The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina

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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 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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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
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
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594200984
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/19/2006
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.18 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2006

    true facts/not bush facts

    Very interesting for those who want to know the side of things the Bush administration has left out(FACTS). Most of these points have already been talked or written about but still a great read if you're a Bush fan! With as much time that has been put into misleading people, it can't hurt to hear this side over and over again too. Only those people who don't want to face reality would think this book wasn't a valuable piece of literature.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2007

    Great Fiction

    This work is a precipitant of an author who has done it all in local journalism and has nothing left to do except bash politicians. Everything contained within the covers has been seen somewhere else in print or out of the mouths of the talking heads. The more I read, the more it's clear that trained expertise is missing from the author, e.g. Katrina analysis. Anyone who has ever worked with disaster recovery knows that responsibility is incumbent first upon local authorities [mayor], then state [governor/adjutant general] and FINALLY federal, not the other way around as implied by this work. The fed's have neither the area specifics information nor the management talent for rapid results.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2006

    Kudos to Frank Rich

    Excellent illumination of this Administration's behind the curtain trickery. If only more Americans could see, as does Rich, perhaps America could be more enlightened.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2006

    What did Bush know and when did he know it?

    What raises this book above all the others of its ilk is the 'Time-Line' section. Therein, with a strong commitment to documentation, Rich lays out what Bush and the champions of the Iraq war knew and when they knew it. What becomes unmistakably clear is that prior to his 2003 State of the Union address, the president had in hand, intelligence that put to lie his soon-to-be-made claims that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda and that the dictator had sought uranium from Niger. The same intelligence also raised serious questions about Saddam's possession of WMD. In other words, what Rich shows us is that Bush unquestionably misled us into war by 'cherry-picking' whatever intelligence helped him make the case, while discarding far more compelling evidence that Saddam was no threat to us or to his neighbors. So devastating is the 'Time-Line' section of Rich's text that it would easily be used as a basis for impeaching Bush and removing him from office.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2006

    Extremely informative

    Detailed, informative, and the truth is what this book is based on the actions of the bush administration and their use of propaganda towards the American public. It shows how well and skilled this administration went towards selling the Iraq War and how ignorant media outlets were in facilitating his agenda without facts. This book is truley about the sale of Truthiness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2006

    Disjointed diatribe

    Accusation as proof, supposition as fact...a common tactic being employed by the pack member trying for their bite at the carcass. The entire premise undone by irrational, unsubstantiated motive theories. Wouldn't make it as a political thriller...shrill and sophomoric.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2006

    You gotta love Frank Rich!

    It may not be new information, but Frank Rich has a great way of illuminating it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2006

    Frank Rich knows how to bring out the real truth about so much!

    Outstanding expose of the real story going on in the White House and behind closed doors throughout the government on Iraq and our overall defense situation. I should know because I just left the Department of Justice and Bush political hacks were busy there changing statistics and slanting the truth on so many critical law enforcement issues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2006

    Capital Boring

    well I thought it didn't go nowhere just went on and on nothing about 9/11 just about bush's life

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2006

    It's Fahrenheit 9/11 redux

    New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich... That kind of says it all, doesn't it? The left-wing media has pulled out all the stops when they spew their vitriolic hatred of Bush, whether they use 'real' facts or invent their own. Bush has admittedly make some historic blunders since 9/11, including Iraq, imho, but I think sometimes he and his administration are given too much credit (read: blame) for everything that happens. North Korea is Bush's fault too, of course, even tho Kim Jong Il cheerfully signed an agreement with Bill Clinton in 1994, took our $$, and STILL proceeded with his nuclear ambitions. No president does everything right. Bush doesn't do everything wrong.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2006

    Another AntiBush Book

    It is no shock that during this midterm election there is another anti Bush book and it comes to surprise it is written by a New York Times reporter. They are all left wing journalists who will stop at nothing to spread their propaganda.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 24, 2009

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    Posted March 14, 2009

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    Posted June 19, 2011

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