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Review: Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

Taft 2012
by Jason Heller


He's back...and he's the BIGGEST thing in politics.

After mysteriously disappearing in 1913, the same day his successor was sworn into office, William Howard Taft, 27th president of the United States, has reappeared. A team is quickly assembled to bring Taft up too speed on life in the 21st century, including the foremost biographer on Taft's life and his granddaughter, now a US Senator. As his celebrity grows, the American people find that they like Taft's self-deprecating humor and gentile manners, and a grass-roots movement springs up, calling on Taft to run for the 2012 presidency. Taft – who neither wanted or enjoyed his first term in office – sees the many problems faced by the country and wants to help, but can a man from the early 20th century survive in modern politics?

Now, I am far from a Taft expert, but one thing I know about the man was that he was the only person to be both a President and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But in this tale, Taft disappears in 1913, and the last seventeen years of his life never happened. It's a relatively minor quibble in a fantasy story, but why couldn't the author have simply had Taft disappear around the time of his death, rather than ignoring the high point of Taft's career? It wouldn't have affected the plot in a significant way, but by ignoring a fairly large chunk of history, the story immediately jumped from 'could happen' to 'could happen only in an alternate universe'.

The book pokes fun at the media hoopla of politics and the success of fringe groups like the Tea Party and Occupy movements in changing the national dialogue. When it's doing this, Taft 2012 gets some really good jokes in, and it's funny. The story also highlights many of the major issues today: legalizing marijuana, gay marriage, and food production. Actually, there's a lot of emphasis on food production, because Taft was fat and therefore obsessed with food, ha ha. These jokes weren't nearly as successful, and after a while Taft's delight in stuffing twinkies and hot dogs down his throat became tired.

As I read, I kept thinking, “Why Taft?” I mean, was he chosen to be the time-traveling president solely to tell fat jokes? Much of the humor either stems from his girth or his great walrus mustache. When you get right down to it, he doesn't show much of a personality, so the character could have been played by any of the second-string presidents...but again, Taft was fat and likes to eat when stressed, so let's choose him.

The other thing that bugged me was that Taft really didn't seem surprised by the technology of the 21st century. I mean, look at what we have now that he didn't – TV, cell phones, microwave ovens, the Internet, e-mail, iPods, air travel for the masses, space flight, microphones, nuclear bombs – I could go on and on. But none of it fazes Taft. In fact, he doesn't seem impressed or intrigued by any of it; he just nods his head and either uses the new items or ignores them. I mean, I'm glad it was easy for him, but should it have been? I remember watching my grandparents – heck, even my parents! - struggle with new cell phones or playing computer games, but Taft only needs two or three minutes and he's happily playing Wii Golf with a friend.

It's an interesting idea, and a light quick read. I think it could have been a lot better, but Taft 2012 does have amusing (if highly topical) jokes in its pages. If you need a laugh during the next few months- and goodness, won't we all if the Republicans and Democrats continue as they are? - then Taft 2012 might be fun for you.

2.5 out of 5 stars


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