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Issue Date:  November 5, 2004

Books for the 'presidentiary' library


It’s a wonderful country,” Bush II enthused. “You don’t have to read to become president.” True -- but I’ve been worried ever since. What about the “presidentiary” library? How’s he going to fill those shelves?

We know that schoolchildren in South Carolina stumped President Bush when they asked him about his favorite book. But that, of course, was before My Pet Goat grabbed his attention on 9/11.

Quizzed about his favorite philosopher, he stumbled on the campaign trail, then miraculously mustered up the Messiah. With all due respect to philosophers, it sounded to me like a demotion for the Almighty.

I knew the education president needed a list and he needed it fast. Plato’s Republic came to mind, along with The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Crime and Punishment, A Short History of Financial Euphoria and Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.

Nah! I said to myself. Forget it! By his own admission, he’s no “innalexshal.” Then, bingo! I remembered Dr. Seuss. His jingles have been teaching children of all ages to read. Why, he was writing Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose when Junior was in kindergarten!

Let’s not “misunderestimate” the great American writer any more than President Bush. Seuss too addresses the major issues of the day: clean skies, health care, patriotism, mendacity, war and good ol’ family values. The prez couldn’t fail to be enlightened by these Easy Readers sprinkled liberally with wisdom and hilarity.

Luckily Dubya married a librarian who is also committed to leaving no billionaire behind. Laura could easily get her hubby hooked on books, beginning with Hop on Pop. Then he can get his feet wet with Fox in Socks. Just flipping through One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish might clarify his fuzzy math after all the trouble he’s had with butterfly ballots and the vanishing surplus, not to mention the zillions splurged on spreading the peace.

He’ll certainly approve of Horton Hatches the Egg -- a look at the lifestyle of Mayzie the Lazy Bird, a single mother (probably a welfare queen) who shirks responsibility. But the day is saved and the egg hatched by an elephant (male, no less) who’s “faithful, one-hundred percent.”

He’ll just love Horton Hears a Who and the pro-life message “A person’s a person no matter how small.” No one could argue with that! Moreover, the sensitive elephant will appeal to Republicans everywhere.

Before drilling for oil in Alaska, President Bush should take a look at The Lorax. (Cheney too!) The book shows clearly what happens when big business makes “Gluppity Glup” and “Schloppity Schlopp.”

He’ll certainly “resignate” with The Cat in the Hat. The Cat likes to have fun and knows lots of good tricks. Despite his bungling high jinks, the cat never loses his cool or his swagger or smirk. However, skimming through the sequel might give W pause about the environment, for the EPA has no VOOM (foolproof cleaner-upper) for a snow job.

No need to read Sophocles to learn the perils of power! Yertle the Turtle’s tumble from the top of the stack is faster, funnier and no less instructive than King Creon’s. The message is the same -- power corrupts. Besides, Seuss says it in rhythm and rhyme.

Before going to war, George curiously mentioned something about “building the vast army of compassion.” He must have meant destruction (armies know nothing about compassion) because he has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. On the other hand, as a born-again Christian, it’s quite possible he had the Salvation Army in mind at the time. As he says himself, “I have enough trouble stringing sentences together without people putting words in my mouth.”

Now that the president realizes that the Taliban is no rock band and that “more and more of our imports come from overseas,” he’ll appreciate Oh, the Places You’ll Go and not “go down any not-too-good street.”

Meanwhile back at the ranch, President Bush could curl up with The Butter Battle Book. The “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo” was made for the War President (nothing girlie about him). “Believe in thy Butter,” says the chief Yookeroo, and all the president and his men have to do is substitute oil (not margarine) for butter to see the consequences of war and patriotism combined.

By December, I bet Dubya will be in the groove for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Perhaps his caring, compassionate heart, too, will expand three sizes or more and he’ll roll back the tax cuts and maybe, oh maybe, bring on the good times.

Before you can say Hunches in Bunches, the 43rd president will be ready to tackle I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, although the good doctor prescribes keeping an eye open “at least on one side.”

And if the going gets tough and all else fails, there’s always the musical “Seussical.”

Marie Whitla O’Reilly is a writer who lives in Connecticut.

National Catholic Reporter, November 5, 2004

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