These are rich times for writers of Hendrik Hertzberg's political persuasion. The stalwart political commentator has plenty of qualified company on the left when it comes to critiquing the conservative revolution, notably Lewis Lapham, William Greider, and Paul Krugman. But the former New Republic
editor and current New Yorker
executive editor has a voice that is particularly suitable for an on-the-outs observer. Hertzberg seems almost delighted to pinpoint hypocrisy, inconsistency, greed, and masked cynicism. At his best, he makes indignation fun. Politics
gathers dozens of Hertzberg's editorials and essays in one hefty volume, organizing them in loose subdivisions ("The Wayward Media," "Wedge Issues," "2000 + 9/11"). The former Jimmy Carter speechwriter isn't above lancing those on the left who fail to match their ideals with their actions, but, naturally, he's at his best when scrutinizing those on the right. The Reagan and Bush II administrations proved to be particularly inspirational. Keen, pithy, and daring (if not always right; in 1988, he ruefully forecasted a Dan Quayle administration), Hertzberg ranks with the finest political writers of his era. The proof is in this wide-ranging and smartly edited compilation. --Steven Stolder
From Publishers Weekly
Hertzberg's name is instantly recognizable to readers of the New Yorker
, where he often writes the lead commentary on the week's political fallout. Drawing on nearly 40 years' worth of material, this collection sums up a career that has included stints editing the New Republic
and speechwriting for Jimmy Carter, and offers some surprises: a baby boomer's reminiscences on the 20th anniversary of Woodstock are expected, as are repeated forays into electoral reform, but a 1972 John Lennon profile and a probe of the origins of the classic New York tabloid headline, FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD find the politics in pop culture. A long stretch of material deals with his coverage of the 1988 election, including a reflection on the possibility of Dan Quayle becoming president that leads into a discussion of disengaged leadership. And there's plenty of direct criticism of George W. Bush and his handling of the war on terror, in the context of Hertzberg's longstanding dissatisfaction with neoconservatives and self-appointed protectors of "Judeo-Christian" values. Taken as a whole, the articles show a consistent concern for a classical liberalism in which sober reasoning rests on equal footing with sly humor, but even articles from 2000 feel distant given the pace of current events.
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