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The Best American Political Writing 2002

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Our appetite for incisive and articulate reporting and analysis has been sharpened and made more urgent by recent events. And columnists and reporters have, as a group, responded by writing at a higher level. Indeed, this may be something of a golden age of political commentary. This highly readable, entertaining compendium collects the best political writing from the past year, from insightful analyses of the national and local political scene to sharply drawn profiles of some of the nation's most colorful ...

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Overview

Our appetite for incisive and articulate reporting and analysis has been sharpened and made more urgent by recent events. And columnists and reporters have, as a group, responded by writing at a higher level. Indeed, this may be something of a golden age of political commentary. This highly readable, entertaining compendium collects the best political writing from the past year, from insightful analyses of the national and local political scene to sharply drawn profiles of some of the nation's most colorful political figures-covering the major topics of the year, including the contentious presidential election and its controversial resolution in the Supreme Court decision, Bush v. Gore, the ineradicable tragedy of September 11, and America's prosecution of seemingly limitless war.

Composed primarily of short articles, longer pieces of particular merit, and excerpts from notable books, The Best American Political Writing 2002 covers all points on the political spectrum, gathering from the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other leading national newspapers; commentary from periodicals like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, The Weekly Standard, and Foreign Affairs; publications of think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution; Web-based magazines like Salon.com; and significant speeches including George W. Bush's address to Congress in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. Selections come from the country's finest political writers, including Margaret Carlson, Thomas Friedman, Meg Greenfield, Seymour Hersh, Hendrik Hertzberg, Molly Ivins, Paul Krugman, Anthony Lewis, Marjorie Williams, and many others. Together, their voices are a distillation of our national conversation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For this first in a projected annual series, the events of 2001 generated far more drama and political debate than usual, broadly reflected in this collection. The most interesting pieces are those that, when read together, create a point-counterpoint effect. For example, liberal lawyer Vincent Bugliosi vigorously attacks the five-justice Supreme Court decision in the Florida vote-count case because, among other things, the Court failed to articulate a credible constitutional basis for its decision. In contrast, Charles Krauthammer, the conservative Washington Post columnist, sees the Supreme Court's role as fundamentally political and finds nothing objectionable in the decision. Yet the section on the election overall feels surprisingly dated. Flippin (editor of Shackleton's Forgotten Men) does for the most part offer pieces that are still timely, such as an excerpt from Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's bestselling book on her attempt to live on a minimum-wage salary. The retrospective gives readers a chance to do some score keeping: Seymour Hersh, writing about pre-September 11 intelligence failures, quotes several people who predict the as-yet-unrealized ouster of CIA head George Tenet, while Bill Keller writes on Colin Powell's growing influence in the Bush administration-influence not much in evidence today. Flippin has chosen wisely and benefited from an expansive definition of political writing. Heavyweight thinkers Arthur Miller, Henry Kissinger and Jeane Kirkpatrick are featured along with media stars such as Jeff Greenfield, Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman. The pieces also come from a wide range of books and magazines, including the New Yorker, the New York Times and the Atlantic, but also less mainstream sources such as Salon.com, the Nation and Foreign Affairs. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
This is an excellent selection of political writings from a most interesting time in American history. The title is a bit misleading, though. Published in 2002, the work covers 2001, which includes as a most important component the aftermath of the contentious and groundbreaking election of 2000 and the terrorist attacks of 2001. A bit confusing, but I don't imagine many individual years would generate a book with appeal to match the period covered here. The book is divided into six main parts, with each general topic including a specific issue. Specific sections cover tax cut politics, stem cell research, global warming and the war on terror. General section headings include Politics in the Bush Era and America's Future in an Uncertain World. There are selections from a wide range of newspapers and periodicals, and from many well-known pundits and reporters (e.g., Thomas Friedman, Molly Ivins, Meg Greenfield, Barbara Ehrenreich). Some pieces run just a few pages, some as many as 20. These days there are more and more ways students and teachers can access material of this kind, but if having this particular period available in a handy bound format appeals, there's much good material here in under 400 pages. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Thunder's Mouth Press, 378p., Levinson
Kirkus Reviews
In what will probably become an annual anthology, Flippin offers a collection of essays and excerpts from a variety of commentators on prominent political issues of 2001. Beginning with analyses of the 2000 presidential election and ending with two energetic calls for the death of the ABM treaty (from Richard Pearle and Jeanne Kirkpatrick), this uneven volume plays mostly to the political middle-essayists from the far left and far right are not represented, and some familiar and important voices are also absent, including William F. Buckley Jr., George Will, Maureen Dowd, and Michael Kinsley. (But poor Bill Buckner: two different writers allude to his World Series miscue.) There is no absence of stridency, however. Vincent Bugliosi (whose "None Dare Call It Treason" appears here in truncated form) calls Clarence Thomas the "Pavlovian puppet" of Justice Scalia, and we can read once again Katha Pollitt's notorious declaration (in 9/11's immediate aftermath) that "the flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war." Numerous pieces are fun to read again-especially Marjorie Williams's analysis of the Clinton-Gore relationship, one of Molly Ivins's acerbic assessments of President Bush, and James Wolcott's energetic spanking of television pundits (Chris Matthews, he says, is overly fond of "free associating like Dutch Schultz on his deathbed"). There is some poignancy, as well-an excerpt from the late Meg Greenfield's Washington; the final, measured column of Anthony Lewis's 32-year career. Issues like global warming and stem-cell research get some attention, and there are some thoughtful essays on race by Lani Guinier, Randall Kennedy, and Glenn Loury. Not surprisingly, 9/11 receives muchattention. Thomas L. Friedman reminds us that religious totalitarianism is what we're battling, and Michael Wolff writes what Bill Maher said on television-that the 9/11 hijackers were many things, but they certainly weren't "cowards." An odd selection is President Bush's Sept. 20 address to Congress-a speech crafted by committee. An engaging if not always premier premiere.
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