The Bush-Haters Handbook is a godsend to those looking for a concise, mordantly entertaining overview of the Bush record from a liberal perspective, or those who want to arm themselves with talking points, facts, and figures for debates with conservatives, and at those seeking the perfect holiday gift book for that certain, special Bush-hater in their livesor for a Bush-lover they hope to rescue from the outer darkness. Summarizing, detailing, and bewailing all of the more important Bush administration outrages, and some of the more trivial ones, this book is the brainchild of Jack Huberman, a former Canadian who took up U.S. citizenship just so he could vote against Dubya in 2000. Topics range from abortion, AIDS, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Ashcroft, to women and workplace safety. Other major topics include budget and taxes, civil liberties, death penalty, defense spending, education, environment, gun control, health care, homeland security, Iraq, judicial nominations, "nucular" weapons, patients' rights, privacy, public land, September 11 and the war on terror, and social security. In between are a variety of smaller topics, such as Bush's language abilities (featuring a selection of priceless Bushisms). The pages are also enlivened by sidebars, "boxed" lists, and political cartoons.
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An Interview with Jack Huberman
Barnes & Noble.com: The Bush-Hater's Handbook is subtitled "A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency of the Past 100 Years." What inspired you to write this book?
Jack Huberman: Ask, rather, what inflamed or incensed me. From the start of his 2000 campaign, it was obvious what and who he stood for, how phony his rhetoric of moderation and bipartisanship was, and what we'd be in for under a Bush-Cheney administration: A drive far to the right; government of, by, and for corporate special interests and the economic elite; and lots of bad news for wage earners, for the social safety net, for the environment, and so on.
Then there was the election, which, like perhaps half of America, I thought was essentially stolen. So there we were with a radical "conservative" agenda foisted on us for which there was no mandate. It caused me to become politically impassioned in a way I'd never been before, even under Reagan, who now looks almost moderate by comparison. At a certain point, I couldn't just stand by and watch, I had to do something -- and this was what I felt I could do.
B&N.com: Has Bush exploited the events of 9/11?
JH: That, in fact, is what most directly "inspired" me to write the book -- when it quickly became apparent how the White House and GOP were going to exploit 9/11 for endless, absurdly irrelevant, and illegitimate political purposes, from justifying their tax cuts for the rich to attacks on key environment rules -- even to insisting on instant approval of every last one of Bush's right-wing-ideologue judicial nominees. And of course, to squelch criticism of Bush policies in Congress and the media by accusing critics of providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
B&N.com: You originally hail from Canada. What do our neighbors to the north think of the current American political climate?
JH: According to a Toronto Globe & Mail poll, Bush "is the most unpopular American president in recent memory among Canadians, with more than 60 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him," including 37 percent "very unfavorable." I'm surprised those numbers weren't higher.
There have been growing rifts between the U.S. and Canada on a wide range of issues, from Iraq to the tariffs the U.S. has slapped on various key Canadian exports, the environment, gay marriage, and marijuana laws. In general, I'm certain Canadians' growing political antipathy toward the U.S. is due to the reactionary and aggressively pro-business conservatism of the Bush administration.
B&N.com: Why don't more voters hate George W. Bush?
JH: To start with, somewhere near half of U.S. voters are conservative -- but that only begs the question why: Why do so many who aren't well-to-do vote against their own economic interests? That was what Dean was addressing with his Confederate flagpickup truck remark. Do they believe in Bush's trickle-down economics? Well, they apparently believe in something more preposterous still -- that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.
Let's not forget the vast propaganda machine the right now controls, from Fox News, NBC's Fox wannabes, and the giant pro-Bush radio chains to the network of right-wing think tanks and lobby groups. Or the mountains of money Bush & Co. have with which to advertise. Or their masterful skills in the arts of speechwriting, stagecraft, and spectacle. Or what Dean was alluding to: the various bigotries the GOP has been happy to exploit for decades. Lately, the media have conspired (without actually conspiring) with the Bushies and the business sector to talk up the economy and assure the public all is well. We should perhaps be surprised Bush isn't even more popular than he is.
B&N.com: Many writers have been making the argument that the Bush administration regularly lies to the American people. Do you think these anti-Bush books are having an effect?
JH: Yes. I just hope it's greater and quicker than the effect of the flapping of a butterfly's wings on distant weather patterns. The networks air criticism of the Bush administration, but only just enough to allow them to claim fairness and balance. Pro-administration voices dominate, but the very sight of an Al Franken or Molly Ivins or Paul Krugman book on the bestseller tables heartens Bush opponents and assures them they're not part of an endangered species.
B&N.com: Since your book was published, Saddam Hussein has been captured in Iraq. What will this mean for Bush's chances for reelection in 2004?
JH: Haven't you heard? Election 2004 is over. Saddam's capture clinched it. The Democrats might as well withdraw and let Bush run uncontested. That's more or less how the networks have played it. Indeed, it's time to abolish term limits for the presidency and perhaps make it hereditary.
Obviously, much can go wrong (or right) in Iraq between now and next November. There have been a number of big moves up and down in Bush's numbers, always according to some latest development, foreign or domestic. The public's media-conditioned inability to remember any story more than three weeks old is frustrating indeed -- and is part of what my book aims to help remedy.
I half-expected Saddam to be picked up, you know, a little closer to election time. If I were Bush, I'd order Osama to be brought in next October -- no later and no sooner.
Bn.com: Did Bush deceive the nation in the 2000 election campaign when he claimed to be a moderate? If so, will that strategy work a second time?
JH: I think it may well work a second time. The thing to watch for is the "fake to the center" in the year leading up to the election, which I think is already under way. The Medicare bill can be seen in that light -- inadequate or even fraudulent though it is. By next November, voters, with their TV-stunted memories, may have been lulled into forgetting the right-wing juggernaut of Bush's first three years. Then, in a second term, without reelection to worry about, and assuming they retain control of Congress, the Bushies can get back to business with a vengeance -- for example, privatizing Social Security, banning abortion outright, replacing the income tax with a national sales tax, enacting Patriot Acts II, III and IV, conquering another country or two for Halliburton and Bechtel to "rebuild," abolishing the EPA, FCC, FEC, SEC…
B&N.com: Howard Dean is the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination. What will it take for a Democrat like Dean to unseat Bush?
JH: More charisma, I fear, than Dean or any of the others possess. Dean stirs people up, but I'm not sure he makes them really like him. Also, I'm afraid American politics have really become this dumb: Dean may just be too short! Body size seems to matter more and more in our politics. We demand action figures -- witness "Governator" Arnold.
Short (so to speak) of height, heft, or charisma, the Democrat will need to address Americans' security as well as economic concerns. Above all, he or she must not count on -- or be perceived as hoping for -- bad news on the economy or in Iraq; as the economic upturn and Saddam capture show, those things are too unpredictable.
B&N.com: What would things be like politically for Bush if 9/11 had never happened? Would we still have gone to war in Iraq?
JH: I think we would have. Key administration figures jumped on 9/11 immediately as the go-ahead pretext. But the administration had been focusing on Iraq from the very beginning, which seems to be a major reason they were giving short shrift to terrorism threats and Al Qaeda, despite dire warnings from outgoing Clinton officials, the Hart-Rudman commission, and foreign governments.
As for the first question, for Bush, politically, had 9/11 never happened, things would be far, far worse for him -- as they were in fact getting, increasingly, before 9/11. Like Bush joked, repeatedly, after 9/11, when he claimed to have promised not to run deficits except in the event of recession, war, or national emergency, "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another entry in the Worst President Ever genre, and this one ranks about middling - not bad, not especially remarkable.
This has some fabulous evidence for Bush fans and haters. I think many Bush fans should know what they are supporting, and this book gives it to them. From his shady business deals; to connections between him and the Middle East, major oil companies, and other corporations; to the real effects of his tax cuts and where the money was pulled from to pay for this loss in governmental income. Did you know that many of the heads of companies that once invested in Bush's failing business to keep him afloat are now ambassadors to various countries? Or how about how the Republicans criticized Clinton for allowing campaign contributers to spend the night in the White House, calling it a 'disgrace' and a possible criminal offense, but now Bush has allowed over 160 of his contributers to stay in the White House. Republicans have been silent on the issue. There are some points where the author sort of left me saying 'huh?' because the wording did not make sense. But overall, it is a fabulous book.
While you don't want to have to answer the question, 'Where did you read that?' as it sounds perhaps a bit slanted, the title of this book makes more and more sense the more you read. It was exactly what I wanted - something that cut straight through the facades and revealed the simple facts, in every possible area. As a reference book, it is unsurpassed (and I've been looking). You no longer have to simply go on your instincts regarding all those aspects that seem fishy about this man-who-would-be-President (elected or not). I wholeheartedly recommend you arm yourself (and perhaps your friends and family) with this book and go forth to argue this dangerous, two-faced, corporate puppet out of the usurped Oval Office.