Customer Reviews


17 Reviews
5 star:
 (10)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written look at truth
This book is a joy to read with clear, usually incisive and often very entertaining prose, and yet Alterman has kept an even hand by not focusing on Presidents of only one party.

I especially liked the brief section about Guatemala that is found within the larger section on Iran-Contra. Alterman recounts the facts often overlooked by so many: That in 1954 the...
Published on September 29, 2004 by MKS

versus
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Band-aids for the Republic
While I appreciate Alterman's accounts of the various costs of the official lying, I'm a little mystified at his conclusions about such lying. Alterman's stated purpose is to show both citizens and leaders in America that the political and social costs of lying can be disasterously, and sometimes upredictably, damaging. Lies have to be covered with more lies, and in so...
Published on March 4, 2007 by Publius


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written look at truth, September 29, 2004
By 
MKS (California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
This book is a joy to read with clear, usually incisive and often very entertaining prose, and yet Alterman has kept an even hand by not focusing on Presidents of only one party.

I especially liked the brief section about Guatemala that is found within the larger section on Iran-Contra. Alterman recounts the facts often overlooked by so many: That in 1954 the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected Arbenz government, installed a dictator, and for decades thereafter supported dictators who killed 200,000 Guatemalan civilians. He even briefly mentions that the CIA overthrow resulted in major-league blowback in the form of radicalizing Dr. Ernesto Guevara, who was in Guatemala in 1954 and witnessed the overthrow, and as a result came to believe that only armed revolution could help the poor.

The irony of course is that those who are currently most vociferous about installing democracy in Iraq were those who had no problem with the U.S. support in the 1980s of Guatemalan dictators who directed the genocide of the Mayan Indians. It is the same cast of characters-- with Cheney leading the pack.

Alterman also impressed me in the Guatemalan subsection of his book with his reluctance to overstate. Alterman states that "one" of the reasons the CIA overthrew the Arbenz government was to please the United Fruit Company, which opposed Arbenz's economic policies. Well, that really was the main reason. United Fruit Company complained to two of its former lawyers who were high up in the U.S. government--the Dulles boys, John Foster who was Secretary of State, and Allen who was the head of the CIA. The result was quite helpful to the United Fruit Company.

The second area where Alterman pulls back a little is where he comments that because so many records are still being kept secret by the U.S. government, we don't know, beyond some verified CIA involvement, the extent to which the U.S. was complicit in the mass killings of tens of thousand of Mayans in the 1980s. Well, again, we do know a lot based on Department of Defense memoranda, State Department cables and CIA documents, which have been secured in part through the Freedom of Information Act. And the conclusion is not pretty. Of course the U.S. officials in the Reagan/Bush administrations knew about the butchery and yet continued to fund and train the butchers.

Alterman has convinced me of his evenhandedness. His incisiveness is wonderful to read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four Deadly Incidents, September 23, 2004
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
I'm reminded about the old joke - How do you tell when a salesman is lying, his lips move and he makes noise. ==With politicians it has become almost accepted behavior up to the time that they got caught. We are all familiar with Clinton's lies, made under oath, about Monica, which got him impeached. Nixon, of course resigned over the lies regarding Watergate. This book, exhaustively researched concentrates on four specific incidents.

The first incident concerns Yalta, the Churchill-Stalin-Roosevelt conference at the end of WW II. At this meeting Roosevelt made concessions to Stalin that he subsequently expected to change. But he died ten weeks later and left the presidency to Truman who had not been at the conference and had not been informed of the deal that Roosevelt had cut. The result was the cold war, causing an immense amount of treasure and even lives over the next fifty years.

Second he describes the secret deal cut by Kennedy in regards to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This enhanced the Cold War and helped pave the way for the Viet Nam war.

Third is Lyndon Johnson's version of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. These provided the basis for the congressional resulutions that allowed the United States to send an army to Viet Nam.

Finally is the Iran-Contra strategy of Ronald Reagan. At one meeting Reagan was told that his announcements might constitute an impeachable offense. He replied, they can impeach me if they want, visiting day is Wednesday.

I write this in the midst of the new presidential campaign. Kerry has just spoken out about Assault Rifles with the ability to kill dozens of people at a time, while the only thing in the legal definition that makes an assault rifle more deadly is the ability to attach a bayonet on the end. And Bush, well the fact that one of his press aids said, The President is not a fact-checker, just about says it all.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding history of executive deception, January 16, 2005
By 
J. Davis (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
Eric Alterman continues his excellent writing (please read What Liberal Media)in this terrific book. He covers the deceptions of five different presidents, 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Part of the appeal of this book comes from its nonpartisanship; he is as tough on Johnson as he is on Reagan. Throughout the book Alterman is consistent in his belief that American leaders owe the American people the truth at all times. He has no patience for neo-Machiavellians who would pardon politicians for lying in the name of a greater cause, e.g. national security. Or, of course, for the peoples' "own good."

From Yalta to Gulf War II, Alterman shows the deleterious impact of presidential lying. His history of the Vietnam War is the best part of the book, as it was the lies of LBJ that led to thousands of deaths. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American political history, regardless of their political leanings. Thanks, Eric!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent examination of recorded events and reality., December 15, 2004
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
Some people may scoff at the idea of exposing politicians for their lies. Several reviewers above mentioned such "noble" people such as Churchill, and Plato - bringing up "noble lies" and so on and so forth - self-serving rich men who believe in misling the public in the best interests of political expediency. If you are someone who believes politicians must be strong as well as honest, this book is an excellent review of the American political failures of some of the most important parts of the American 20th century, as well as the beginning of the 21st century.

it covers a small portion of FDRs presidency, mostly only the dealings at Yalta; what led up to, and what occurred immediately afterwards when Truman took power. He then moves onto Kennedy, and his failures in dealing with Cuba - comparing his neoconservative-like attacks on Eisenhower/Nixon in their "failures" to contain and control Cuba to the modern political establishment that we know as the modern Republican party. it exposes Kennedy's hypocrisy in dealing with both Cuba and the Soviet Union.. all in the interest os his own political gain - it must have worked because we revere this dog as one of our best Presidents!

He then moves on to talk about Johnson and his political ineptitude and paranoia in dealing with Kennedy's leftover men, and the infected issue of Vietnam - and his lies that forced our country into a long, protracted war which we lost in the end.

Alterman then writes a scathing chapter reviwing the Reagan administrations dealing in both El Salvador and Nicaragua, and how this interacted with Iran (Iran/Contra scandal).

The last chapter deals with GWB, comparing GWB to the idiotic behavior of Ronald Reagan, and Bush's failure to lead the country down a truthful path, and his cabinets blase attitude towards telling the public one thing, and not requiring themselves any factual data to back their statements up. True Reaganism at it's best!

Excellent book for all to read. If you do not know anything about Iran-Contra, this book explains the issue in a reasonable amount of detail. It also gives great detail on the inner workings of the the ineptitude of Americans in dealing with WW2, the massive coverups and lies spewing forth from people like John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Reagan, Bush I & II and a gaggle of other chickenhawks too scared to fight in their own wars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Presidents And Their Administrations Often Lie (Spin), January 18, 2005
By 
G. Reid (Roseland, NJ) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
This is an eye-opening book about Presidential Deception. The author covers the deceptions of five different presidents in a nonpartisan manner. Eric Alterman throughout the book maintains the position that American Presidents owe the American people the truth and should not engage in the deception that he has discovered in too many cases.

The author covers the lies of LBJ surrounding the Vietnam war that led to many thousands of deaths. Ronald Reagan's involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal involved lies. The author discusses a secret deal that Kennedy made involving the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are Clinton's lies regarding Monica and Nixon's lies about Watergate. Roosevelt made a secret deal with Stalin at Yalta.

Americans evalulate presidents often on their words and their charisma sometimes without paying much attention to the validity of those words.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The buck stops here, but not the truth..., January 21, 2007
By 
Newton Ooi (Phoenix, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
Since the Watergate scandal, the assumption among the American press and people that the president always tells the truth has been destroyed. The first Bush's promise of "No New Taxes" and Clinton's wrangling over the Lewinski affair have only served to reinforce the image of presidents lying over various matters in order to win re-elections and settle political scores with other politicians. This book, so aptly titled, ignores these three well-known cases of presidential lying, and instead focuses on four specific cases where a president lied regarding an area of government where the president really does not need to lie; foreign policy. All four cases are unique in that in each one, the president knowingly told what he knew was wrong, even when there many who would have supported the truth, and in doing so, committed the US to go down a road more costly in terms of money, prestige, blood, and respect. The four cases are FDR's public comments on the Yalta agreement, JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, LBJ's play on the Tonkin Gulf incidents, and Reagan's handling of the various proxy wars in Central America. In all these cases, all part of the Cold War, the president in charge chose a course of action knowing that it was the wrong course, but trusted their own ability to juggle and evade the consequences in the future. All were wrong, and either their administration, or the following one, paid the consequences.

The book presents its cases in chronological order, and is quite good at showing how one case eventually helped spawn the other, thus providing great transitions. The book is also written quite objectively, and takes into accounts sources both public and private, from both sides of the Cold War. The text flows easily and quickly and always provides enough background information to give proper context. All in all, a great book and a great addition to anyone's reading list for Cold War literature, foreign policy, presidential misdeeds, and political science.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched readable book., December 28, 2005
By 
Christopher J. Steffen (lincoln, NE United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The only issue I had is that he doesn't differentiate the three main types of lies. The first group of lies are those to get out of something. "I didn't have sex with that woman" is one example. The second group of lies is to get something done that wouldn't get done by honest means. George H. W. Bush's Team B evaluations of Soviet military power come to mind for this group. The last and worst group of lies are those of privledge and power. We are above you, you don't deserve the truth. If anything you lowly, must beleive our lies or else. Obey us and beleive what we say is true. The last group is by far the worst and Alterman does not catagorize lies by those standards. I still recommend the book but for that I gave 4 stars instead of 5.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Great Case Studies of Political Science, May 28, 2012
This review is from: When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (Hardcover)
I highly recommend this book for its studies of several recent (post WWII) situations in which circumstances caused the US executive power to lie or to let itself be deluded. Mr. Alterman selected and probed a number of fascinating examples in which presidents or their advisors found themselves in scenarios where less than the whole truth or, in some cases, outright lies became the official US government interpretation of events (the US presentation of the Soviet position at Yalta; the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis; the Gulf of Tonkin incident(s); and Iran/Contra). The tragedy is not only the unintended consequences of some of these errors but the ways in which in retrospect the actions of the participants still seem reasonable. I learned a great deal from Mr. Alterman's research and analysis, even though I lived through several of these crises. This book has left a more lasting impression on me than a number of volumes I have read in the last, say, 10 years.

I withheld a fifth star because, first, the end notes were much too detailed. I believe this book originated in the author's Ph.D. thesis and I had the impression, perhaps unfairly, that the sumptuous lists of references in the end notes were holdovers from the necessity of establishing the thoroughness of his academic work. Unfortunately, while I usually enjoy seeing where an author gets his information or otherwise comments on sources, I thought that section of the book needed a good hard editing.

The other reason I did not give this book the highest rating was that I didn't think the author sufficiently explored the causes or larger cultural mechanisms underlying executive untruth-telling. I concede that such an analysis might have taken the author far afield and consumed years of work, but his choice of topic was otherwise so insightful and timely that I wish he had had the opportunity to extend and, to my mind, complete his work. Is public lying, as John Mearsheimer suggests in "Why Leaders Lie?", endemic in democratic societies? Is it aggravated in the US by mass media and their institutionalization? Is this a fixable problem?

I suppose one could occasionally fault the author for letting his liberal sympathies and his moralism show but I really don't think his overall effort suffered from the fact that he felt strongly about some of the events he described.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Band-aids for the Republic, March 4, 2007
While I appreciate Alterman's accounts of the various costs of the official lying, I'm a little mystified at his conclusions about such lying. Alterman's stated purpose is to show both citizens and leaders in America that the political and social costs of lying can be disasterously, and sometimes upredictably, damaging. Lies have to be covered with more lies, and in so doing, those lying liars in office eventually paint themselves into a corner. Their policy options are hemmed in by their own false testimony to Congress and the American people.

In his concluding chapter, Alterman simply asks that policy-makers heed his warnings of the consequences of lying about important matters. Who are we kidding here? Alterman is asking men and women engaged in American politics to avoid short term gains through lying in favor of long term gains for telling the truth. In other words, Alterman leaves truth-telling at the discretion of our leaders. It's very much like asking that a dictator behave nicely toward those he/she rules. It's a nice idea, but it fails to address the systemic basis for official misbehavior.

The political tradition of Western systems of rule is that of shaming leaders into doing the right thing. Transparency leads to accountability; accountability can lead to a confrontation between the rhetoric of the state and the reality of its policies. This country was founded in part on the notion that our leaders could not and should not use the splendor of their offices to shield them from the scrutiny of their people. Asking presidents to be their own conscience and their own judge flies in the face of the concept of open government.

System-wide oversight is the only way to keep our government, or any government for that matter, honest. It's a shame that Alterman is so unwilling, perhaps unable, to recognize this point. Our leadership in America must be forced into being honest, or we risk being a nation of constant dupes.

I'm interested in Alterman's accounts of the consequences of Presidential lying, but all he's offering with this book is a band-aid for a gaping wound in American political life. I'm appalled at his lack of insight.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVEN WITH NEAR TWENTY PAGES ON W AND HIS POST TRUTH PRESIDENCY, October 27, 2006
we will need another volume devoted to his "evolving" reasons for invading Iraq or for torture or for the wall of shame, etc.

excellent historical research recently published and very affordable which with his other well researched works gives us the rest of the story and what we need to know.

George W. Bush cannot tell the truth. This book shows how and why. He is his father's son. And yet we hear he is a Christian leader . . .
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences
When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences by Eric Alterman (Hardcover - September 23, 2004)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.