Nel's New Day

March 20, 2018

John Oliver Hops All Over Mike Pence

With all the grim news since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was elected over 16 months ago, a bit of joy is always welcome. For me, it came in the form of John Oliver’s most recent HBO show, Last Week Tonight. The 30-minute comedy/news series typically ends with an in-depth 20-minute segment on subjects of interest such as the bitcoin, national flood insurance, and Confederate monuments. Last Sunday, the topic was VP Mike Pence. As usual, Oliver covered the extreme Christian fundamentalist well, addressing his strong connections with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and his incessant lying to cover his bigotry and his support for DDT’s lying as well as Pence’s anti-LGBQ campaigns in supporting conversion therapy, preventing LGBTQ military members, and legalizing religious discrimination against LGBTQ people while Indiana’s governor. The clips show that Pence is just as dishonest as Trump, for example the confrontation about DDT lying about winning the popular vote. Pence called the lies, “refreshing.” Pence just isn’t as good about lying as DDT is. Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn.

Three-fourths through Oliver’s segment, however, it came to a sharp turn. The Pence family has a beloved bunny pet named Marlon Bondo along with two cats and a snake. DDT, the first president without a pet in 150 years, called it “low class” to take these pets into their residence at the Naval Observatory” and referred to the Pences as “yokels.” Sadly, the cat on the left, Pickle, died last December at the age of 16, but Marlon is thriving with his own Instagram where he is called BOTUS—Bunny of the United States.

Now BOTUS is the subject of a picture book for children, Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice-President, written by Pence’s wife, Karen, and illustrated by their daughter Charlotte (pictured above with Marlon). With details about one day in Marlon’s life, the book is intended as an educational perspective on the role of the vice president of the United States. The Pences are taking a book tour to promote their book with a stop at the Focus on the Family, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The format has been used before, for example in Ted Kennedy’s My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C. featuring Splash, Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog. Many politicians and celebrities have books written about themselves, and they don’t usually make much of a “splash.” John Oliver changed that lack of attention by sponsoring another picture book for children about Marlon. At the end of his segment on Pence, Oliver promoted Last Night Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller. Although some people who both oppose and support Pence call Oliver’s book a “spoof” or “parody” it is neither. Pence’s book was the inspiration for Twiss’ charming children’s book, suitable for children and one with an entirely different story.  The entire Oliver segment is here; you can forward to 15:33 for the animated film from Oliver’s book.

In the Oliver book, Marlon, sporting a multi-colored bowtie, falls in love with Wesley, and they want to get married, but a stink bug (read by John Lithgow in the audiobook) tells them that they cannot be married because they are both boy rabbits. Marlon and Wesley, however, gain support from all the other creatures in the garden with a happy ending, demonstrating to all the “different” children, for whatever reason, that they should have hope. Oliver said during his promotion of the book on the Ellen DeGeneres Show that he wanted to read his two-year-old son a book that “paints the world in the light that you want it to be rather than the way it’s currently being painted.”

 

The publishers of the two Marlon books are as different as the books themselves. Chronicle Books is a small independent publisher, located in San Francisco, that has been releasing quality books for the past half century. Author proceeds will go to The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services LGBTQ young people ages 13-24. and AIDS United, a group working to stop the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. The first printing of 75,000 has been sold out, but another 150,000 will be available in a few weeks. People who don’t want to wait can get the ebook version at betterbundobook.com or by donating $11.99 to either of the two national projects.

The Pence book has been published by a conservative publisher, Regnery Publishing, which has authors such as Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Newt Gringich, Robert Spencer, and DDT. In the 1950s, Regnery published a book sympathetic to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the midst of his anti-communist witch hunt and two books by the founder of the John Birch Society. The Regnery family sold the publishing company 25 years ago, but the former president still sits on the company’s board. Regnery’s 1996 book Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House by Gary Aldrich “painted images of Hillary Clinton hanging crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree and claimed to expose lesbian affairs in the White House basement,” according to Max Blumenthal. Eleven years ago, five authors sued their publisher, Regnery claiming that Regnery fraudulently diverts sales from retail outlets to make more money for parent corporation, Eagle Publishing, causing them to make $.10 per copy instead of $4.25 outside Eagle. They lost because Regnery had forced them to sign contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses.

The Pence family’s book is raising money for Tracy’s Kids, an art program for children with cancer, and A21, an organization that fights human trafficking.

William H. Regnery II, a member of the publishing family, has a long history of anti-immigrant white nationalism and a mission to reconfigure the United States into a white-only homeland. His two white nationalist nonprofits steered money to supporters of the KKK, Holocaust deniers, immigration foes, and eugenics boosters. The mainstream Republicans rejected him for a while, but he’s now becoming effective behind the scenes with his discovery with alt-right, white supremacist Richard Spencer who became the front for the National Policy Institute. Regnery believes that white supremacy will win with Spencer in charge. Although Regnery’s grandfather was a New Deal Democrat, he helped found the far-right America First Committee to keep the U.S. from going to war against Nazi Germany and collected a following of Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites. With DDT’s campaign the America First brand reappeared to open popularity in the far-right spectrum.

John Oliver’s Marlon Bondo book hit #1 on Amazon almost immediately after its release, followed by James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership to be released on April 17 and Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The Pences’ book is at #4. Amazon.com has over 4,000 reviews with an overall five-star rating; the other book has under 100 reviews at a 4.5 star. At amazon you can look at pages from both books.

May the best bunny win!

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