The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America

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New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich examines the trail of fictions manufactured by the Bush administration from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, exposing the most brilliant spin campaign ever waged

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 was not to vanquish Al Qaeda but ...
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New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich examines the trail of fictions manufactured by the Bush administration from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, exposing the most brilliant spin campaign ever waged

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 was not to vanquish Al Qaeda but to consolidate its own power at any cost. It was a mission that could be accomplished only 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 that 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 and same-sex marriage.

As only he can, acclaimed New York Times columnist Frank Rich delivers a step-by-step chronicle of how skillfully the White House built its house of cards and how the institutions that should have exposed these fictions, the mainstream news media, were too often left powerless by the administration's relentless attack machine, their own post-9/11 timidity, and an unending parade of self-inflicted scandals (typified by those at The New York Times). Demonstrating the candor and conviction that have made him one of our most trusted and incisive public voices, Rich brilliantly and meticulously illuminates the White House's disturbing love affair with "truthiness," and the ways in which a bungled war, a seemingly obscure Washington leak, and adevastating hurricane at long last revealed the man-behind-the-curtain and the story that had so effectively been sold to the nation, as god-given patriotic fact.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Many people who might have supported the Iraq war under different circumstances remained intractably opposed because they believed Bush hadn't proven that Baghdad was making nuclear weapons or working with al-Qaeda. They held this view because, among other reasons, in the months and years after 9/11, they were reading the smart, critical and blessedly spin-proof writings of Frank Rich.
&3151;David Greenberg
The New York Times
. . . the point of Rich's fine polemic is that the Bush administration has consistently lied about the reasons for going to war, about the way it was conducted and about the terrible consequences. Whatever the merits of removing a dictator, waging war under false pretenses is highly damaging to a democracy, especially when one of the ostensible aims is to spread democracy to others. If Rich is correct, which I think he is, the Bush administration has given hypocrisy a bad name.
—Ian Burma
Publishers Weekly
With a background in theater criticism, Rich easily spots the not-so-talented acting skills of Bush and his associates. Tracing the Bush administration through the last six years of subterfuge and spin, Rich succinctly articulates the numerous "fictional realities" that Bush has presented to his constituents. More importantly, he explains how the Bush machine so often and easily dupes the U.S. "infotainment culture." He theorizes that the ultimate goal of Bush and his cronies is to create a long-lasting Republican regime regardless of such annoyances as people, laws and democracy. Gardner perfectly executes the witty asides and tongue-in-cheek comments Rich sprinkles throughout. His edgy and distinct voice has a grip that keeps readers engaged in the text. He renders each word by starting softly and ending loudly with just a hint of nasal projection. His fluctuating pitch and decisive tone will grab seasoned listeners, but others might have to warm up to his distinct style. Aside from a few mispronunciations (including "yarmulke"), Gardner delivers the hard truths of this book in a performance that adds to its significance. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, July 24). (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
COMMJournalist Rich (New York Times; Ghost Light) also explores the Bush administration's sophisticated management of the media. His earlier career as a film and theater critic serves him well in his analysis of the staging of various presidential events such as Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech, delivered on the USS Abraham Lincoln after he landed a plane on its deck. Rich deconstructs the event, from the repainting of the plane, the timing at dusk--prized by cinematographers for its glow--and the echoing of popular movies like Top Gun. He sees the fabric of the Bush storytelling success now unraveling with the ongoing war in Iraq, the Valerie Plame CIA leak, and the Katrina disaster. The press and public are asking more questions about what's behind the curtain. Like Nunberg, Rich argues that truth has been replaced by the best story (what Stephen Colbert has coined "truthiness"). He is concerned about an American culture that embraces such "reality-remaking." The most engaging of these books; public and academic libraries will want to purchase. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
New York Times columnist Rich delivers a savaging sermon on the US government's "rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of 'compassionate conservativism,' the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts"-and so much more. Anyone who knows his work will know that Rich is no fan of either George Bush, a man "not conversant with reality as most Americans had experienced it," or the Bush administration. In this blend of journalism and mentalites-style history-that is, the study of the mindsets that underlie and produce events-Rich looks closely and critically at 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. By Rich's account, of course, that parade of missteps is organic; Bush and company cannot help but err. 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. (They are nearly forgotten already, but one needs to remember Judith Miller, Jeff Gannon, Karen Ryan and various columnists and commentators paid off to repeat the party line.) Not for nothing did a White House adviser reveal to one journalist that his bosses were set on creating their "own reality," one that all Americans were expected to share; not for nothing did that reality include spinning amazing lies about everything from the death of football- and war hero Pat Tillman to the kidnapping of Jessica Lynch to the government's preparedness for Katrina. And yet, and yet . . . Though theadministrationmay be remembered as the worst in American history, the people seem mostly silent. One wishes that Rich had explored that particular mentalite along with the others he so fluently discusses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615543427
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Rich became a New York Times op-ed columnist in 1994 after serving for thirteen years as the newspaper's chief drama critic. He has written about culture and politics for many publications and was on the staff of Time, the New York Post, and New Times magazine after starting his career as a founding editor of The Richmond Mercury, a weekly newspaper, in the early 1970s. He is the author of Ghost Light, a childhood memoir; Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980- 1993; and The Theatre Art of Boris Aronson, coauthored with Lisa Aronson. A native of Washington, D.C., he lives in Manhattan with his wife, the author Alex Witchel, who is a reporter for The New York Times.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Making the Sale
"Home to the Heartland"     7
"Dead or alive"     21
"I don't think anybody could have predicted..."     42
"You don't introduce new products in August"     56
"Mission Accomplished"     73
Buyer's Remorse
"We found the weapons of mass destruction"     95
"Slam dunk"     112
"Reporting for duty"     132
"When we act, we create our own reality"     153
"I don't think anybody anticipated..."     177
Epilogue: The Greatest Story Ever Sold     206
What the White House Knew and When It Knew It: Time Lines of the Selling of the War     227
Acknowledgments     311
Notes     313
Index     331
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2008

    A little goes a long way...

    Like Bush himself, a little of this book goes a long way. Read the first four chapters and you've read the whole book. Very repetitive.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2008

    How time changes everything...

    As for Mr. Podmore's 'expert' analysis, how time has changed the 'truth' about who was fighting us in Iraq. Please, people. Don't listen to ANY review when it's done with malice and political bent. Decide for yourselves as to whether or not any book is worth reading. Coming from an Independent, I would have probably read this book when it first came out, but when I saw how it was skewed and who it was written by, I decided to wait and see how things turned out, and as usual, regardless of who's writing a book on the Presidency or the war, it's always done with the author wearing the rose colored glasses of his political party and more often than not, also based upon the author's said party dogma. The average American citizen is smart and can make an informed choice when given both sides to a story, especially when both sides are truthful and not slanted and this is how this book should be read, and only then, can the reader make up his own mind.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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