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

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

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by Frank Kelly Rich

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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


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 a devastating 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.

Editorial Reviews

David Greenberg
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.
ק The Washington Post
Ian Burma
… 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.
— The New York Times
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 the administrationmay 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.
From the Publisher
"Occasionally the right man is at just the right place at exactly the right time.... Frank Rich is that man.... A shrewdly observed and reasoned explanation of the motives behind all this horrifically destructive deceit."-Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times "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."-Ian Buruma, The New York Times Book Review "A gripping, witty and devastating indictment of President Bush's reliance on public relations to market his Iraq and counterterrorism policies."-The Washington Post "Fierce and uncompromising."-Time Out "An incisive assault on the administration's message control and word games."-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Destined to enjoy a healthy shelf life."-The New York Times

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Penguin Publishing Group
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The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frank Rich, a New York Times columnist, shows how Bush sold the Iraq war to the American people, and then how reality hit back. He follows the media trail and the Bush administration¿s endless efforts to dominate the media. He shows how, for example, Bush personally authorised the leaking of classified information about pre-war intelligence. Also, twenty federal agencies made and distributed hundreds of fake news segments, complete with pretend independent reporters, like the fictional accounts of Pat Tillman¿s death and of Jessica Lynch¿s capture and release. This was covert propaganda, supposedly illegal in the USA. In Britain, we had similar fictions about the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. Rich studies the USA¿s political culture, particularly its servile mass media. TV news programmes showed war without wounds and routinely assumed that opponents of the war were unpatriotic. The President¿s Daily Brief ten days after 9/11 told him that there was no evidence that Iraq had a role in the attacks, and `scant credible evidence¿ of Iraq-Al Qa¿ida links. Everyone but Blair told him that Iraq had no nuclear capabilities and had never tried to buy uranium from Niger. This didn¿t stop Bush lying the USA into an unnecessary war, lying that Iraq had links to Al Qa¿ida, lying that Iraq had nuclear capabilities and lying that it had tried to buy uranium from Niger. The Blair government echoed the lies. Further, Rich reveals that in a January 2003 meeting with Blair, Bush suggested faking an incident to provoke Iraq into firing on a U-2 plane painted in UN colours. Also, Blair agreed with Bush that during the future occupation of Iraq it was ¿unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.¿ Now the US state lies that only Al Qa¿ida terrorists oppose the occupation, when a US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the insurgency is home-grown and thrives on general resentment of the occupation.
GCinAZ More than 1 year ago
Frank Rich gives a very detailed and insightful account of the Bush-Cheney Administration's shameless propaganda campaign to justify their invasion of Iraq. Additionally, his account of the illegal disclosure of Valerie Plame's role as a CIA operative was excellent, but with one shortcoming: Mr. Rich glossed over Plame's actual role in the decision to send her husband, Joe Wilson, to Africa to investigate the claim that Saddam attempted to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger. Her only involvement in that trip was informing her bosses that Wilson had firsthand experience with the government in Niger. I also found it both curious and disappointing that in his discussion of Hurricane Katrina, Rich omitted inclusion of Bush's stopover in Arizona to attend a birthday party for Sen. John McCain en route to his return to DC to address the hurricane. That trip was further evidence of the President's lack of concern for the lives of the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Perhaps the most valuable part of this book was the appendix which laid out the timeline regarding the invasion of Iraq. It proved that VP Cheney continued to lie to the media and the American people even after the statements concerning Saddam and the WMD's and the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda were exposed as lies. Thanks, Mr. Rich for a job well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book should be required reading before anyone is allowed to vote. This country should NEVER AGAIN let the cretins of the right wing into power. Bush and his puppet master Cheney almost destroyed this country with their evil lies and greed. NEVER AGAIN.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
KnightOwl More than 1 year ago
Complete rubbish. If you're the sort of drooling imbecile who suffers from Bush Derangement Syndrome (the compulsive need to blame Bush for every bad thing that ever happened during his presidency), and if you think that putting lies into print makes them any less false, then perhaps you will enjoy having this two-bit hack echo your paranoid delusions for you. If, on the other hand, you actually have a functioning brain in your skull, then move along and leave this garbage for the 9-11 "Truthers" and their ilk.