Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 7-8)


The Great Story Ever Sold

The Decline and Fall of TRUTH, from 9/11 to Katrina

By: Frank Rich

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Reviews

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Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Seven: Slam Dunk

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would categorize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” Paul O’Neill The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 113

“The White House’s prohibition on photo’s of flag-draped coffins from Iraq, it seemed, did not extend to the politically useful pictures of casualties from 9/11.” – Regarding such pictures in campaign commercials. The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 119

“Such protests raised a question: If the country was so firmly in support of the war, as Bush loyalists claimed, by what logic would photographs of its selfless soldiers, either of their faces or of their flag-draped coffins, undermine public support?” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 127

Thirteen after leaving his job in the administration, Paul O’Neill, with Ron Suskind, wrote a book attacking the administration. According to O’Neill, the administration was focused on deposing Saddam from the very first National Security meeting and were just looking for a way. Shortly after Richard Clark, Bush’s counterterrorism czar released a book supporting O’Neill and providing more damning evidence towards an Administration that had dropped the ball. Most of the facts revealed by the two were already known, but they did what facts couldn’t, they put a human face to the facts. The Administration tried to write them off and sent agents to attack their message, but none worked.

Over the next several months bad news continued to pile up; dead Americans hanging from a bridge, Abu Ghraib, Pat Tillman’s brave death fighting insurgents. The Media began turning to the families of the dead for ratings. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Rush Limbaugh and others did their best to the defend the Administration, but pictures of American’s fake-raping Iraqi’s needed no commentary.

The election year was coming up, and the Administration fought back hard against the bad stories. They blamed Liberals and Democrats for the Jersey Girls wanting a 9/11 Commission, though the head of the group had voted for Bush. They accused cowardly journalists in Iraq of not leaving their hotels to see the good things occurring in Iraq, though 34 journalists had already died doing just that. They blamed the mounting deaths of Americans on thugs and terrorists. They twisted and lied about the death of Pat Tillman, they lied about the President’s actions on 9/11, they exaggerated Iraqi police forces, and they downplayed or ignored the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib. The American people were slowly turning against the war in Iraq.

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Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This chapter was hard to summarize due to the breadth of information covered, and I hope I did it justice. Frank Rich goes through more than a dozen events highlighting both the bad news coming out of Iraq or former Bush insiders, and the Administration’s attempts to silence that news. Going through it it’s hard not to get a pessimistic view of the entire timeline.

The important point though, I think, is that even as all the bad news was coming out, the Administration was more concerned with fixing the message than fixing the mess. Highlighted by a poignant Karl Rove quote a year after the Mission Accomplished banner, he said he wished the banner hadn’t been there. But the banner wasn’t a problem it was just a symptom of a problem, it was a visible reminder of a disconnect between facts on the ground and the information spoon fed to the media. Karl Rove wasn’t wishing the Iraq war was done better, he was wishing it was sold better. And that was the problem with the Administration through out this whole period. Even as things kept getting worse and worse, rather than rushing to attack the problems, they rushed to attack the whistleblowers.

Quotes

Part Two

Chapter Eight: Reporting for Duty

“As the Press would report, many of the Swift Boat vets’ charges were easily debunked.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 139

“Having brought up Vietnam in the backdrop of this incipient quagmire, Kerry then choked. It turned out he had almost nothing to say about the subject” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 148

“The Republican right, for its part, saw an opening to use the ‘values’ mandate as a means to shove its own values down people’s throats.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 151

The Republicans were looking for someone they could easily make out to be weak on defense and a 70’s radical, instead they got John Kerry, who could do play the role of soldier far better than George Bush. John Kerry had won multiple awards during the Vietnam war including the bronze star for valor in rescuing an overboard crewmate. Yet, for all his attempts, his campaigns skills at stagecraft were unprepared for the Swift Boats Vets for Truth, and for all the loaded weapons the White House had given him, his fumbling speeches and gaffes made him an easy target for ridicule.

After staking his entire Presidential campaign on his past military service, and having most of that chipped away by the Swift Boat Vets, Kerry did himself in by having nothing to say on the Iraq war. While the President and his men set about scaring America into making a safe choice, Kerry hid from his anti-war past and offered no specific alternatives to the Iraq war.

Despite being a horrible candidate, and going against an entrenched Administration able and willing to manipulate the terror warnings for political gains, Kerry held George Bush to 51%. This somehow became a “mandate,” an election determined by so-called ‘value-voters.’ The Media knew a sexy story when they heard it, and they went with it. When voters were given a list of specific reasons for their vote, and a final unspecific “value issues” reason (abortion? Gay rights? Helping the poor?) the majority selected matters connected to national security, but since no single matter of national security was singled out as much as the broad umbrella of “values”, that was the story. And it’s a narrative that threatens to doom political discourse for years.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Book Notes

Frank Rick

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

George Bush

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Middle East

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

This chapter reads a little whiney. The author starts off making the case that Kerry was a good candidate, and any cursory look at the guy would show he’s a great politician. Fought in a war he volunteered for, volunteered to go to the front lines and was awarded multiple awards. Came home and began a political career by saying the Vietnam war was wrong, a point that most people would agree with today. He then spent many years in political office, requiring him to run and win many campaigns. Then he slams him for not responding and having enough to say on the war. Now, he might well be right to a point, but Monday-morning quarter backers can normally make a point or two too.

The parts that read a bit more informative are where he talks about John Ashcroft using his podium to scare Americans for political gain. Since then, he’s written a book admitting that he was under political pressure to do just that. Complaining about the fact that Kerry was a bad candidate and lost a campaign, whether true or not, really doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the book.

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