped on a banana peel and broke his crown."

Would've made for great irony and a short book.

amba said...


Fritz said...

George W. Bush September 2007 ""when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq it will be from a position of strength and success - not from a position of fear and failure."

Bill Clinton August 1998 "tonight we begin the global war on terror."

I'm glad President Bush bases his decisions on posterity rather than short term political calculations.

Parker Smith said...

I get the strong feeling the author had a word count target...

AllenS said...

That was a very funny post, Ann. I laughed the whole way through.

Wisconsin slogan: "Eat cheese, or die!"

Ok, one more: "Come to Wisconsin, and smell our dairy air."

PatCA said...

Draper's tone seems kind of...sneering.

I guess that's why people are reading books like this instead:

Hoosier Daddy said...

It's certainly true that no genuinely fair and accurate assessment of the Clinton or Bush administrations will be possible until the partisan heat around them has faded.

Hence, look at how Truman was rehabilitated. The man had a 22% approval rating. JFK is no different in that regard when one looks at the short time he was in office and what he accomoplished (or didn't) yet he's almost elevated to diety status.

But for all of his shortcomings and there are more than a few, Iraq will be Bush's legacy for ill or good. If it ends up like South Korea in 20 years then he'll be vindicated, if not, at least the left will still have Dubya to kick around.

MadisonMan said...

through an ample wad of bread and sausage

I suppose technically a hot dog is a type of sausage, but who in their right mind calls a hot dog a sausage? I think ample wad of bread an wiener would sound a lot better.

For some reason I recall the time the NYTimes used a picture of summer sausage in a story about bratwurst.

Ann Althouse said...

MM: LOL. For some reason, I find it hilarious that the NYT would mix up summer sausage and bratwurst. Maybe cuz I'm homesick.

hdhouse said...

Fritz said...
"I'm glad President Bush bases his decisions on posterity rather than short term political calculations."

posterity my ass....

halojones-fan said...

Ann, you're wrong. We all know that the best cheese comes from happy cows, and that cows are only happy here in CALIFORNIA.

MadisonMan said...

I'd really like some California-made limburger cheese, but I just can't seem to find any.

Are any cheeses named after towns in California?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Are any cheeses named after towns in California

Montery Jack!! Sonoma Teleme

MadisonMan said...

Sonoma Teleme

Cheeses are not meant to be spread :)

Palladian said...

Best post ever!

XWL said...

Has any lefty site used this post to "prove" Prof. Althouse is a crazed right wing drunkard yet?

Let's see Glenn Greenwald turn his attention on this lengthy post with a book length rebuttal.

It'd make all other insomnia medication obsolete.

Also, the gist of what I'm getting about this book, is that Draper is upset that the President is a cheese-eating non-surrendering chimp.

(still prefer that to those cheese-eating surrender monkeys, but looks like Sarkozy may make that insult obsolete hopefully)

blake said...

Sometimes this blog reminds me of a Feiffer cartoon.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

'You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency -- until I'm dead.'
George W. Bush slipped a pretzel into his mouth and began to choke.

oh, wait, that was a different incident

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LutherM said...

Ann wrote, " with that unhealthy level of stream of consciousness"

But somehow she did not sound like Molly Bloom.

the Mickey's said...

Funny stuff althouse.

Luckyoldson said...

Sidney Blumenthal writes that President Bush knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq. Or, at least, he was briefed on this but chose to disregard the briefing.

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Note in particular (emphasis added):

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD. …