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.
. . . 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.
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.
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.
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.