January 24, 2001

Some Wild Ideas for the
New White House

By Roy Rivenburg

Government Beast Bureau: No wonder America gets so little respect from the rest of the world. Our presidents are total wimps. The proof is in their pets. Ever since Calvin Coolidge left office, U.S. commanders-in-chief have been afraid to share the White House with anything wilder than a dog, cat, squirrel or beret-clad intern.

Things weren't always so tame. John Quincy Adams kept an alligator in the East Room and Thomas Jefferson lived with a bear, according to presidential pet historian Ron Elmore of Kansas State University.

Martin Van Buren had a tiger at the White House and James Buchanan housed an elephant. In the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt's menagerie included a snake, a bear and a badger. But perhaps the manliest beast collection belonged to Coolidge, whose four-footed tenants included a lion, a small hippo, an antelope and a donkey, among others.

Most of the animals were gifts from foreign dignitaries, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. No word on whether the White House ever installed little doggy, gator or bear doors so the critters could come and go as they pleased.

Anyway, if George W. Bush wants to restore America's greatness, he should start taking afternoon strolls with a great white shark on a leash, or conduct peace summits with a cuddly rhino in his lap.

Moron Warning Bureau: In its continuing quest for dopey product warning labels, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse has discovered an electric wood router that says, ''This product not intended for use as a dental drill'' and a public toilet that cautions, ''Unsafe for drinking.''

Gelatin Land: Jell-O shill Bill Cosby will appear in Salt Lake City next week to ask Utah legislators to make the jiggly substance Utah's official state snack. Apparently, Utah denizens gobble more Jell-O per capita than any other state (they're also No. 1 in consuming marshmallows and chewing gum, possibly because sugar is one of the few vices allowed by the Mormon church). In related news, the state's governor proclaimed Feb. 4-10 as Utah Jell-O Week.

Alarming Trends Bureau: Disney Studios has released a sing-along version of the movie ''Evita,'' with lyrics in subtitles.

Weird Polls Bureau: Now that the elections are over, pollsters are back to asking Americans truly important questions. Here are their latest findings:

  • 29 percent of investment bankers long to write poetry, and 11% of CEOs dream of composing a fairy tale, according to a survey by Umbershoot.net.
  • People are more likely to turn their cell phones off at the movies (47 percent) than in church (40 percent), says a survey by AirPrime Inc.
  • 21 percent of women said the main advantage to working at home is being able to use your own brand of toilet paper, according to a survey by Ikea.
  • Idaho is the nation's ''sluttiest state,'' according to a survey by Jane magazine.

    Mark Your Calendars: Jan. 28 has been declared International Internet-Free Day, an occasion for web surfers to turn off their computers and take part in real-world activities. Naturally, the event is being sponsored by a website.

    This Week in History: The nation's first Social Security check was issued Jan. 31, 1940, to Ida Fuller of Vermont. Although she paid only $44 into the system, she received $21,000 in benefits by the time of her death in 1975.

    Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ''Devil Dog Fluffy Killed 8 Owners in 3 Years, Say Cops!'' (Weekly World News)

    Fluffy would make a fine White House pet.

    Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Chicago Sun-Times, PR Newswire.

    Copyright © 2000 by Roy Rivenburg
    Distributed by Creators Syndicate