Gravy on a bagel: An anthology of Republican verse from Abe to Huck

Mike Huckabee at BookPeople in Austin
(RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Mike Huckabee at BookPeople in Austin  (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Mike Huckabee at BookPeople in Austin
(RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Good morning Austin:

Today’s First Reading is devoted to the poetry of Republican politics.

It was inspired by last week’s visit to BookPeople in Austin by Mike Huckabee to sign copies of his new book – God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – in preparation for a second run for the White House.

While, at first glance, GGG&G is a work of prose, it is best read as an epic poem in which our hero, Huck, the tribune of Bubba-Ville, for six and half years bravely travels each and every weekend to New York City – along with Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, one of the three Bubble-Ville “nerve centers of our culture” – in order to defend, on Fox, the values of “the new American outcasts – people who put faith and family first.”

What follows are some excerpts from the book, all straight from the text, nothing added or subtracted, except for the titles that I have given them, and poetic spacing.

 

Gravy on a Bagel (On first visiting Zabar’s)

Gravy on a bagel

Just doesn’t work for me.

If I want to chew that hard,

I’ll take up chewing tobacco,

Which I won’t.

I’m not even that rural.

New York, New York

It’s not completely Sodom and Gomorrah,

But the traffic at 3 a.m. Sunday is more intense

Than at 11 a.m.

That ought

To tell you something

 

Once Upon a Time, a Person Who Came to America illegally was called an illegal alien.

Maybe we should also rename the Border Patrol the “Dream Police”

Or just “Dream Catchers.”

 

But I digress

(Some of he meanest people I’ve ever known were “church people.”

And, truth be told, a lot of Christians like to do their fussing and cussing as “prayer requests,”

As in, “We need to pray for Robert:

He is drinking again

And Martha is going to divorce him if he doesn’t get out of rehab

All dried out.”

But I digress)

 

When a country boy calls 911

It will be a bad day for the person who didn’t understand

That a country boy doesn’t helplessly call 911

And hope help arrives before he gets killed,

Or his wife and daughter get assaulted.

He calls 911 to tell them

Where to come and pick up the carcass of the one

Who tried to break into his home.

 

Your pants, they are on fire

I think maybe PolitiFact needs to learn the difference

Between an assumption and a fact.

They might also want to look up

The definition of the word “joke.”

And the word “opinion.

Without some effort

I feel a bit more disconnected from people who have

Never fired a gun,

Never fished with a cane pole,

Never cooked with propane,

Or never changed a tire.

If people use “summer” as a verb,

As in, “We summer in the Hamptons,”

I probably don’t have much in common with them.

If people don’t put pepper sauce on their black-eyed peas,

Or order fried green tomatoes for an appetizer,

I probably won’t relate to them

Without some effort.

I earlier described Huckabee’s book as an epic poem. And this is what I am referring to – epic small-mindedness.

As Gail Collins wrote in The New York Times on reading this last passage:

Well, there goes Ohio.

Think about that statement. We’re already tortured by the red-state-blue-state chasm. Now we’re going to divide ourselves by restaurant orders? The first rule for anyone who aspires to lead this country is that you have to at least pretend that you can relate to all its citizens.

At BookPeople, in answer to a question, Huckabee said what distinguishes him from other candidates is his talent for consensus, but here he is in his book taking one of the surest ways to bring people together – food – and turning it into another litmus test of division.

My signed copy.

My signed copy.

“Have you ever tried to order grits in a fancy Manhattan restaurant?” Huckabee asks in his book. ” Good luck.”

Well, here from New York Magazine on Maysville Food & Bourbon on w. 26th Street near Broadway:

Our pick for best new grits dish consists of five deep-fried croutons fashioned from coarsely ground upstate corn, each one glued to a splotch of Old Crow–spiked mayo and wearing a little do-rag of scrunched-up, sliced-to-order Kentucky ham ($9).

I would also note that New York, like Bubble-ville’s D.C. and Los Angeles, has a large black population and the food that Huck craves but can’t seem to find also goes by the name Soul Food.

It is not just the food that makes Huckabee feel a man apart in Manhattan.

I can’t find a Walmart in Manhattan, either, and people stare at my cowboy boots when I’m on the subway. What’s up with that?

Yes, what is up with that? People staring at him on the subway because he is wearing cowboy boots. Really?

From USA Today:

For the past 16 years, Robert Burck has played guitar in Times Square wearing only tighty whities, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat … Today Burck switched into the Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs as part of the brand’s marketing campaign for its new underwear line …. The briefs will be sold in several colors in Walmart, Kmart and Target stores for $13.99 for a five-pack beginning this month.

If people are staring at Mike Huckabee in Manhattan my guess is it is because, while in New York, he presents as some kind of composite Midnight Cowboy character, traversing the gritty, gritsless streets of New York City with a perpetual Joe Buck strut and irascible Ratso Rizzo “I’m walkin’ here” attitude.

Here, then, is Huckabee’s failing as a poet. The author of GGG&G seems to have a fundamentally incurious nature. He travels to the most interesting city in the world every weekend for six-and-a-half years and all that seems to absorb him is what is not there.

Rick Perry, on the other hand, has much more the poet’s sensibility. He is a man keenly open to new experience, and in touch with his own feelings.

Here is a poem derived from his book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.

You may be so tired

You may be so tired

You don’t feel like reading the Little Mermaid

To your three-year-old for the tenth time,

But it amazes you that after you begin reading it,

You actually sort of enjoy yourself;

In part because the act of nurturing has its own reward

If we simply put “self” aside for another.

And Perry showed his versatility just last week, with this verse, delivered as part of a speech in Washington, in response to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, going off on Texas as a “crazy state to begin with.”

 

Crazy (with apologies to Willie Nelson and Gnarls Barkley)

Earlier this week there was this liberal congressman from Florida

And he called Texans crazy.

He is right!

We are crazy!

We’re crazy about jobs.

We’re crazy about opportunity.

We’re crazy about liberty.

We’re crazy about the Constitution.

And we’re particularly crazy

About the 2nd Amendment

And the 10th Amendment.

What we’re not crazy about is

Government that taxes too much,

Borrows too much,

Spends too much.

Country singer Larry Gatlin, penned this own rhyming reply to Hastings, but I prefer Perry’s.

From Gatlin:

 

The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Better not come near.

The eyes of Texas are upon you.

I think you’d better steer clear.

You said things about my Texas that were just not kind.

And if I get a chance,

I’ll open up a cowboy boot shop in your behind.

 

Of course, the Republican poet laureate is Sarah Palin.

Almost as soon as she burst on the national scene, the writer Hart Seely began cataloging The Poetry of Sarah Palin.

For example, from her early work:

Outside

I am a Washington outsider.
I mean,
Look at where you are.
I’m a Washington outsider.

I do not have those allegiances
To the power brokers,
To the lobbyists.
We need someone like that.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

Or later.

I’m Sick and Tired

I’m sick and tired
@@@@of hearing about
Obama and the White House
@@@@coming out

WITH YET ANOTHER CRISIS!

What’s great about Palin is that she continues to push the boundaries of her art.

Sarah Palin (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sarah Palin
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Here is how Nia-Malika Henderson covered her recent performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit:

Sarah Palin, slam poet.

Dim the lights and maybe light a candle on stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit, and Palin’s rambling speech begins to make more sense.

This was poetry, not politics, ya dig?

This is how Henderson presented Palin’s words in the Post, calling it, “The Ballad of 2016.”

Very nicely done, but that title is, I think, too prosaic. I prefer this, taken from a question that Sean Hannity asked Palin about the speech, and, parenthetically, the lasting image of this inspired work.

Did the teleprompter go down? (Backbent Mountin’)

Things must change for our government.
Look at it.
It isn’t too big to fail.

It’s too big to succeed!
It’s
too
big
to
succeed.

So we can afford no retreads
or
nothing will change with the same people

And same policies that
got us into
the status quo.

Another Latin word.
Status quo.
And it stands for,
‘Man, the middle-class, everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’

That’s status quo.
And GOP leaders,
by the way,
y’know,

The man can only ride ya when your back is bent.
So strengthen it.
Then the man can’t ride ya.

America won’t be taken for a ride.
Because so much is at stake

and

We can’t afford politicians playing games
like
nothing more is at stake than.

Oh.

Maybe just the next standing
of theirs.
In the next election.

 Seely is also the compiler and editor of Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Here is perhaps Rumsfeld’s most famous work.

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

Exquisite.

During the last presidential campaign, Mother Jones collected some of the found poetry of Mitt Romney, which was surprisingly daring in its imagery. As they wrote, “this one, Breakfast Special, is only nominally about breakfast:

I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict,

With hollandaise sauce.

And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs—

With hollandaise sauce in hubcaps.

Because there’s no plates like chrome—

For the hollandaise.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, but also very interesting and daring in its own way, is the work of Dave Carney, the political consultant who has worked as a top adviser to both Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott.

This is from his recent piece in Politico Magazine, How We Won Texas, which proceeds in an intentionally obscure and methodically technocratic style, only to knock your socks off with a swift nihilistic ending.

How We Won Texas

Campaigns need to settle on a base-scoring system using predictive analytics and dynamic modeling that will serve as the common currency for all aspects of the campaign.

The Abbott campaign settled on parameters based on their likelihood to support Abbott and their propensity to turnout to vote early in the campaign that produced a universe of approximately five million voters.

Too much time is wasted worrying about motion without caring if there is progress or not. We look at how many impressions an online ad receives, how many gross rating points are behind a television ad, or how many calls a phone bank makes.

None of these matter.

Wow. Pow. And I can’t help but hear the echo of that beautiful poem Rain by  that appeared in The New Yorker a few years ago.

It begins: I love all films that start with rain:
And ends: and none of this, none of this matters

Read the whole thing. It’s quite good.

The first great Republican poet, of course, was the first Republican president – Abraham Lincoln.

From the Library of Congress:

Throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln was an avid reader of poetry. As a teenager, however, Lincoln also began to cultivate an interest in writing poetry. Lincoln’s oldest surviving verses, written when he was between fifteen and seventeen years old, are brief squibs that appear in his arithmetic book.

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When [1]

*****

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read

One of Lincoln’s Springfield neighbors, James Matheny, recalled that sometime between 1837-39 Lincoln joined “a Kind of Poetical Society” to which he occasionally submitted poems. Although none of the poems survive, Matheny remembered one eye-raising stanza from a poem “on Seduction“:

Whatever Spiteful fools may Say —
Each jealous, ranting yelper —
No woman ever played the whore
Unless She had a man to help her.

Democrats, of course, write poetry as well.

Here, also from the Library of Congress, is an early work of a young Barack Obama:

Underground

Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water,
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue

The Library of Congress asked Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale University, to evaluate Underground and another of Obama’s poems, and, he said that, “Underground is the better of Obama’s two poems, reminiscent of some of D. H. Lawrence’s poetry.”

“I think it is about some sense of chthonic forces, just as Lawrence frequently is—some sense, not wholly articulated, of something below, trying to break through,” said Bloom.

And, the LOC notes:

Obama’s poetry, Bloom makes clear, is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter (Bloom calls Carter “literally the worst poet in the United States”).

Tweeting, of course, is by its nature a medium of concision and a form of poetry. Now, with Poetweet, we have a website that instantly turns anyone’s tweets into poetry – either a sonnet, a rondel or an indriso. The results are very uneven – poetry is still better written with intention. But Poetweet also enables you to scroll over the poem and get fuller citations for each tweet from which the line is drawn, which is of great value to scholars of the form.

I spent some time with this over the weekend, and while I enjoyed it, the results mostly don’t hold up the next day. For example, this Poetweet, derived from Dave Carney’s tweets, starts very strong but then fizzles into incoherence.

Our Home

by Dave Carney

All Haters go home! Case resolved.
Wendy Davis painted Texas redder
Chuck Norris approved

All legacy airline on passengers
Feb 2nd Chris Kyle Day | RedState
Chance right? Every vote matters!

A jump on cleaning out the trash?

Commanding General Sean MacFarland

And this Poetweet from Bobby Jindal seems aimless until two stunning lines in its third stanza.

The crisis

by Gov. Bobby Jindal

Hurt our famers and our businesses.
Washington knows what’s best.
Men and women & their spouses.
Guys in government are the dumbest.

Out who is crossing our borders.
Is running your healthcare.
It’s time to cheer on the Tigers.
Adults over seniors in Medicare.

Domestic/international no-fly list.
Fight back Tigers. Bring on Bama!
In the resurrection of Christ.

With the 10th pick. What a steal!
Play the Steelers! Geaux Saints!
Everything I can to work for repeal

If tweeting is clearly an art form, I am not yet sure whether retweeting is truly a form of creative expression. Of course, early on, there were those who thought photography was not really art.

But, if retweeting comes into its own as a celebrated means of expression, it should  be recalled that we have one of its early masters in our midst.

I am talking, of course, of Gov. Greg Abbott.

I conclude with his contributions to the genre just since his inauguration.

 

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
candid
candid

1791, that is a long way to go back to.  They wrote the laws for eternity, what a surprise. Wonder if they did consider the use of radio active bullets for self defense?  They too will be on the market soon if the NRA has something to say. Time does stand still for some Republicans.

candid
candid

Where do the Republicans find all the idiots, are they scouring the nations asylums? Are there any Texans with a brain left at all?  But Texas has to prove how crazy it is, called LONE star for a reason

PuddyTat
PuddyTat

From hence forth, whenever I hear Huckabee, I'll think prostitute cowboy.

requiem
requiem

Republicans govern in a Utopia ideal.  In their world religions other than Christianity, gays, teen sex, rape, blacks all do not exist.  It is not part of their perfect 1950s world.  That is why they cannot govern, they cannot see the reality of the people that make up America.  If they do see them, they seem them as enemies and not as Americans with different ideals and point of views.  Then they are experts at getting offended when they say something like "gays should not be allowed to teach in our schools" and people call them intolerant, but expect their intolerance that will affect how millions of people live their lives and view themselves, to be accepted.


Republicans are blind and they are hypocrites.  I will always be willing to work with Democrats.  They might think that throwing money at every problem is an ideal solution and have no spine to stand their ground against Republican onslaughts, but they do understand that America is for everyone and not just the white heterosexual male and they do see that there are problems and attempt to fix them, rather than just ignoring them or calling them an enemy.   





TT3
TT3

I nominate this for the "Wasted Use of Bandwidth" award.  Gee, Statesman, why isn't this gem behind the paywall?

Antonious
Antonious

Does John get paid by the word? 


Isn't this just another liberal Democrat screed about Republicans?  We learned John doesn't like any of the Repubs but dont' we already know that?  And why is he getting paid to tell us that?  We already have several columnists/editorialists writing from the liberal Democrat view.  No one is ever going to call the AAS "fair and balanced".  Why not get a Republican John so they can have competing columns and not just a one sided view as happens in most liberal papers?  A real debate or exchange of ideas, not just more snide remarks and subtle (and not so subtle) put downs of people John opposes.


Epic small mindedness.....sounds like the three posters who commented before me.

Bubba_Fett
Bubba_Fett

Proof positive that republicans don't know anything about running the country or poetry!

QuintanaRoos
QuintanaRoos

Gimme a break. His base are the Koch Bros. and the other 1%'ers who want to turn this country further into an oligarchy. Sure, he's also got the white working class knuckleheads who hate Obama as well, but the 1%'ers got the campaign cash and are the happy recipients of the tax breaks and sweetheart deals from the Feds.

Antonious
Antonious

@candid  You always sound so lost.  If the govt or a group isn't giving you something for free you hate them.  That is why the Democrat Party is in such terrible shape today.

Antonious
Antonious

@candid  You know little of our history so I am betting you have no idea why we are called the Lone Star state.


Talk about idiots did you see what the leftwing radicals at the U of Michigan did today?  Declared there are certain expressions and words no longer protected by the 1st and couldn't be used on campus.  Now in my day to have such a communist group tell you what to do and think would of gotten them run out of the place.  But students today are so docile, so afraid of being disliked that they are supposedly cowed by these threats.  Not sure what happened, why students are so afraid today.  It is as if each generation gets more and more cowardly and the left, on campuses especially, is taking advantage of that. 

Antonious
Antonious

@requiem  And you Dems wonder why you are in such disfavor at the moment.  Just read requiem's diatribe and it will tell you all you need to know.  Not sure why the concentration on "gays", unless that is your big cause.  But really we know Dems hate Repubs, you guys tell us that everyday. Isn't that the whole purpose of John's columns?

candid
candid

@Bubba_Fett no sense of humor either. They hate to look in the mirror too.

candid
candid

@Antonious @requiem we don't hate Republicans we would just like to hide them so the people in the  world don't get to see them and find out how crazy Texas really is. 

Overhanded_Jack_2nite
Overhanded_Jack_2nite

@Antonious @requiem But Republicans love Democrats? Awww, that's so sweet. On behalf of myself and all of the other Democrats, we sincerely apologize for not reciprocating your love.