Book review: The Book on Bush
For several days now I've been wrestling with the question of whether I should mention the book I recently finished here on Simple Tricks. It's a political book, you see, and my mother always told me that you should never discuss religion or politics in public. That's good advice, particularly when you live in a place where conformity is valued more than diversity and your personal views tend to run against the grain. I learned early that it's usually better to keep your mouth shut than to say what's on your mind and risk alienating your friends. In sum, I've been hesitant to mention my latest reading because I haven't wanted to pick a fight, especially with those friends who I'm certain probably don't share my opinions on current events.
However, I truly believe that the times are grave enough to justify the risk of a confrontation, and with this election year already heating up and so much felgercarb about the candidates already flying, I've decided to go ahead and write about this subject and hope that no one reading this blog will take offense. Instead, I hope my readers (all three of you) will carefully consider the issues that may be raised by what I'm about to say. Hear me out, and if you disagree with me when I'm finished, then we'll shake hands, thank whichever version of God we worship that we live in America, and remain friends.
I may as well admit where I stand right up front: I despise George W. Bush and his cronies and I want them out of the White House ASAP.
It's not because they are Republican or conservative. My problem with the Bush administration goes far beyond the usual parameters of Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. (In fact, I would gladly vote for another Republican if that was the only way we could get rid of these weasels; in addition, I think you can make a good argument that these guys are anything but conservative.) No, my problem with Bush and Co. is that they are unscrupulous men who are motivated by equal parts greed and zealotry, who have abused the powers of the White House in ways that Bill Clinton and even Richard Nixon never would have dared dream about, and who do everything in the name of their own petty self-interest at the expense of the average man's prosperity. The figurehead of these men is none other than George Walker Bush, a small-minded man who by his own admission has only the most cursory understanding of the complex world around him, and who, on issue after issue after issue, has sided with power and wealth over the common American.
Don't believe my appraisal of our Fearless Leader? Then check out The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)Leads America by Eric Alterman and Mark Green. Read it carefully, and then ask yourselves the question posed by Ronald Reagan's ad campaigns nearly a quarter-century ago: are you better off today than you were four years ago? More importantly, is America better off?
To help you make up your mind, Alterman and Green provide, in a convenient single volume and just in time for the election season, a comprehensive review of the last three years under the Bush White House. Each chapter focuses on a particular bundle of issues: environmental and energy policies, economics, how the president reacted to Enron and other business scandals, security and civil liberties, health care, race, education, science, judicial appointments, poverty, crime, labor issues, and foreign policy both before and after 9/11. The authors build a compelling and damning case against the defendant. Practically from the moment he entered office, Bush 43 has established a pattern of saying one thing (usually what the public wants to hear) while doing another (often the opposite of what the public wants or needs), twisting the facts to meet his pre-conceived goals and ideas, and always – ALWAYS – kowtowing to the wishes of Big Business and the extreme religious right. The President Bush presented here is stubborn, self-righteous, convinced of his own rectitude, and possibly motivated by a belief that his hand is being guided by God Himself. (Now I don't know about you, but I find that pretty frightening. A man who thinks he has God on his side can justify damn near anything, regardless of how much harm he causes.) In addition, the book describes an administration that is almost pathologically defensive and opposed to dissent of any kind, an administration that blames all of its failings on the previous administration, and one that has ruthlessly exploited a national tragedy to pursue goals so unthinkably radical in scope that Bush's own father refused to even consider them.
The book's primary flaw is that it is occasionally very dense, slow reading. (I would posit, however, that this is a good thing in a book of this sort, because it forces you to re-read, to mull, to try and tease out the necessary connections between a lot of complicated data.) Another problem is that the authors occasionally resort to sarcasm and snarkiness in order to make a point. This defect is hardly unique in the today’s sour political climate, but it is disappointing. The snide remarks may draw a laugh from the true-believers, but they also tend to sound like sour grapes to people outside the circle and therefore undermine the authors' case against Bush. Still, these are minor flaws in an otherwise sober-minded and compelling book.
A bigger problem, at least for some readers, will be the author's credentials – they are both unabashed, card-carrying liberals (Alterman wrote the book What Liberal Media? and Green has held public office as a Democrat). I know that little factoid will instantly invalidate these men's perspectives for certain readers. The facts they present, however, are pretty hard to argue with, regardless of what affiliations the authors may admit to. It has been said that liberals lose debates because they are motivated by emotion whereas conservatives rely on statistics and logic alone. Well, if that's true, then this is a debate Alterman and Green must win – the book is exhaustively annotated, with some 54 pages of references in the back.
In the end, you'll make up your own mind what you think of our incumbent president, regardless of what I may think or write in this space. But I hope you will remember that the men who are currently in charge would deny you the debate over their merits, if they had their druthers. In the Bushiverse, they are right and anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong, but unpatriotic. Does that sound like the America you were taught about in school, the one that was described in those "Schoolhouse Rock" segments we grew up on?
My friends, we are living in a pivotal moment in history. The events of these early years of the new century – particularly this election year – could literally make or break our great country. That means it is more vital than ever that people express their opinions, that we have a free and open debate about the issues that matter, and most importantly, that we educate ourselves about what has really gone on in this country over the last few years and vote accordingly come November.