Presidents' Week: an imaginary First Lady

the book:

The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley

published 1986 chapter 33

Just before eight o’clock we were about to go down. There was a kafuffle at the door. It opened and in walked the First Lady.

I personally was delighted…

The President’s marital situation during the campaign – rather, the lack of one – has been dragged through the mud of at least a dozen White House memoirs, and I do not propose to do the same here. But there she was, stunning in red fox and black leather pants. She had flown in from location to be with him in his hour of defeat. I have always said that Jessica Tucker was a woman of character.

If anyone of the senior staff had any doubts as to whether or not the President and she still loved each other, they were dispelled moments after she walked through the door when they embraced. Frankly, I was worried that they might fall to the floor, they were so demonstrative…

observations: This completely hilarious book is a satire on politics, on political memoirs, on politicians – although you don’t need any special knowledge to enjoy it. It starts in 1989 (3 years after it was written) with Ronald Reagan refusing to leave the White House. The narrator, Herbert Wadlough, is a personal assistant to Reagan’s successor, Thomas Tucker, and is the finest unreliable narrator you could ever wish to meet. His report on the Presidency, from the dissing of a valet’s memoir called One Hundred years of Solicitude to the description of getting info from someone as ‘like squeezing a third cup out of a teabag’, is uproarious.

The First Lady is a filmstar who doesn’t always take kindly to the restrictions of her DC role. Fussy, careful Herbert is sometimes on top of the important issues of the day (tennis court rotas and car parking) and sometimes suffers from the plots of wily others. You end up wishing there really had been a President Tucker.

‘Kafuffle’ is interesting – when Clothes in Books worked for an American magazine (15 years after this book was published) most Americans didn’t know the word, or knew it only as a weird Britishism (“is it some kind of English toffee?”). It is just right for Herbert in the book, and perhaps is more of an East Coast thing.

Links up with: Presidential entries for most of this week. More fox fur

The picture is of a dyed foxfur jacket in Dusseldorf, and came from
Wikimedia Commons.