It seemed like a clever idea: adapt Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney Would You Please Go Now! to W — perfect, because it’s a simple book, filed under the good Dr.’s “Bright & Early” catalog. Small words, lots of repetition, a little fantasy to keep the pages turning (“You can go in a Crunk-car if you wish”).
But a quick Google turned up Wikipedia’s account of a political legend: Syndicated columnist Art Buchwald gave Geisel a really hard time for penning apolitical rhymes. Seuss retorted by subbing “Richard M. Nixon” for our stubborn protagonist in a copy of the book, and a “delighted” Buchwald reprinted same. Nine days later, says Wikipedia, Tricky Dick exited stage right.
The New York Times tells a variation of the story: “Another real-life model for one of the writer and illustrator of children’s books was Richard M. Nixon, who is disguised as a puppy-like creature who is constantly told to ‘go’ in ‘Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now,’” reported a 1979 “Notes on People” column. Geisel reportedly said that Buchwald “twitted” him during the Watergate hearings. “The irony, said Mr. Geisel, is that the book was published the day before Mr. Nixon resigned.”
But Nixon announced his resignation on August 8, 1974. Marvin K. Mooney was published in 1972, well before the televised Senate Watergate hearings began on May 18, 1973.
Perhaps the mischievous Dr. Seuss wasn’t about to do a reporter’s work for her; perhaps like the Times itself, he was engaging in a little Judith Miller-style revisionism. This past Sunday, the Times published an editorial titled “The Road Home” which began with this unequivocal (and overdue) sentence: “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.” The paper neatly dissects the moral and tactical dilemmas we face as we try to extricate ourselves from a misbegotten war, but it never mentions the role of its former star reporter in stoking the appetite of a 9-11-addled public for war with Iraq.
We can’t dwell on that malfeasance, either, because we have more immediate problems on our hands, including a President who’s shown nothing but contempt for public opinion and the law — a trait that is only intensifying as the Plame and Justice Department investigations tighten their grasp on the executive branch. The parallels to Watergate do not have to be precise to be damning. Then, as now, a trail of high-profile resignations and prosecutions led slowly but inexorably toward the White House, and in the end, no amount of rear-guard scrambling could save the President. Then, as now, the key question became, what did he know, and when did he know it?