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Establishment scions rarely speak so loudly. In this scathing critique of George W. Bushs administration, former Clinton senior aide Sidney Blumenthal lets loose. Despite his long service in government and journalism, often as a relatively quiet behind-the-scenes player, Blumenthal with this book reveals himself unleashed. Whether the topic is intelligence gathering, the Iraq war, the Middle East peace process (or lack thereof), or other topics, Blumenthal doesnt waver. His tone is unrestrained, his dismay palpable, as he catalogs the history of what he terms the Bush administrations "radicalism."
The work consists of an introductory 23-page essay, a compilation of articles that Blumenthal originally authored for Slate.com and British newspaper The Guardian between 2003 and 2006, and finally a short epilogue. Taken together, the writings paint a damning picture of a befuddled, lazy, incompetent, and at times deliberately malevolent administration. No figure in the Bush White House escapes. As Blumenthal summarizes in one passage: "The president aggressive and manipulated, ignorant of his own policies and their consequences, negligent; the secretary of state [Powell] proud, instinctively subordinate, constantly in retreat; the vice president [Cheney] a Cardinal Richelieu, the conniving head of a neoconservative cabal, the power behind the throne; the national security adviser [Rice] seemingly open, even vulnerable, posing as the honest broker, but deceitful and derelict, an underhanded lightweight." In different contexts, with different storylines, these essential portraits come through on almost all of the books 403 pages.
Blumenthals former position in the White House and his numerous connections throughout Washington show in telling ways. He quotes from a variety of private sources for example, contacts within the CIA and NSC on intelligence matters, different levels of military hierarchy on the Abu Ghraib scandal, and national party leaders on domestic political skirmishes to enrich his perspectives. Among his more explosive revelations are the militarys discontent with the Bush teams strong-handed policies, for instance one essay titled "The American Military Coup of 2012" stretches readers imaginations and prompts serious reflection about where events in Iraq may lead.
The inherent design of this book with dozens of short, to-the-point essays compensates for Blumenthals one weakness as a writer, which is his occasional tendency towards long-windedness and overly complex prose. Whereas his previous book, The Clinton Years, veered at times towards long and tiring monologue, the pace of this one is livelier and readable. In both its sharp tone and pragmatic readability, it represents a strikingly atypical offering from the normally genteel Princeton University Press.
As the body of serious analysis on Bushs administration builds, Blumenthals work will take its place alongside other journalistic-type memoirs as credible first drafts of history. Where Paul ONeills The Price of Loyalty lacerates the Bush administrations decision-making from the Republican side, and with a focus on fiscal policy, and Richard Clarkes Against All Enemies provides a centrist critique around national security, Blumenthals book offers a view from the respectable political left with both bark and bite on a number of Bushs policies. Its a perspective worth heeding.--Peter Han
First, I want to make clear I have not read this book nor had I heard of it until stumbling across it in a search for more credible authors. Read morePublished on September 3, 2009 by CamGuy
I will agree with the other reviewers that the author doesn't look at Cheney as deeply as he might. And, yes, the book is a collection of short columns--but that's one of the... Read morePublished on September 6, 2007 by Book Lover
This is a shocking look into just how this administration goes about business. The more you read, the more you can key in on specific things that are reported in the news or that... Read morePublished on January 22, 2007 by Jim Howard