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Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004
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Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 [Hardcover]

Hendrik Hertzberg , David Remnick
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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From Booklist

Political essayist Hertzberg, who currently graces the pages of the New Yorker with his shrewd, balanced, and personable analysis, came to his calling naturally as the son of a Jewish activist-journalist and a Protestant history professor, as New Yorker editor David Remnick attests in his zestful introduction to this unprecedented and far-ranging collection. At nine Hertzberg was handing out Adlai Stevenson buttons; at Harvard he honed his love of exposition, expertise that carried him to Newsweek, the New Republic, and the White House as Jimmy Carter's chief speechwriter. Hertzberg's Carter years inspired some of his most piquant interpretations of the morality of politics, while his responses to the Vietnam War, the legacies of John and Robert Kennedy, and the "weirdness" of the Reagan White House and Dan Quayle (remember him?) all remain fresh, relevant, and unnerving, and his insights into the two George Bushes are blazingly brilliant. Hertzberg raises many crucial issues throughout this exhilarating volume, but none is more resounding than his forthright and commonsensical emphasis on the need for uncompromising humanism and secularism in democratic governments. Hertzberg could have lifted the perfect subtitle from the Grateful Dead, who appear in the book's first essay: "What a long, strange trip it's been." Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


...for those of us who are always looking for a clear voice, an engaged, spirited, sometimes irate, yet lucid voice... -- Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2004

Superb writing, subtle thinking. Just the thing for politics junkies and journalism buffs... -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review, July 13, 2004

Whether liberal or conservative, readers will find him challenging and provocative. -- Library Journal, July 2004

About the Author

Hendrik Hertzberg has been a staff writer and editor at The New Yorker since 1992; he was a staff writer there in the early 1970s as well. He has also been a naval officer, a Newsweek reporter, President Jimmy Carter's chief speechwriter, and (twice) editor of The New Republic, where he (twice) won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He is a 1965 graduate of Harvard.
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