Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The War Within by Bob Woodward

The fourth book of the Bush at War series by Bob Woodward, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008, covers the years the final two years of the Bush Presidency and recounts the decisions and internal strife of that period. The War Within picks up where State of Denial left off, with Iraq declining into a violent cesspool of sectarian war and the U.S. with no decisive strategy. Read more of this post


Book Review: State of Denial by Bob Woodward

State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward is a definitive break from his two previous Bush at War books which we reviewed here and here.  Finally, instead of being a dispassionate chronicler, Woodward takes a critical look at the bungled Iraq War.  Read more of this post

Book Review: Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward

Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq by Bob Woodward is the second installment of Woodward’s Bush at War series and picks up where Bush at War left off, that is after the initial entry into Afghanistan and prior to the Iraq War. Plan of Attack focuses mainly on the build up to war in Iraq after 9/11 at the Cabinet level of the Bush administration. As in Bush at War, Woodward maintains his role of a chronicler more so than an analyst. Woodward gives a good account of how events unfolded and the interactions between all the main players but never dives seriously into one aspect, such as the issue of the WMD intelligence. Read more of this post

Book Review: The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

Even with the most gruesome and graphic depictions of war violence on film there is still a mental barrier between reality and fantasy. In his book The Good Soldiers, David Finkel brings the reader realistic depictions of the savageness of the modern day warfare and to some level the reader is given a glimpse of the dark state of mind that results from war. Read more of this post

Presidents and Near Presidents I have known: Summary (chapters 10-14)

This is the book summary of Presidents & Near Presidents I have known. It is a digitial book I was given a chance to read. What follows is a summary (a fair non-biased summarization of the content of the chapter) and then a review of the chapter. The idea is that you can read the summary and reviews in about fifteen minutes and get the gist of the book, if you think you’d like it, go buy it.

Presidents & Near Presidents I have known

By: Lionel Rolfe

Chapters 1 – 3

Chapters 4 – 6

Chapters 7 – 9

Chapters 10- 14




Chapter Ten


Presidents & Near Presidents I Have Known

“I knew something about community organizers, and knew that Sarah Palin and the Rudy Guilani would come to rue their words in smirking about Obama’s profession.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 48“[Nixon] struck me as one of the oddest characters I had ever met—and the most unpleasant.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 52“He is a very special kind of leader, but if the times hadn’t demanded someone very special, we probably would not have seen his meteoric rise.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 60

After the election of Barack Obama, I turned my thoughts towards politics and realized that I had spent a not inconsiderable amount of time near residents and near residents. I donated about $300 to the Obama campaign, exited to have a president who was also one of our best writers. I was happy to finally travel around th country without feeling ashamed of my country. Part of this was my job as a journalist, but I also met many Democrats through family ties.

I met Cesar Chavez, perhaps the greatest community organizer of all time when he was camping outside Turdock. Putting that story on the front page cost me my job.

In the late 50’s I campaigned for Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower, during which time I met Eleanor Roosevelt. She was even more a hero to me than her husband, the President.

I nearly met Hubert Humphrey in 1959. He was in the home of my godfather, and I hid in the stairwell listening to him speak for several hours. He was Senator then, but he went on to be Vice President. Had he been elected President, my godfather would surely have been put on the Supreme Court.

I met Richard Nixon in 1965. During that same time I had become familiar, through my journalist work, with Ronald Reagan, and other less famous politicians such as Ed Reinecke and Patrick McGee. Up till Nixon, every politician I had met had genuinely enjoyed people. Nixon was a putrid, despicable drunk. Henry Kissinger had told his aides carrying the nuclear codes that if anything happened after 6 p.m. to go to him before the president.

Ford was an empty man, but empty in a more affable way that Nixon. Ronald Reagan was the emptiest of them all with little intellectual curiosity. He was a Democrat until he married the daughter of a wealthy Republican donor, at which point he became an ideologue.

Around this point I spent a few weeks with Republican Assemblyman Pat McGee who allowed me to tail him for several weeks as he showed me the true underbelly of politics, with cash literally trading hands before he would return to pass the cash around to his colleagues. He gave me a personal introduction to Ronald Reagan when he was still Governor.

After the execution of Robert Kennedy I met with Eugene McCarthy. I never met Bill Clinton or Obama. Through this experience I’ve that the times create the leaders we need. I have the feeling that the times have created in Obama the exact leader we need.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Lionel Rolfe Writings

Ronald Reagan (wiki)

Hubert Humphrey (wiki)

Eleanor Roosevelt (wiki)

This was by far the best chapter. It’s a winding tale of how the author met with and talked to many presidents, and people close to presidents (thus the name of the chapter and the book). His interaction with recent presidents is scarce, but he does have some impressive name dropping of older politicians. The story of McGee was an excellent viewpoint into the workings of government. His eavesdropping on “The Hump” is a very compelling story. Likewise, his introduction to Nixon and the various musings on the man are very interesting. Through out the chapter he clearly shows his disdain for all things Republican, making no bones of calling the Democratic presidents heroes. The closest thing to an insult on a Democrat he gets is calling Clinton a Centrist, which I suppose is an insult to certain folks.

My only real problem would be that the chapter doesn’t really have a point outside name dropping, but at least it does that well. Reading it I couldn’t help but think of the connection the author made previously tying himself to Rush Limbaugh, and certainly the author is equally willing to throw bombs. If you’re a true-blue Liberal, you’ll probably enjoy this chapter.



Chapter Eleven


Obama The Magic Christian

“[Obama] wants to lead a united country rather than the assemblage of disparate parts that it now seems to be becoming.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 61“Be a Magic Christian, Mr. Obama. Encourage the best of us.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 63

The Republican Recession had left the economy in free fall before Obama’s first day in office. He acts like a Christian in his willingness to forgive Republicans their slights. He’s going to need the Left to push him and keep pushing him so he can achieve his goals. Perhaps that was Obama’s whole intention in creating the permanent campaign.

The war in Israel in Gaza is a big problem, one Obama promised to get involved in when he was elected. For a decade I edited Jerusalem’s second oldest paper. A two-state solution isn’t very possible. The best solution would be 1 state solution with everyone living together under one nation. To do this, they should follow the example of America, one of the most religious countries in the world, where we have every religion represented and yet maintain a secular government.

The Economy needs to be a blend of socialism and capitalism, all covered by democracy. So instead of throwing away our money into a cesspool, as in the “the Magical Christian” Obama should invest in our humanity.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Middle East

Posts | Wiki | B Note

Perhaps the author should have started the book with chapter 10. That chapter was good, this one was even better. His thoughts on Israel, religion, Jews, Atheist and the Middle East are very thoughtful. There’s very little bomb throwing, in this chapter, though the first lobbed bomb is quite the attention getter. A minor problem is the reference to “the Magic Christian” which I gather is a film I’ve never seen, so I didn’t catch the analogy.



Chapter Twelve


Why Are Republicans So Damn Republican?

“Republican politicians will say they are for education, but they don’t want to have to pay taxes to provide it, and when they do, they want to control it so students are spoon fed only their point of view.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 67“They are like lurking snakes, always ready to strike and inject as much venom as they can.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 68

Republicans, as individuals are often friendly and personable. But taken as a whole, they hate unions and those who aren’t rich, preferring to put their power towards protecting plutocrats. Their principles, if you can call denying food to the jobless a principle, is a red herring. They fought Roosevelt’s New Deal, they continue to fight against those ideas. Yet, it was Roosevelt, more than any Republican, that saved Capitalism and Democracy. When he rest of the world was looking between communism and fascism, he saved capitalism by giving workers rights and preventing revolution.

Like Roosevelt, Obama is faced with a collapse created by a Republican. Marxism may be dead, but class struggle certainly isn’t. Republicans continue to fight this class struggle against the non-rich, is why they act like the Taliban fighting Obama and why three Republicans gutted the Stimulus bill.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Laffer Curve

Republicans (B Note)

Democrats (B Note)

The End of Prosperity

Summary | Review

Well, whatever bomb throwing the last chapter lacked this one made up for. Ignoring the bombs for a moment, the chapter lacks cohesion. It’s essentially a chapter of various reasons that the author doesn’t like Republicans. The chapter could have been titled “Why I hate Republicans” (actually, so could the book).

So the value of this chapter really was to get an understanding not of the Republicans, but of the Liberal view of Republicans. The author views Republican principles such as small government and free market and supply-side economics as red herrings, a façade for the only true principle, which is class warfare against the non-rich. I don’t know how to describe the value of that. But if you start from that position, belief the opposition is at war with everyone not rich, then any kind of complicated concept (such as cutting the top marginal tax rate to spar investment) becomes impossible to explain. A very insightful chapter.


Chapter Thirteen


War, Wealth, Empire & The Obama Presidency

“Republican politicians will say they are for education, but they don’t want to have to pay taxes to provide it, and when they do, they want to control it so students are spoon fed only their point of view.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 67“They are like lurking snakes, always ready to strike and inject as much venom as they can.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 68

I am not a war-monger, I married and had a child in part to avoid the Vietnam war, but I understand that war is sometimes necessary. I understand we had to deal with Afghanistan, though we could also have gone after Saudi Arabia.

War though is more than just violence, it’s geo-political. That geo-political process has resulted in the CIA funding the Taliban, Britain nationalizing certain industries and creating the nation of Iraq. It was those geopolitical maneuverings that lead to America in invading for oil, profit, and crusading Christian intentions.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

  Ugh. Just, way too complicated material for way to random thinking.


Chapter Fourteen


Forget Trying To Make Nice With The Priests & Kings

“They are in business to sell policies to the healthy and
make the taxpayers pay for the sick.”
Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 73“Take this to heart, Mr. Obama. Sometimes, a person’s worth is
reflected by his enemies.”
Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 75

You can’t make deals with kings and priests, this is a truth the founding fathers knew well. We couldn’t be bipartisan with Germany in WWII. Healthcare reform is the most important domestic problem facing us, and the insurance companies are the enemy. You are fighting them Mr. Obama, them and those who support the powers that be. You can’t be bipartisan with your enemies.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts


This was the most poetic of the chapters. The writing style was very nice and easy to read. It was a good end to the book, wrapping up the core idea of the book: The Republicans are the enemy and Obama must fight them.

Fire-Breathing Liberal (review)

Fire-Breathing Liberal

How I learned to survive (and thrive) in the contact sport of Congress

By: Robert C Wexler with David Fisher

Summary to come. (eventually….)

Brief summary
The book is a history of Rep. Robert Wexler’s time in the House and the various political fights he’s gotten into in his time. It’s part biography (politicians do-so-love to talk about themselves) and part civics lesson. Both parts are delivered with a know-it-all humility and liberal slant.

Was it a good book?
Yes. Quite amusing, even in the parts I disagreed with him, it was a thoroughly amusing book exposing the inner workings of congress. His discussion about why he wanted to be on the judiciary committee, as well as back-room discussion about how you get such a seat, was very interesting. Him answering foreign dignitaries about the President was very revealing, and his personal take on the hanging chads in the 2000 election (it was his district) are al very interesting, well written, and thoroughly absorbing.

The good?
Call me a wonk all you what, my favorite parts were the civics lessons. How government really works from the inside. For example, did you know that for the 2 minutes before every vote the traffic lights between the Capital Building and the congressional offices across the street all go red? That way congressmen can literally stall to the last moment and then race across the street without getting run over. Or that they have cubicles for outgoing congressmen are right out of some sitcom? I found that stuff highly enjoyable. I even started a conversation about this stuff with some friends over beer. Yeah, I got blank stares and then they changed the conversation. 😦

The bad?
I don’t have much negative to say about the book. It’s well written, it’s amusing, and it’s informational. The parts I may not agree with are policy points that I won’t mark against the book. The goal of the book is, I think, to just be an interesting read. I really don’t think the guy is even trying to get people to vote for him, as he says, he has a very safe seat and hasn’t had anyone run against him in years. So for the bad I’ll put “He’s hardcore liberal” Take that tree huggers.

The book covers some of the most controversial political events of he last several years and does so while interjecting a lot of personal in-the-action perspective. He was involved in the impeachment of Clinton, tried to impeach Bush, was there for the 2000 election disaster, and as a Jew discusses the equally disastrous Israel/Palestine situation.

A good book if you want to understand how congress works, a great book if you’re a liberal and want to agree with the guy you’re reading.


“With enthusiasm and candor, a passionate Democratic congressman gives readers an inside look at the House of Representatives during a period of declining government accountability . . . Wexler’s Southern Florida district was the center of the “butterfly ballot” controversy during the 2000 election, and he angrily recounts the zeal and heartbreak he saw in his elderly constituents, hundreds of whom mistakenly cast votes for Pat Buchanan that were never properly recounted. A staunch supporter of Israel and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he endured a tense meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad because he saw it as an opportunity to learn more about a powerful figure in Middle Eastern relations. When Assad asked, “Is George Bush crazy?” Wexler’s description of the thought process behind his carefully phrased answer offers a mini-lesson in diplomacy. His clarity and humanity in no way dampen his zest for picking fights. His list of Republican misdeeds includes strong-arming for votes, using fear to galvanize public support, misleading Congress into war and illegally wiretapping citizens . . . After loudly decrying the Clinton impeachment on the grounds that the president did not betray his country, he now declares that a worthy candidate for impeachment currently sits in the White House. Yet Wexler never loses humor or optimism. His wife, children and belief in democracy keep him grounded and working hard for civility and the ideals on which the nation was founded . . . Wexler’s approachable, eye-opening political autobiography overflows with intriguing detail and insight.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“I enjoyed Congressman Wexler’s book even more than I enjoy cocaine and prostitutes.”
–Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report

Letter to the President by Sen. Byrd: Reviews

Letter to a new President

Commonsense Lessons for our Next Leader

By: Robert C Byrd with Steve Kettmann

Chapter 1

Chapters 2 – 3

Chapters 4 – 6

Chapters 7 – 10


Brief Summary: (full summary above)

This is a letter written to “New President”. It was written before Obama eve won the primaries, so it’s alwaays vague who he’s talking to. It could be McCain or Clinton as easily as Obama or Ron Paul. It is written as a very personal letter, sometimes sounding like a lecture, other times like an old man retelling an old favorite story, and then mixed up with lots of talk of Faith, and love of Country.

The Good?

The good parts was the conversation tone and the general “old timerness” of the book. It was fun to read, and his occassionaly bombs thrown at Bush were always amusing. Especially in the chapter where he calls for an end to partisan (exuse me while I throw a bomb) warfare. The chapters though also covered a lot of things that I do think is important for not just the president, but us all: knowing the Constitution (Rush! Read up!) lies, not doing knee-jerk diplomacy, etc.

The bad?

There is a hypocritical thread through out the whole book. The book speaks as if on a moral white horse, all the while attacking the previous administration. If you think the Bush Administration was as bad as he does, you won’t find this hypocritical. But I would imagine McCain reading this and not finishing it.


I give it a B. Good read. Great thoughts from an older erra.

Chapter 1

I feel silly saying that I like the old guy. I mean, I think “Robert Byrd” I instantly think “He’s the guy that was the KKK guy.” Can you imagine what the Democrats would do to him if he were a Republican? *grimace face* But there is something nice about his writing. I want to use the word quaint. He reminds me of an elderly grandfather sitting around chatting. It’s hard for old people to chat without lecturing, and certainly, Mr. Byrd spends most of the chapter lecturing. But it comes across as from a guy so old, it’s nice. It’s comforting almost to listen to this guy explain events he lived through but I consider ancient history. Part of that is also the content of the chapter.

I think I let my summary run away with me. I’ll make a point to keep the upcoming chapter summaries shorter (it’s a very short book after all). The chapter talks about how the president should be a calming influence, not a fear monger prodding people along from the back. It’s a very good chapter, and I think the fact I let the summary run away from me speaks to that. Looking forward to finishing the book


Chapter 2

This guy writes with an amazingly patriotic tone that is contagious. Very good chapter. His stance on the Constitution is nice to read, even as he writes in hismuch very conversational/lecturing tone.

Chapter 3

In this chapter, we get a bit more personal with the anecdotes, getting an interesting story about going to Russia and arguments he’s had with colleagues about comparing each other to Nazis. Personally, I think it’s all bad, but hey, let them make their points however they want.There’s a lot of talk of history and the importance of it, but he never attempts to go into real depth, which would be silly in a chapter l2 pages long. Essentially, the chapter can be summed up as thus: Learn your history Mr. President.

Chapter 4

One thing I didn’t like about this was that after setting up the lie about Clinton, Byrd basically just drops it to the side and says “blah”. Mind you, I understand, I think most Americans thinking back about him lying about a BJ tend to think “blah”. Still, he’s talking about lying, specifically brings it up to make the point that you need to stand up to lies, and then he backs down instantly without adequate reason. I know why I think impeaching a President is stupid over a simple BJ, but since he brought the issue up, I expected him to answer why he did so. The thing I liked the most was the several quotes. I like how he quotes lots of other wise people to make points. He’s got the bible, Nietzsche, Mark Twain, even Plato! It’s very cool. I like that a lot. Better, he uses those quotes very well to move his point forward. The point being, George Bush lied to America frequently with big and bold lies that were believed and that hurts Democracy, so please, New President, don’t lie like Bush did.

On the left I put in a link to Bushlies.net I do not endorse the site, I only breiefly read it. But they’ve gathered the assorted “lies” people accuse Bush of and you can judge the merit of them on your own. Additionally, I put in a link to the Greatest Story ever Sold. The entire book is about how the Administration mislead America.

Chapter 5

This chapter deals mostly with a comparison between Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Harry Truman, it seems, was a very good man. Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are less so. Specically, the (criminal) actions surrounding the Inra-Contra scandal and the cover-up at the very top where Bush pardoned six people to protect himself from his own criminal behavior. 

Now, one could make the argument that by making the pardon himself and not just doing some back-door sneakyness is a level of accountability. Who is to blame for those 6 guys walking? George H. W. Bush. There’s no ambiguity about it. But that’s aside the point, which is that our elected leaders broke very important laws involving them interfering in other countries and selling weapons to our enemies. These serious actions were under investigation when those being investigated were pardoned so they’d not testify against thoes who gave them their orders. The result is a loss of accountability. Which is a compelling narrative.

Of course, politicians doing everything they can to avoid getting in trouble is hardly limited to those of Byrds opposing party. The only example he can think of is Clinton’s pardon of Mark Rich. Regardless, it was a decent chapter

Chapter 6

A nice chapter. There is a bit of awkwardness as the author is trying to tie in the failure of the media to the president. I don’t think it’s really fair to blame Bush for the media being useless. That’s like complaining that the kid who stole a cookie is to blame for his mom not watching him better.

That said, the chapter chronicles a few instances of how the Bush Administration did they’re part to help the Media down the pit into uselessness.

Chapter 7

I did not like this chapter very much. It was really unorganized and the thoughts seemed to ramble and lose cohesion. It starts with Nazi’s and obedience, ties that into 9/11, complains about the press, segues to negative campaign commersials being less about substance than emotion, does the same about campaigns, and then disses Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and elevating Madeline Albright.

There isn’t really any discussion at all of photo ops. I re-read the chapter and don’t see any clear definition of what “photo-op diplomacy” means. So, the chapters not a waste, but it doesn’t carry any sort of driving point and then ends in whimper

Chapter 8

This was a much better chapter. The best one so far. I had no idea how close Clinton was to treaty with North Korea, nor how badly Bush F’d that up. It was also creepy seeing the numbers of positive opinions of America drop the world over. You have to wonder if that has really made us safer. How has it helped us for Bush to have insulted North Korea and their leader? How did it help America to drive away Turkey? Isn’t that the exact right country to get closer relations with?

Chapter 9

A decent chapter. There’s a big part in the middle about Attorney General Ashcroft. I’ve never been particularly impressed with the whole story. I mean, Ashcroft approved the thing lots of time. He wasn’t standing up on principle, he agreed with the thing, he was standing up for work-place ettiquette. Essentially, it’s my offday. Talk to my assistant. So maybe if someone reads this they can explain for me why it’s such a big deal that the encounter has been in several books and discussed so much on cable tv. (hmm, sorry for the rant)

Otherwise it’s a decent chapter. But everyone always talks about how bad Partisanship is. Just before and after they engage in it. Only a few chapters before this he was  comparing the Republicans to Nazis. Ah well. Politics my friends, politics

Chapter 10

The book ends on a bit of a personal reflective tone. He talks about his past, and (swear I’m not teasing) complains about the kids of this generation moving too fast. He gives several examples of how everything has spead up and how he prefers the movies of the thirties, which were slow enough you “could sit down and enjoy”. It was very amusing in the sense that he’s an old man complaining about the “those darned kids now-a-days”. But the larger point was interesting, and that was essentially, sit down, think the matter over, and don’t be impatient

From Publishers Weekly

In this book-length letter to the next president, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) draws on his 56 years of experience in Congress to offer advice, admonition and encouragement. With frequent references to past presidents, especially his personal favorite, Harry Truman, Byrd claims that his passion for the Constitution is only rivaled by his love for his wife. He presents a readable, if slight, survey of past presidencies and a scathing evaluation of the “greatest crisis” in the nation’s history brought about by the “failings” of the Bush administration: the buildup to the war in Iraq and the president’s bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. Chapter headings such as “Bring Back the Fireside Chat” and scads of references to Emerson, Jefferson and Thoreau provide a rich philosophical context to Byrd’s political thought, even as much of his advice feels familiar and anodyne: “Build Your Presidency Around Accountability.” The book’s detailed analysis of the great power and responsibility of the executive branch is timely, and prospective presidents and concerned citizens would be well-advised to read Byrd’s book. (July)


President Jimmy Carter:

“Senator Byrd draws on a lifetime of experience to offer a guiding hand to our country’s next Commander in Chief. His unfailing faith in God and country provides an example of the best we should hope to find in our leaders as well as any of our fellow citizens.”

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Reviews

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


Bookmark and Share

Brief Summary:

The Bush Administration were experts at message control, media manipulation and stagecraft. They used those skills to control public opinion so well that they came to believe their own lies, that they could create their own realities based on how they controlled the message. They sold the war in Iraq to Americans by controlling the message so well that the American people never really was given a choice of supporting the war. Their stagecraft though finally came to a crash as the actual-realties on the ground in Iraq and Katrina finally bore witness to their lies.

Would I recommend the book?

Yes. I liked it very much. This is an older book now, but I wanted to put the summary up because I thought it was underrated when it came out and the message it tells is one that has to be told. The Bush Administration wasn’t evil. They were just inept and governance, skilled at story telling, and focused on issues and goals the American people didn’t agree with or understand. The real villain in the book isn’t Bush, he’s the MacGuffin. The villain is the Media that so willingly let themselves be controlled and manipulated and turned into cheerleaders. The villain is the stagecraft that allowed ineptitude to prosper, let message become more important that substance, and let the American people become so horrible misinformed they allowed their government to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us, and then get stuck there.

The good?

The absolutely best part of the book isn’t actually part of the book per se, it’s in the back of the book, a parallel time-line comparing what was known privately and what was said publicly. Page 246 for example has on the left side of the paper the time when George Tenet privately telling Bush that the State and Energy Department and the CIA all had serious doubts about the aluminum tube story-line. On the Right side of the paper, publicly, at the same time, Bush gave a radio address using the Aluminum tube story to sell America on the necessity of war.

The public/private side by side comparison is damning in the least. Frightening too. There can be no doubt that the people making the decision for war knew what they were doing, the only people misled about Saddam’s WMDs were the American people.

The Ugly?

The Author uses a huge litany of examples through out the book to make his points. Now, the he uses these examples well, but sometimes the examples start taking on a life of their own. Perhaps it is just the nature of the beast, covering six years of mistakes from Bush is probably tough to do succinctly, but I often felt the chapters were just broken lists of mistakes lies and misleading statements. I suppose the point was to show the breadth of lies and deceit, but at the same time it made the narrative messy.


I give the Book an A. It covers a great deal of terrain and does an excellent job of showing just how disconnected the truth was to the message coming out of the White House. It chronicles in horrifying detail the path that took America from fantasizing about war to being stuck in an unnecessary one.

From the New York Times:

As a former theater critic, Frank Rich has the perfect credentials for writing an account of the Bush administration, which has done so much to blur the lines between politics and show business. Not that this is a unique phenomenon; think of Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and master of political fictions, or Ronald Reagan, who often appeared to be genuinely confused about the difference between real life and the movies. Show business has always been an essential part of ruling people, and so is the use of fiction, especially when going to war. What would Hitler have been without his vicious fantasies fed to a hungry public through grand spectacles, radio and film? Closer to home, in 1964, to justify American intervention in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson used news of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place. What is fascinating about the era of George W. Bush, however, is that the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation. 



From the The Washington Post

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, no columnist has been more perceptive than Frank Rich of the New York Times. A longtime film and drama critic, Rich, for the past decade, has used his insights into performance and stagecraft to explain a political culture increasingly dominated by simulation and spectacle.



From The Huffington Post

The Kirkus review for NYT columnist Frank Rich’s “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina” was released this afternoon, praising Rich for his “savaging sermon” on the “White House’s greatest hits, from the 2001 defense of gas-guzzling as essential to the American way of life to “Heckuva job, Brownie” to the ongoing morass of Iraq.” The Kirkus reviewer seems to be in agreement with Rich on the spinning of it’s own administration’s missteps: “In an effort to disguise that track record, the Republicans have exercised single-minded control of the grand narrative of the last five years, at least in part because they have exercised quasi-totalitarian control over the news media.”


From Frank Rich (author)

When America was attacked on 9/11, its citizens almost unanimously rallied behind its new, untested president as he went to war. What they didn’t know at the time was that the Bush administration’s highest priority would not be to vanquish Al Qaeda but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could only be accomplished by a propaganda presidency in which reality was steadily replaced by a scenario of the White House’s own invention—and such was that scenario’s devious brilliance that it fashioned a second war against an enemy who did not attack America on 9/11, intimidated the Democrats into incoherence and impotence, and turned a presidential election into an irrelevant referendum on macho imagery, Vietnam and “moral values.”


The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Summary (Chapters 9-10)

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


Bookmark and Share


Part Two

Chapter Nine: When we act, we create our own reality

“If a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 154“The Bush Administration didn‘t just settle for demonizing, stiffling and spinning the press.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 166

“The more real journalism fumbled its job, the easier it was for such government info-ganda to fill the vaccumm.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 167

The first casualty of the Value-Voter Mandate was self-censorship ay the Networks. They dropped a showing of the “Band of Brothers” though it had been accepted in the previous years without problem. A cameraman who captured a Marine killing an unarmed Iraqi was chastised, and all talk of Abu Ghraib fell off the Networks.Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was caught unprepared for a question on armor supplies, though it had already been known that as many as 80% of Marine deaths could have been averted with the missing body armor. Soon thereafter the President gave his inaugural speech, without mentioning Iraq, and then held a ball for soldiers injured in the wars (without cameras) where they were told to “clap their hands” and “dance to the beat,” though many had lost their hands and legs.

A senior advisor to George Bush had claimed that they could create their own reality. So when US soldiers attacked Falluja, the Government created a “Mission Accomplished” by inflating the body count, downplaying the damage done to the city, and lying about the actions of the Iraqi soldiers who were supposedly “leading” the fight, but who had actually shown up after the fighting was done. When the identity of Deep Throat was revealed, he was attacked for “dishonoring” the President by Charles Colson, who had been convicted and served time in jail for his crimes, all without the Media pointing out his sordid past.

When seventeen people were killed in riots, the White House blamed Newsweek. Though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President of Afghanistan both disagreed, the preposterous charge allowed the White House to both attack the ‘filter’ and turn the Newsweek into the scapegoat for all the anger at America from Muslims. After the long back and forth with controlling the media, the Bush Administration decided to jump to the bottom line, hire their own reporters and create their own news broadcasts. But the post-9/11 slumber of journalism was coming to an end.

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 was one of the better chapters so far, and highlights one of my personal grievances with our government, and that’s the failure of the media to pay attention and do their jobs. (just look at the recent posts, I ranted about this just last night). So through this chapter the Author goes through a long list of examples of how the media failed and how the Bush Administration failed. How the Bush Administration succeeded only in fooling Americans.He uses the many examples to demonstrate the many different ways that the Media was censored, scared, and controlled. The examples also go to show exactly how people were fooled, and how far the Administration was willing to go to fool people, that the Administration was vastly better at stagecraft than governance, better at writing speeches than running wars, and better at assigning blame than acknowledging their own mistakes and correcting them.


Part Two

Chapter Ten: Reporting for Duty

“But this scandal didn‘t begin, as Watergate had, simply with dirty tricks and spying on the political opposition. It began with the sending of American men and women to war in Iraq under false pretenses.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 181“The White House no longer had any more control over an expanding political insurgency at home than it did over the one in Iraq.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 196

“Rove, tellingly, was officially put in charge of the New Orleans reconstruction.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Page 202

While Iraq slowly turned into a far-worse Afghanistan, Bush continued to repeat the same speeches with the same misinformation and instill fears of another 9/11, but the American people were moving away from him, with a majority thinking the war wasn’t worth it. Then Patrick Fitzgerald presented his case, revealing that Karl Rove had leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative as a political attack against a guy that had tried to warn the Administration that there were no WMDs in Iraq. The political stakes couldn’t be higher, this wasn’t a case about a simple leak of classified information, this was about the deliberate and intentional crime of sending American soldiers to war under false pretenses.Journalists, following the lead of a professional investigator began to work the story. The more the White House denied cherry-picking the intelligence, the more reports came out contradicting them. It was becoming apparent that not only was the evidence used by the Administration to sell the war wrong, it had intentionally exaggerated the evidence for a pre-intended goal.

Four years after responding to a memo outlining Osama’s plan to attack America by going fishing, Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside Bush’s Crawford ranch. Despite Rumsfelds claims that Iraqi soldiers were leading the fight, when Iraqi Militiamen showed up to Casey Sheehan, the soldiers ran away and Casey and several others were killed. The militiamen belonged to al-Sadr, who controlled one of the larger blocs in the Iraqi National Assembly. Bush loyalists attacker her, but there was no way to get around the fact her son was dead and Bush refused to speak to her. Only 34% of America approved of his handling of the war.

The Bush Administration was already in trouble when Katrina hit. The American people had come to realize the good news and warnings from the Administration were all either exaggerated, recycled, unsubstantiated or lies. When Katrina hit, Bush, again, flew away from Washington rather than towards it. It was 9/11 and Iraq déjà vu, the same obliviousness to danger, the same AWOL behavior, the same lack of preparation, the total disregard for the people on the ground and the incompetence is handling the disaster. The White House tried to use their well-practiced stagecraft to cover up their disastrous behavior, but the American people would have none of it.

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

The final chapter is well written, finishes the circle of the book if you would. It looks at the crumbling stagecraft of the Bush Administration after the election and then through the prism of all that stagecraft, looks at the response to Katrina. Katrina really did end the Bush Administration, with this chapter showing that the problems with the response to Katrina were the same that had plagued the Administration from day one.Now, through the prism of Katrina you can find any number of problems and faults with anything and anyone, but at the same time, Katrina was a disaster of such epic proportions, you can’t look at the Bush Administration and ignore the federal response. And the federal response was to ignore it and call it a success, and that was the real disaster, a point the author really nails down in the final chapter.

Audacity of Hope: Review

This is the Review of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented nillegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The Summary is also done, links to it are below. 


• Book Review •


The Audacity of Hope

 Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue


Brief summary (full summary in links above)
The book, The Audacity of Hope, is wide-ranging book covering topics as controversial as abortion, race, partisanship, politics, religion, morality and values. It reads more like an autobiography than a political tome. A lot of it is cheesy, not in a horrible way, but still cheesy. Stories about his wife asking him to buy ant traps and his daughters mocking him for handshaking are nice, they put a human face on politicians who are inevitably hated by everyone.

Was it a good book?
The book reads easy and quick. The meaty political side is sparse. It’d be easy for most people, regardless of party, to read this and like both the man and the politics. Until you think a bit and realize that he says very little about specific policy. Reading this book will probably help you guess which way he’ll go in most policy debates, but it does nothing to argue for or win those debates. 

The good?
I think the goal was to paint Obama as a relaxing, calming, middle-of-the-road family man with strong moral values. It does that well and achieves that goal. I definitely liked the man and the policies by the end. He comes across as a very friendly, clam and intelligent father-figure. Being a black guy with a Muslim name and past (living in a Muslim country) he knew he had to present himself to America as the opposite of radical. This book does that exceptionally well. 

Additionally, I personally really liked that he did cover so many controversial topics. There is an expression in America about not discussing politics or religion at the table. I’ve felt for a long time that that is wrong, that nothing affects us more than those two topics. A democracy with a people that self-censor themselves to the point of ending the discussion altogether will shortly lose their democracy. 

The bad?
At many points his thoughts on bipartisanship comes across a bit smarmy and naïve. In most policy questions he describes the far extremes of each party, rebukes both, and then suggests the mainstream democrat platform. It’s really pretty smart, at each step along the way he comes across as intelligent, reasonable, fair-minded and open to the other side. Yet, in the end, the book never really tries to argue for much. It’s a political biography, and to that end, it works very well. 

By that I mean Barack Obama intended to write a book that would make people agree with him, without offering any ammunition to those who don’t, and without picking fights that would alienate people. However, to do that, he had to gloss over specific policies and end-games. So I’ll be specific, he keeps suggesting a middle ground without specifying what that middle ground would look like. Most people are in the middle on these issues, so most people would like what he says. Since he never nails down exactly where he is (other than the very broad and vague middle) he never risks alienating possible voters. 

But that’s disingenuous. Its easy to say you’re in the middle because you can define the middle to be 98% of America. The devil’s in the details. Where exactly in the middle are you? Oh, on the very far left of the middle. Why did you just say so? Oh, because you wanted to be elected President. Right. 😉 

Okay, I’m just teasing him a bit. He’s a politician, and his book is politically minded. I find that political motivation a bit sneaky, but that’s the game of politics I suppose. If the worst I can say is that he intentionally paints his personal political views in broad colors of middle-ground non-partisanship to hide his more liberal colors, that’s not so bad really. 

Someone reading this book will have a far greater understanding of the President, but you won’t really know exactly where he stands. Close, but not exact. It’ll be just enough about him and his policies that you’ll vote for him in November and then not be happy with him a few months down the road. 😐

Fact Checking Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking “only” for reasonably priced rooms and not “often” going for the “high-end, robe-and-slippers” hotels.

THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City’s Central Park for a five-hour women’s leadership conference in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000. Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter. The governor billed her state more than $20,000 for her children’s travel, including to events where they had not been invited, and in some cases later amended expense reports to specify that they had been on official business.

PALIN: Boasts that she ran her campaign for governor on small donations, mostly from first-time givers, and turned back large checks from big donors if her campaign perceived a conflict of interest.

THE FACTS: Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised for her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis of her campaign finance reports. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC.

Of the rest, about $76,000 came from Republican Party committees.

She accepted $1,000 each from a state senator and his wife in the weeks after the two Republican lawmakers’ offices were raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into a powerful Alaska oilfield services company. After AP reported those donations during the presidential campaign, she said she would give a comparative sum to charity after the general election in 2010, a date set by state election laws.

PALIN: Rails against taxpayer-financed bailouts, which she attributes to Obama. She recounts telling daughter Bristol that to succeed in business, “you’ll have to be brave enough to fail.”

THE FACTS: Palin is blurring the lines between Obama’s stimulus plan – a $787 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, social programs and government contracts – and the federal bailout that Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted for and President George W. Bush signed.

Palin’s views on bailouts appeared to evolve as McCain’s vice presidential running mate. In September 2008, she said “taxpayers cannot be looked to as the bailout, as the solution, to the problems on Wall Street.” A week later, she said “ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy.”

During the vice presidential debate in October, Palin praised McCain for being “instrumental in bringing folks together” to pass the $700 billion bailout. After that, she said “it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in.”

PALIN: Says Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the one that appears to be ending now, and “showed us how to get out of one. If you want real job growth, cut capital gains taxes and slay the death tax once and for all.”

THE FACTS: The estate tax, which some call the death tax, was not repealed under Reagan and capital gains taxes are lower now than when Reagan was president.

Economists overwhelmingly say the current recession is far worse. The recession Reagan faced lasted for 16 months; this one is in its 23rd month. The recession of the early 1980s did not have a financial meltdown. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent, worse than the October 2009 high of 10.2 percent, but the jobless rate is still expected to climb.

PALIN: She says her team overseeing the development of a natural gas pipeline set up an open, competitive bidding process that allowed any company to compete for the right to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48.

THE FACTS: Palin characterized the pipeline deal the same way before an AP investigation found her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited a company with ties to her administration, TransCanada Corp. Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders during the process, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.

PALIN: Criticizes an aide to her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, for a conflict of interest because the aide represented the state in negotiations over a gas pipeline and then left to work as a handsomely paid lobbyist for ExxonMobil. Palin asserts her administration ended all such arrangements, shoving a wedge in the revolving door between special interests and the state capital.

THE FACTS: Palin ignores her own “revolving door” issue in office; the leader of her own pipeline team was a former lobbyist for a subsidiary of TransCanada, the company that ended up winning the rights to build the pipeline.

PALIN: Writes about a city councilman in Wasilla, Alaska, who owned a garbage truck company and tried to push through an ordinance requiring residents of new subdivisions to pay for trash removal instead of taking it to the dump for free – this to illustrate conflicts of interest she stood against as a public servant.

THE FACTS: As Wasilla mayor, Palin pressed for a special zoning exception so she could sell her family’s $327,000 house, then did not keep a promise to remove a potential fire hazard on the property.

She asked the city council to loosen rules for snow machine races when she and her husband owned a snow machine store, and cast a tie-breaking vote to exempt taxes on aircraft when her father-in-law owned one. But she stepped away from the table in 1997 when the council considered a grant for the Iron Dog snow machine race in which her husband competes.

PALIN: Says Obama has admitted that the climate change policy he seeks will cause people’s electricity bills to “skyrocket.”

THE FACTS: She correctly quotes a comment attributed to Obama in January 2008, when he told San Francisco Chronicle editors that under his cap-and-trade climate proposal, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” as utilities are forced to retrofit coal burning power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Obama has argued since then that climate legislation can blunt the cost to consumers. Democratic legislation now before Congress calls for a variety of measures aimed at mitigating consumer costs. Several studies predict average household costs probably would be $100 to $145 a year.

PALIN: Welcomes last year’s Supreme Court decision deciding punitive damages for victims of the nation’s largest oil spill tragedy, the Exxon Valdez disaster, stating it had taken 20 years to achieve victory. As governor, she says, she’d had the state argue in favor of the victims, and she says the court’s ruling went “in favor of the people.” Finally, she writes, Alaskans could recover some of their losses.

THE FACTS: That response is at odds with her reaction at the time to the ruling, which resolved the long-running case by reducing punitive damages for victims to $500 million from $2.5 billion. Environmentalists and plaintiffs’ lawyers decried the ruling as a slap at the victims and Palin herself said she was “extremely disappointed.” She said the justices had gutted a jury decision favoring higher damage awards, the Anchorage Daily News reported. “It’s tragic that so many Alaska fishermen and their families have had their lives put on hold waiting for this decision,” she said, noting many had died “while waiting for justice.”

PALIN: Describing her resistance to federal stimulus money, Palin describes Alaska as a practical, libertarian haven of independent Americans who don’t want “help” from government busybodies.

THE FACTS: Alaska is also one of the states most dependent on federal subsidies, receiving much more assistance from Washington than it pays in federal taxes. A study for the nonpartisan Tax Foundation found that in 2005, the state received $1.84 for every dollar it sent to Washington.

PALIN: Says she tried to talk about national security and energy independence in her interview with Vogue magazine but the interviewer wanted her to pivot from hydropower to high fashion.

THE FACTS: are somewhat in dispute. Vogue contributing editor Rebecca Johnson said Palin did not go on about hydropower. “She just kept talking about drilling for oil.”

PALIN: “Was it ambition? I didn’t think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons.” Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But “Going Rogue” has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.

AP writers Matt Apuzzo, Sharon Theimer, Tom Raum, Rita Beamish, Beth Fouhy, H. Josef Hebert, Justin D. Pritchard, Garance Burke, Dan Joling and Lewis Shaine contributed to this report.

Book Summary: The Audacity of Hope

This is the first few chapters of Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days. Followed then by my review.

• Book Summary •


The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue




“You seem like a nice enough guy. Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics?” – Page 1


“I told them they were right: government couldn’t solve all their problems. But with a slight change in priorities we could make sure every child had a decent shot in life and meet the challenges we we faced as a nation.” – Page 7


 “Some readers may find my presentation of these issues to be insufficiently balanced. To this accusation, I stand guilty as charged. I am a Democrat…” – Page 10 

After graduating law school , Obama moved to Chicago to begin work as a community organizer in the city’s poor African American neighborhoods. This was the beginning of his political career. Whereever he went, people asked about his odd name, and his odder choice to enter politics. During this time he also taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. While campaigning he crossed his state many times over and listened to many Americans, their concerns modest. He also notes without apology that he is biased towards Liberalism and is a proud Democrat. That liberal slant, and the conversations he’s had with voters is what leads to this book.

Through his career in Illinois and the Senate, he has tried to work in a bi-partisan manner, and has achieved some success. We all fear that our national politics have become a dead zone, when what we really need is to move beyond the small arguments and embrace a new politics than will pull us together as Americans. That is the topic of the book, beginning the process of changing politics and our civil life. 


Chapter 1: Republicans and Democrats

“What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics…” – Page 22

“We know that the battle against international terrorism is at once an armed struggle and a contest of ideas… But follow most of our foreign policy debates, and you might believe that we have only two choices– belligerence or isolationism.” – Page 23

“Unless political leaders are open to new ideas and not just new packaging, we won’t change…” – Page 40 

In this chapter, Obama discusses the animosity between the Democrats and Republicans. There is a whole list of issues upon which Americans and their representatives disagree, and we do so vehemently. More so than at any point since WWII we are divided by our politics. For 8 years in the State Legislature of Illinois we fared little better. Republicans exercised the same rules of minority suppression as Newt Gingrich. After six years, Democrats took over, and treated the Republicans the same. But no democrat has reached the level of zealotry that ensnare Rove and DeLay.

Democrats have become the party of reaction. Democrats have begun to react negatively to everything Republicans off. The voters see the difference between dogma and common sense. They are waiting for us to catch up with them.


Chapter 2: Values

” The gap between what we deem appropriate behavior in everyday life and what it takes to win a campaign is just one of the ways in which a politician’s values are tested.”– Page 65

“No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.– Page 68

Obama acknowledges that many Americans feel that politicians have lost their moral compasses. However, while he makes no excuses for blatant acts of ill will, bribery, or corruption, he contends that the political system itself makes it very difficult for politicians to remain true to their values. In this age of constant scrutiny and 24-hour news cycles, even the smallest, most seemingly trivial action on the part of a politician can be posted to the Internet and held up for criticism.

Obama calls for a return to a political sphere in which ideas, values, and action plans matter more than, for example, which type of mustard a candidate requests at a restaurant. He contends that the Democrats’ recent loss of power in Congress and other elected offices have left the party particularly vulnerable to these kinds of issues. Obama claims that many Democrats have morphed into caricatures of themselves, and that part of this charade has been the propagation of even more divisiveness with the Republicans.

He concludes that a successful political system demands compromise and collaboration, and that those factions that decry political compromise are too consumed with strategy and minor victories to be truly interested in the overarching benefit of the nation.

Click here to continue