While it would be easy to fill a sizable bookcase with books published in 2004 that were highly critical of George W. Bush, few of those authors carry the gravity of Senator Robert Byrd, who first came to congress when Truman was president. In Losing America
, the veteran Democrat offers scathing criticism of Bush, whom he sees as undeserving of the office, unfit to lead, "callow and reckless," and "incredibly dangerous." Besides criticizing the much-discussed rise of the neoconservative philosophy, Byrd bemoans what he sees as the erosion of constitutionally mandated separation of powers. While many of his objections are colored with a high degree of personal dudgeon over perceived disrespect for him and his branch of government, he uses well-reasoned legal and historical arguments to illustrate his concerns. In Byrd's descriptions of encounters with Bush, the president is remarkably similar to the incurious, distracted cipher of contemporary books from Richard Clarke and Paul ONeill, and though a certain level of decorum is generally practiced among governmental figures, the level of vitriol in his criticisms indicates that Byrd must either be confident he'll never need to be on Bush's good side or is simply too furious to care. As one might expect from a man accustomed to having people listen closely to him, Byrd has an ego; he tells of advising freshman senator Hillary Clinton to become a "work horse" and not a "show horse" and he is pleased when she chooses the latter (thanks to him, he indicates). Byrd is also a bit long-winded in making his points, often launching into lengthy historical anecdotes as a means of comparing and contrasting Bush to his predecessors. But his thoughts are not snarky op-eds from a pundit; they are well earned, compellingly expressed, and come from a politician much more experienced than most. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Attacks on the Bush presidency have proliferated in recent months, but few critics bring to the argument the weight of Senator Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has served under 11 presidents. Few combine his scholar's understanding of constitutional government with the experience gained in his nearly half-century of Senate tenure. Of course, it must be noted that Byrd is a veteran Democratic leader now attacking a Republican president during an election year. In his view, Bush and his advisers—Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Perle and Cheney—are dangerous not merely because their policies are ill conceived, but because they are intent on usurping the powers of the "the People's Branch of Government," Congress—refusing, for instance, to let Tom Ridge testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the proposed Department of Homeland Security. To Byrd the Constitution's checks and balances and the powers of the legislative branch, including the power of the purse and the power to declare war, have kept America a safe and functioning democracy. He argues, offering a series of instances, that the Bush administration is systematically, relentlessly and with stubborn arrogance making a mockery of these constitutional mandates through subterfuge, warmongering and intimidation of a Congress that is "cowed, timid, and deferential." Byrd is forthrightly critical of President Bush, charging him with "political mendacity" and saying that, in comparison with the other presidents he has known, "Bush #43 was in a class by himself—ineptitude supreme." This volume is a searing criticism, informed by Byrd's knowledge of history, leavened with his vast experience and written with his legendary rhetorical flourish.
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