Cal Thomas’ ‘Wit and Wisdom’ needs more of both, more cats

"The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas" book cover.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Every now and then you stumble onto one of those things that almost seems like it has to be a joke. Something so ridiculous that you have to ask yourself how someone could possibly have taken it seriously.

“The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas” is one such item, but, in fairness to Cal Thomas, it is meant to be a bit of a joke.

The cover of the book — which features the picture of Cal Thomas stroking his cat to the right of this article says pretty much everything about this book that anyone could possibly need to say.

My friend sent the book to me as a birthday gift and, after discussing it with me, we eventually agreed that this book had to be reviewed in the Lariat.

Part of the reason that reviewing the book is so interesting is because it came out in 2001, right near the end of the Clinton administration and the beginning of George W. Bush’s tenure as president.

That actually, somewhat counter-intuitively, actually adds to the book instead of taking away from it. The book has aged surprisingly well and serves as an interesting look at a political arena that has changed very little over the course of the past decade.

The idea behind ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas’ is that his thoughts are so profound that they must be shared with everyone who is capable of reading them.

I speak partially in jest, of course, but the book does seriously describe Thomas as “a stubbornly independent thinker,” which strikes me as being pretty far from the truth, given that Thomas largely espouses textbook conservative talking points.

There’s a chapter on how great Ronald Reagan is that pretty much takes out any credibility to the claim that Thomas is “stubbornly independent.” There is no courageous criticism of Reagan to be found here.

This book is likely not going to change anyone’s mind about any of their core beliefs — although I guess that is theoretically possible — but it certainly has the potential to re-enforce beliefs that one already holds.

Ultimately, however, the book isn’t quite as funny as it thinks it is. It has some shining moments — Thomas’ description of his cat in the acknowledgements is downright hilarious.

“Thanks to my cat, ‘Precious,’ also affectionately known as ‘The Wiener’ for the sleek body she had when young (too much food and love have turned her into a full-figured feline) for posing with me on the cover,” Thomas writes.

Sadly, however, that might be the funniest part of the book. Many of the other jokes fall flat, although, in Thomas’ defense, they do largely succeed as conservative talking points, which is what he is best known for producing.

If you’re familiar with Thomas or his other writing, there’s nothing here that’s going to surprise you. If you’re looking for the book version of conservative sound bites, however, then you need not look further.

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