March 20, 2017

Trump finds a new Irish proverb, and finally looks at a book


Illustration by Carly Miller.

It’s hard to think of a week that’s been good for the Trump administration PR-wise, but you could make a strong case that the last week was one of the worst. In the spirit of “hey, neither of these embarrassments will get us all killed,” let’s take a closer look at two of the most trivial.

Meeting with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, Trump cited an Irish proverb, one he claimed to have loved for years: “Always remember to forget the friends who’ve proved untrue, but never forget to remember those who’ve stuck by you.” Yes! This is a perfect proverb for Trump, who definitely forgets those who have wronged him and never, ever holds a grudge. Sarah McKibben, a professor of Irish language and literature at the University of Notre Dame, told Politifact’s Lauren Carroll that it “doesn’t read like an Irish proverb, which tend to be pithy, witty or profound.” Which, again, makes it the perfect Trumpian proverb.

Except it’s not really a proverb, and it’s probably not Irish:

Many on Twitter were thrilled to find the poem seemed to have been written by Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan. The poem appears under his name on PoemHunter, a website which collects famous poems as well as those submitted by users. Alhassan’s was submitted on 22 January 2013.

Carroll took at look at it though, and told us all to just calm down. It probably wasn’t Nigerian either.

However, Alhassan has no bio on or any other poetry website we could find. So we don’t know if Alhassan is a poet, Nigerian, or even a real person. (We found one person with that name on Facebook, but he was a banker, not a poet.) We couldn’t find any other reference to this poem attached to the name Alhassan or any other Nigerian person.

If Alhassan did write the poem, he’s got a bone to pick with JoAnne Tuttle, a Texas woman who included the poem, dated Feb. 9, 2003, in a collection titled Crystal Inspirations: Poems by JoAnne Tuttle.

If Tuttle wrote the poem in 2003, she must be a time traveler because we found the same poem in a 1936 volume of the International Stereotypers’ and Electrotypers’ Union Journal.

Maybe we’ll never know. Moving on, in an interview on Fox News, noted non-leftist Tucker Carlson asked the president a classic softball question: “What do you do at the end of the day? What do you read, what do you watch?” Trump’s answer: “Well, you know, I love to read.” To which he added, “Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started.”

As Jack Holmes writes at Esquire, that’s progress!

The leader of the free world is “looking” at books. Many people are saying that’s the first step on the path towards reading one. Being president can be kind of time-consuming. But we’re confident Trump will find a minute to read that very specific book he’s referring to about Andrew Jackson, the genocidal dumpster of raging resentment whom he idolizes.

Now it’s the start of a new week, and all the chances that offers for them to embarrass themselves, and us.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.