How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016 by P. J. O'Rourke
HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN? is a wild series of essays insulting just about everyone associated with the last presidential campaign. Republican, Democrat, Independent--even the SPOUSE of the candidate--you're all fair game!
Warning: If you are sensitive to insults to your favorite politician, avoid this book!
Of course, there are customary jokes about the Donald's hair and Hillary's attire--but I found the description of the other candidates funnier. If you are a fan of Senator Cruz, you may wish to skip the author's observation that "Ted Cruz is the earnest, fervid boy speaking in tongues at the tent revival while his pals sneak around the back to smoke cigarettes, drink moonshine, and smooch with Sunday school girls."
Perhaps the funniest (and also the most creative) insult is reserved for the mild-mannered Senator Lindsey Graham. Assessing why the senator's candidacy failed so badly, the author notes that Lindsey’s strategy was to "have a girl’s name, tricking progressives into thinking they were voting for America’s first transgender president."
Wow--I never thought of that strategy!
The author manages to offend every person on the planet--even prior candidates. Mitt Romney makes an especially nice target. He ridicules the "Mormon Wearing special underpants that, according to LDS church literature, provide “protection against temptation and evil.”
Is nothing sacred? The candidate's UNDERWEAR?
For readers not familiar with political terms, and how to translate them, the author provides a fun "Glossary" of terms in the back. For example, when a conservative political pundit says “mainstream media,” that translates to “ass-kissing pinko milksops.”
My favorite chapters are the author's "Better Way to Choose a President" chapters. O'Rourke calls one the "Road Trip" method, where voters choose their candidate based on affability--specifically, how much fun they would be on a long car trip. Voters ask themselves just this one question: “Which candidate would I go on a road trip with?” The author speculates on how this would have gone in the past. For Richard Nixon, not so well, he suggests: "A road trip with Richard Nixon would seem like gum surgery on wheels."
The author is pretty kind to Dr. Ben Carson. He really wanted the doctor to quit the race. Save his energy for surgery, he opines:
"Get back to work, damn it! We need you. George W.’s and Jeb’s heads might get conjoined. True, they’re not twins. But the Bush family is inbred, and freakish things can result from inbreeding. . . Right now you could be teaching some young plastic surgeon how to remove Donald Trump’s ruptured gel-filled silicone brain implant that is endangering Republicans everywhere."
I liked the author's alternate method, described in Chapter 24, of choosing a president better. This method requires that the SPOUSE of the candidate actually run the country:
"What if we elect the president and then let the first lady run the country? Historical research and analysis suggest that allowing the role of head of state to devolve upon the marital partner or social helpmeet of the president would create a freer, stronger, more peaceful, and more prosperous United States of America."
Here's how the country would work under this "spouse" method of governance. Under Ronald Regan, for example Nancy would consult her Astrologer, who "Calculates that the nation (sun sign Cancer with Sagittarius rising) has its moon in Aquarius and Mars in Gemini. It’s an auspicious moment. Nancy dresses up and gives a party for eight years."
Well, you get the idea. HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN? is a wacky, zany, fun read. But definitely not for the meek or thin-skinned. And definitely don't wear your special underwear around the author.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher. Photos courtesy of Pexels.