George W. Bush is back! Just in time to miss the November midterms, the ex-president is back in the news and in late-night comedy routines. Did you miss him? It seems like not so long ago that we thought a golden era of political comedy would end with his departure. It turns out we’ve been doing just fine without him. If there’s one thing his awkward return brought back, it’s remembering that we didn’t even need comedians to help us laugh at him. As the popularity of Bushisms showed, this was a president we could laugh at in his own words.
Now that his memoir is here, do his words hold up against the comedians’? Here’s a quiz. Some of the following quotes come from Bush’s Decision Points. Some come from Will Ferrell’s Broadway hit and HBO special You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush.
In his introduction, Bush notes that rather than give a full biography, he would concentrate on major episodes where he was the Decider (“the most important part of the job: making decisions”). Rather coincidentally, his structure almost perfectly mimics the act breaks of You’re Welcome America: Drinking, Texas, the Election, choosing his Cabinet, and so on downhill from there. Am I saying that George Bush stole from Will Ferrell in retelling his own life story? Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying. George Bush plagiarized Will Ferrell.
(Honestly, it’s a pretty easy quiz, but still, it should be a lot easier than this.)
1. I received a bachelor in History and my nickname was Gin & Tonic. While at Yale I was a member of a secret society called Skull & Bones, which I used to call Skull & Boners.
2. John introduced me to the Aussie tradition of drinking beer with no hands. You put your teeth on the edge of the mug and tilt your head back, and the beer goes down your throat.
3. Charlie left one case for Willie [Nelson] and snuck one back to us. We hunched over in our seats and drank like thirst-ravaged wanderers.
4. If I’m at a Reba McEntire concert, and I’m too tired to walk back to the car, Secret Service has to by law carry me piggyback back to the parking lot.
5. I stood up, walked toward Bullock, and said, “If you are going to fuck me, you better give me a kiss first.” I playfully hugged him, but he wriggled away and charged out of the room.
6. We lived in a tiny apartment and shared a bathroom with—depending on whom you ask—either one or two prostitutes.
7. That’s just the kind of stuff you do in Midland, when you’re a young, precocious thirty-year-old.
8. I had pledged that I would spend my first ten years after college experiencing a lot and not getting tied down. That was a promise I had kept.
9. A local policeman, Calvin Bridges, thought it was odd that I was going about ten miles an hour and had two wheels on the shoulder.
10. One of my first TV ads showed me jogging, which I thought emphasized my energy and youth.
11. On June 10, 2000, I proclaimed it to be Jesus Day in Texas. Know how many other states had a Jesus day? I’ll tell you: None.
12. Nothing’s more American or therapeutic in my opinion than obsessively clearing brush.
13. I saw Gore heading toward me. He is a big man, and his presence filled my space quickly. Was the vice president about to deliver a chest bump? A forearm shiver?
14. On hearing the Supreme Court Decision on the 2000 Presidential Election: I was down in the basement playing with baseball cards when Rove gave me the news. He said, ‘Excuse me Mr. President, we’re going to Washington.’
15. You know, one of my legacies as President I’m most proud of is my great love of reading.
16. Most of the world thought we were crazy, especially France. But you know what, who gives a shit about France?
17. On waterboarding: Don’t tell me it’s torture. I’ve had it done, I find it relaxing.
18. Yasuo Fukuda from Japan. First three times I met him I thought he was Daisuke from the Red Sox.
19. Don’t get mad at me. I’m just benefiting from the system that’s already in place. It’s one of the many perks, if you will.
20. The scene went into slow motion. I felt like Ted Williams, who said he could see the stitching of a baseball on an incoming pitch. The wingtip was helicoptering toward me. I ducked. The guy had a pretty live arm.
21. On television, when Kanye West said I hate black people. I don’t hate black people. I never even think about them.
22. Dad’s wonderful sense of humor continued throughout his life. … A few years ago, Dad was recovering from hip surgery at the Mayo Clinic. When the nurse came in to check on him, he asked, ‘Are my testicles black?’
23. On John McCain: I didn’t campaign for him, in part because I was busy with the economic situation, but mostly because he didn’t ask.
24. Barney spotted our neighbor’s lawn, where he promptly took care of his business. There I was, the former president of the United States, with a plastic bag on my hand, picking up that which I had been dodging for the past eight years.
1, 4, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21: You’re Welcome, America
2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 20, 22, 23, 24: Decision Points
The Colossal Donut Index
This week’s CDI is a respectable 7.
Stephen Hoban is a writer living in New York.