Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream

Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream

by Bob Herbert
     
 

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The award-winning New York Times op-ed columnist probes the widening gap between
American ideals and American realities, and urges us to do something about it

Bob Herbert is the conscience of the op-ed page of The New York Times, and his work is characterized by a strong moral vision and a deep understanding of the human costs

Overview

The award-winning New York Times op-ed columnist probes the widening gap between
American ideals and American realities, and urges us to do something about it

Bob Herbert is the conscience of the op-ed page of The New York Times, and his work is characterized by a strong moral vision and a deep understanding of the human costs of political decisions. From partisan politics to popular culture, from race relations to criminal justice, few journalists bring to life so movingly the stories of ordinary people caught between the American dream and American realities. Whether it is the inherent injustice of the death penalty or the demagoguery of the war on terrorism, Herbert questions whether we are truly upholding our ideals or merely giving them lip service.

In Promises Betrayed, Herbert makes the case that in recent years America has too often failed to live up to its creed of fairness and justice in the lives of working people, racial minorities, children, and others not among the powerful. He introduces us to real people facing real problems and trying to maintain their dignity along the way, and he blows the whistle on imperious public officials who think the rules of common decency do not apply to them. Herbert's tenacious reporting has resulted in the overturning of many wrongful convictions and the release of dozens of innocent people from prison. In these and so many other ways, Herbert keeps us all honest and lives up to the journalist's credo: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
On the New York Times's Op-Ed page, Herbert offers reportage-based columns, a counterpart-earnest, rueful, angry-to Maureen Dowd's savage comedies and Paul Krugman's closely argued economic indictments. If Herbert fails to find new language to describe the abuse of power and lack of social justice in the U.S., he is reliable in continuing to bring the news. His strongest work here is a series on Tulia, Tex., where a ne'er-do-well white undercover agent sent 46 black "drug traffickers" to prison on scant evidence; Herbert's columns spurred Justice Department redress. Sometimes his columns are prompted by studies from interest groups, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get out of the office, meeting young unemployed and undereducated Chicagoans, for example. At times, Herbert writes with effective passion; his stance against the war in Iraq is enhanced by his reflection on "Know Your Enemy" posters he saw in his own service days. Too often, however, Herbert's voice is lost amidst his dutiful qouting of sources, attentuating his power. (May 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Crusading op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Herbert uses plenty of potent examples to show us how badly America has let down minorities, working people, and children. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
There's a fire burning in America's basement, New York Times columnist Herbert urges in this well-chosen collection of op-ed pieces. No one's rushing to put it out. Instead, "we're behaving as if we cannot even smell the smoke."What's wrong with America today? Well, Herbert suggests, it's hard to put a finger on the one big prime mover; suffice it to say that even though we are the world's sole superpower, at least for the moment, and richer than Croesus, "there is a sense of things out of whack, of the center caving, of obligations unmet and promises betrayed." That's the kind of thing that happens when a black man is lynched in a small Southern town, when in another small Southern town the word of a single rogue cop can put more than 10 percent of the African-American population in jail on suspicion of drug dealing. That's the kind of thing that happens, too, when citizens are rounded up en masse, the police reasoning that they can sort out the guilty from the innocent-the same logic applied in New York City, in other words, as in Guantanamo Bay. And so on. Herbert is outraged by the countless outrages wrought by the Bush era, and though his displeasure sometimes provokes rhetorical excess-does anyone but a straw man imagine that education is really a national priority, after all?-in the main it comes wrapped in plenty of facts and figures and specifics, none of them pretty. The op-ed format, of course, doesn't allow much room for sophisticated argumentation, seldom affording more than a few hundred words at a pop; and journalism is by its definition ephemeral, so that many of the instances that prompted these pieces will soon be forgotten. Even so, Herbert holds up better than most,and his explorations of such things as the outsourcing of American jobs and the Halliburtonization of the Iraq War, though not the final word, ought to still raise a few hackles among readers of a certain bent. Heroes and villains, good guys and bad: white-hot dissent from a practiced pen.
From the Publisher
"Beneath the sharp analysis and straightforward prose of Bob Herbert's columns is dogged and, often, ferocious reporting. Herbert is determined to narrate in vivid detail the tragedies and triumphs of invisible Americans in their everyday lives. Whether writing about criminal injustice in Tulia, Texas, or worlds at war in Iraq, Herbert brings to bear on his subjects fierce intelligence, no-nonsense reasoning, and unflinching honesty. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about the state of the American people-and, by extension, of our country-as we plunge headlong into the twenty-first century."

-Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"Bob Herbert's strong, brilliant voice consistently reminds America of where we still fall short of the ideals of the nation we want to be and can become."

-Marian Wright Edelman

"You will not forget the people in this book. They are people Bob Herbert will not let us forget. His journalism has the power of Dickens to enable us to see life as others experience it. In an era that may one day be known for the tragic meltdown of American journalism, Bob Herbert brings us back to the fundamentals-to what happens to our craft when it is practiced by a man who considers it a calling."

-Bill Moyers

"Bob Herbert is the conscience of a great newspaper, a powerfully compelling and consistent voice for underdogs of all colors, ages, and genders. With Promises Betrayed, you can read him in one big, bracing, highly nutritional dose that will propel you off the couch and into action!"

-Barbara Ehrenreich

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429900485
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt


From Promises Betrayed:
On the morning of July 23, 1999, law enforcement officers fanned out and arrested more than 10 percent of the tiny African-American population of Tulia, Texas, a hot, dusty town of 5,000 about fifty miles south of Amarillo.
The humiliating roundup was intensely covered by the local media, which had been tipped off in advance. Men and women, bewildered and unkempt, were paraded before TV cameras and featured prominently on the evening news. They were drug traffickers, one and all, said the sheriff.
Among the forty-six so-called traffickers were a pig farmer, a forklift operator, and a number of ordinary young women with children.
If these were major cocaine dealers, as alleged, they were among the oddest in the United States. None of them had any money to speak of. And when they were arrested, they didn't have any cocaine. No drugs, money, or weapons were recovered during the surprise roundup.
It is not an overstatement to describe the arrests in Tulia as an atrocity. The entire operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted an eighteen-month undercover operation. The arrests were made solely on the word of this officer, Tom Coleman, a white man with a wretched work history, who routinely referred to black people as "niggers" and who frequently found himself in trouble with the law.
In trial after trial, prosecutors put Coleman on the witness stand and his uncorroborated, unsubstantiated testimony was enough to send people to prison for decades.

What People are saying about this

Marian Wright Edelman
Bob Herbert's strong, brilliant voice consistently reminds America of where we still fall short of the ideals of the nation we want to be and can become.
Bill Moyers
You will not forget the people in this book. They are people Bob Herbert will not let us forget. His journalism has the power of Dickens to enable us to see life as others experience it. In an era that may one day be known for the tragic meltdown of American journalism, Bob Herbert brings us back to the fundamentals -- to what happens to our craft when it is practiced by a man who considers it a calling.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Beneath the sharp analysis and straightforward prose of Bob Herbert's columns is dogged and, often, ferocious reporting. Herbert is determined to narrate in vivid detail the tragedies and triumphs of invisible Americans in their everyday lives. Whether writing about criminal injustice in Tulia, Texas, or worlds at war in Iraq, Herbert brings to bear on his subjects fierce intelligence, no-nonsense reasoning, and unflinching honesty. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about the state of the American people -- and, by extension, of our country -- as we plunge headlong into the twenty-first century.
Barbara Ehrenreich
Bob Herbert is the conscience of a great newspaper, a powerfully compelling and consistent voice for underdogs of all colors, ages, and genders. With Promises Betrayed, you can read him in one big, bracing, highly nutritional dose that will propel you off the couch and into action!

Meet the Author

Bob Herbert has been an op-ed columnist for The New York Times since 1993. He was previously a correspondent for NBC News and a reporter, columnist, and member of the editorial board for the New York Daily News. He has taught journalism at Brooklyn College and at Columbia University, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and commentary. He lives in New York City.


Bob Herbert has been an op-ed columnist for The New York Times since 1993. He was previously a correspondent for NBC News and a reporter, columnist, and member of the editorial board for the New York Daily News. He has taught journalism at Brooklyn College and at Columbia University, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and commentary. He lives in New York City.

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