Deb Werksman is an editorial manager at independent publisher Sourcebooks, and is the author and compiler of the George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown Calendar (as recently featured on... the talking dog!) On December 18, 2006, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Werksman by e-mail exchange.
The Talking Dog: My traditional first question (largely because I'm assembling alibis!) is "where were you on September 11th"?
Deb Werksman: I was in my office in Connecticut, working, and a friend called me and said, the World Trade Center has collapsed. I ran downstairs to a neighbor’s office that had a TV and watched the second tower collapse. Everyone was stunned. My kids’ school called and said they were sending everyone home and to come pick up the kids. We’re less than 1 1/2 hours from NYC, so it was very local here.
The Talking Dog: I see from Sourcebooks' web-site that the Out of Office Countdown calendar is your biggest seller right now. If you can tell me, how is it selling in red states vs. blue states? Is there any kind of bipartisan consensus on people counting down for the end of the Bush presidency that you have observed?
Deb Werksman: The very first place it started selling was in Washington DC! I don’t think I can give you a geographical breakdown, but I’ve done radio interviews all over the country and I think it’s selling across party lines. With Bush’s approval ratings at their lowest point ever, a lot of people are counting the days...
The Talking Dog: I understand that you have sent samples out to members of Congress... was that to members of both parties? What kind of feedback have you gotten for the calendar?
Deb Werksman: We sent them as gifts to every Democratic Senator, House Members and newly elected Democratic Governors (for obvious reasons), along with many prominent members of the media. For Congress members, we included a letter congratulating them on their victory, and said we're happy that they're at the forefront of the American people's desire for change. We also let them know that humor is probably one of the most powerful elements of any free-spirited public discourse, thus the calendar. Many of them have sent letters back to say "thanks," that they find the calendar "amusing" and reconfirming their commitment to changing the nation's course. A lot of media people are emailing cautiously to thank us (not for quotation, you understand) and telling us they can’t hang it up in their office but they’re definitely going to take it home , or give it as a gift. As for the Republicans that did get it (yes, there were a few with a good sense of humor) the favorite answer is that they have some "Lib friends or relatives" that they can give it to for a gift as well.
The Talking Dog: Was any particular decision made with respect to the pictures-- to depict the President as "Presidential?" I ask this because I noticed that in 10 of the 12 pictures selected, he is wearing a suit and tie, in the other two, pictured with his father the former President Bush, "at leisure". You haven't picked either the famous "Mission Accomplished" flight-suit picture, or the President brush-clearing or falling off a segway or bicycle for example... How come? Is this to respect the dignity of the office (even if the President himself does not)?
Deb Werksman: We were constrained by what photos were available at the photo agency we used (for budget reasons we had to license all the photos from one place) and by the technical aspect of photos with enough resolution that they could be blown up that big. Aesthetically, we were looking for dumbness, not necessarily wardrobe. We went for the laugh factor as much as possible.
As for the dignity of the office: Again, political satire has a long, illustrious history in our country and the First Amendment is part of what makes this country great. We say, there are no sacred cows.
The Talking Dog: You've called this calendar a source of horror and hilarity at the same time (an experience I fully agree with.) For example, you offer one quote from 2003 where the President "confesses 'I'm the master of low expectations.' " The same month, you quote Bush as saying "It's amazing I won, I was running against peace, prosperity and incumbency." The first is a shockingly candid 6-word explanation for his entire presidency if not his entire life on this planet. The second is actually very witty... and accurate. I found them both... scary. Did any of the quotes, pictures, or other materials you used in compiling the calendar manage to scare the hell out of you?
Deb Werksman: I was particularly appalled by “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier...”
Also, “I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”
But one of my absolute favorites is, “Border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better.”
The Talking Dog: I understand you previously edited "Quayle Quarterly", so I'm going to (dangerously) assume that you are somewhat familiar with Poppy Bush's Vice-President (who is, if nothing else, a far better golfer than either of the Bushes... and never said "now watch this drive."). How do Dan Quayle's verbal missteps and miscues compare to Goerge W. Bush's? Were there more of them? Do you have an opinion on who the bigger mangler of our language is?
Deb Werksman: It seemed obvious to us once W. took over that Dan Quayle must have reminded Poppy of his son.
Quayle was remarkable for such statements as “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind...” (paraphrasing the United Negro College Fund motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”) Quayle’s misstatements had a certain poetical quality that is lacking in Bush. In Quayle’s case the humor was also more on the surface because he was a full heartbeat away from the presidency. But Quayle was definitely a bi-partisan problem and it looks as though W. may be that now, too. He sure is doing a heckuva job...
The Talking Dog: Besides the Out of Office Countdown calendar, do you have any other gift ideas (whether from Sourcebooks or elsewhere) for those of us who are eagerly awaiting the end of the President's term?
Deb Werksman: Our book You Know You’re a Republican/Democrat if... is also very popular, as is The George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown Handbook, which has a lot of material that didn’t fit into the calendar and is really funny (and scary, of course). I’ve heard there’s a countdown keychain, but I haven’t seen it.
The Talking Dog: Are there any other questions I should have asked you about the calendar, your work, or anything else, or anything else that my readers should be aware of?
Deb Werksman: No, I think we’ve covered everything! Hang in there! It’s almost over...
The Talking Dog: I join all my readers in thanking Deb Werksman for that amusing interview, and you might want to take a look at the George W. Bush Out of Office Calendar. Really, the best way to get through the next 762 or 763 days...
Wow. Very impressive.
Supreme concept of a personalized web portal.
I look forward to using this as my browsers' start page.
Keep up the good work!
Posted by Swetlana Maßat at December 19, 2006 6:40 PM