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Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics Hardcover – April 15, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
With this provocative book, Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and author of A Tragic Legacy and How Would a Patriot Act, purports to expose the rank myth-making and exploitation of cultural, gender and psychological themes by the Republican Party. The author begins his attack by targeting John Wayne, whom he sees as a template for right-wing notions of American courage and conservative manliness. Wayne's avoidance of military service and his string of divorces, both at odds with his public image, are emblematic in this account of a fundamental hypocrisy implicit in conservative mythologies. Greenwald goes on to argue that prominent Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney display the same hypocrisy in their public ideologies and personal lives. Shouldering much of the blame are the press and the media, including Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, Chris Matthews and even Maureen Dowd, all of whom propagate popular attitudes about virile Republicans and effeminate Democrats. Despite the antipathy the author feels for Coulter, his writing is much like hers. More a partisan screed than a reasoned argument meant to persuade undecided readers, this repetitive text frequently devolves into personal attacks and vast generalizations. (Apr.)
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"The best book I've read on how the media works since Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. . . .If you want to understand how politics and the media work today, how the Republican party has betrayed the principles it purports to defend, and how opinion is manipulated by appeals to fear, prejudice, and other irrational emotions, Great American Hypocrites is indispensable.
"You won't be able to put it down, and you'll never read the paper or watch the news the same way after."
“Those who ignore what Greenwald has to say act at our collective peril.”
—John W. Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author of Conservatives Without Conscience
“There are few patriots on Capitol Hill. You can count them on your hand. . . . Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer, is one such patriot.”
“One of the smartest and most important new voices to emerge in politics in years.”
—Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos and coauthor of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
"Glenn Greenwald has done it again. He’s about to release another great book. . . . From the myth that John Wayne was a great American hero (he was a WWII draft dodger), to how the media perpetuates false images of right-wingers (so much for the “liberal media”) . . . to the falsehood that Republicans bring us smaller government, Glenn lays it out beautifully."
"I rely on Glenn Greenwald, above all, for understanding the assaults by this administration on the Constitution, and for pointing the way toward regaining a republic. There's no one whose work has impressed me more."
"This book is written with such vicious joy that it is just really fun to read....I'm always amazed by the clarity of [Greenwald's] writing and his ability to indict the conservative mindset with well-articulated factual patterns."
—Matt Stoller, Open Left
"The peerless Glenn Greenwald."
"One of the best political commentators out there . . .Unlike most other bloggers, Greenwald practices journalism . . . Few others are better than Greenwald at sussing out the accidental propaganda inflicted on us by the mainstream press"
—The Village Voice
"Perhaps the most influential civil-liberties writer on the Web"
—The American Prospect
"Among the most intelligent and widely read practitioners of blogging"
Top customer reviews
we all know it's true, the current social conservative is nothing of what they've marketed. wholesome, patriotic, courageous, and interested in the "average (plumber) joe". greenwald was dead on in the last chapter about john mccain leading up to the 2008 election. palin hasn't yet been picked, but his "maverick" image isn't quite enough to separate him from the failed bush regime.
i enjoyed the insights into the conservative operatives who mass produce this faux conservative image. you begin to recognize the sound bites and the people who routinely source and show up on fox news.
andrew breitbart is mentioned as a disciple of matt drudge who has recently surfaced in the shirley sherrod - barack obama - naacp smear campaign. a perfect illustration of how conservatives demonize other groups while rationalizing their own racism.
The gist of the book is the following: "Time and again, Americans vote Republican due to their perceptions that right-wing leaders exude such admirable personality traits as courage, conviction, strength, wholesome family morality, identification with the "regular guy," an affection for the military, fiscal restraint, and a belief in the supremacy of the individual over the government....Liberals and Democrats generally are depicted as the opposite. Liberals are weak, irresolute, anti-military, elitist, effete, amoral, sexually deviant, profligate and antagonistic to the value of "real Americans."" And, Greenwald thinks that this is a darn shame.
To prove his point, he tells us about John Wayne, who, he says, was the "pioneer of the great American hypocrites." "While Wayne adopted super-patriotic political positions and held himself out as a right-wing tough guy, he did everything he could to avoid fighting for his country during World War II," says Greenwald. And, in the process, Wayne appeared to have no shame.
He urged other Americans to fight in wars he would not fight in, making the Vietnam War his personal crusade. He was married three times, reportedly being guilty of chronic adultery, while claiming to support traditional moral values. He was addicted to alcohol, barbiturates and amphetamines for years. Per his third wife, Wayne became a super patriot in order to "atone for staying home during WWII." He became a fervent anti-Communist, even going after Frank Sinatra for being soft on the left at some point. He made films that purposely glorified war, while generally ignoring the realities of war. He was vehemently anti-homosexual.
But, according to Greenfield, he was a farce, but one who was able to build an image of a tough guy who had the guts to stand up for the things "he believed in." He played to American myths like "liberty and freedom do not come cheap." He became the epitome of the American right-wing male: a rugged individual with the frontier spirit, a cowboy. But, again, per Greenfield, "...just as it is true of that movement's leaders today - his actual life was in every respect the precise opposite of what he claimed to be."
Hypocrite John Wayne is followed by a legion of "top tier Republican leaders," who, according to Greenwald, similarly bring with them "the very opposite of the virtues the conservative movement claims to embody." Ronald Reagan, for example, volunteered during WWII, but avoided combat. And while Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered to go to Vietnam, members of the "right-wing noise machine" did not. Says Greenwald, "They are, with extremely rare exceptions (such as John McCain), draft dodgers, combat avoiders, pencil pushers, career government lawyers, coddled corporate lobbyists, bloated pill addicts....their masculine toughness comes from the costumes they wear, the scripts they read, the roles they play - never from the reality of their own lives."
Most of these guys have a "monomaniacal obsession with military glory." They are "chicken hawks," which is defined by the author as "advocating a war from afar as a sign of personal courage and strength." The names here include Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney and "macho man" George W. Bush, who, in May 2003, landed on an aircraft carrier dressed up in a fighter pilot costume to establish himself as a "great masculine warrior-leader." For the most part, he got away with it, as he announced in his carrier-deck speech "an end to major combat operations" in Iraq.
Joe Leiberman "steadfastly avoided (military) service." Rudy Giuliani got a deferment as an "essential" civilian employee. Mitt Romney spent two years in France on his Mormon mission during the war in Vietnam. When he returned, he received student visas for attending college. Of Romney's five boys of military service age, none have volunteered for active duty service. "I respect their decision in that regard," says Romney, who unabashedly hawks the war in Iraq. Fred Thompson spent 20 years as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington avoiding military service.
And then there are the family values. Since President Clinton's sexual scandal while in office, the Republicans have added sexual moralism and traditional marriages to their campaign props. But most of the Republican leaders have histories of living "the most decadent private lives imaginable." Gingrich has been married three times. Each of his divorces was messy. His current wife, who is 24 years his junior, was his former congressional aide. Fred Thompson dumped his wife of 25 years to marry a woman 25 years younger than him. At the time, he was 59 years old.
Greenwald tries to make the case that staying married is a Christian virtue. But he points out that in politically conservative Texas, it is very simple to get divorced. And he points out the irony that Texas with its very high divorce rate refuses to let gays marry, while, the state of New Hampshire, which has legalized gay marriages, has the lowest rate of divorce in the nation. Says Greenwald, "...we have scads of people sitting around opposing same-sex marriage on the basis of Christianity, while their third husbands and multiple stepchildren and live-in girlfriends sit next to them on the couch." He adds that it is an electoral winner to demonize gay people and that Republican candidates routinely milk the issue for political gain.
John McCain, while he was married and living with his wife of 15 years, was actively dating his future wife, who was only age 25 at the time. Rudy Giuliani, a Roman Catholic, has been married three times and has been accused of "serial adultery." Yet, he believes gays should be barred from marrying on the basis of "what he calls the sanctity of marriage."
A discussion on the size and power of government also gets a chapter in the book. Greenwald claims that "conservatives have endlessly claimed that they stand for limitations on government intrusion into the lives of Americans,." Yet, when in power, Republicans tend to grow government in size and power, and they are anything but the party of limited government." And, as "the Communist supervillains of yesteryear have been replaced by Islamic Terrorists as today's Prime enemy...", George W. Bush becomes, arguably, the biggest spending president in history, in an era when the federal government extends "the tentacles of government into virtually every area of Americans' lives.
There are also stories recanted about Senator Larry Craig, Senator David Vitter, Congressman Mark Foley and other Republican hypocrites. And Greenwald tells us how the Washington press corps are generally supportive of Republican myths. Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman are singled out the most for their supportive comments. For much of this, Greenwald gives credit where credit is due to "political operative" Karl Rove, who, during the Bush presidency provided the press with "their instructions, their leaks, their scoops, their access." But he warns that right-wing operatives like to "feed the media shallow story lines, and they dutifully repeat it." And, he says that Rove was able to "keep the press in line - half intimidated and half reverent."
So, this is a book full of juicy stuff on major Republican leaders. It is a quick, easy read. It tells us that in 2008 before the Presidential election that "as a candidate, (John McCain) is the spitting image of George W. Bush." The author claims that McCain is an "apolitical maverick despite a willingness to change positions the minute that doing so is politically expedient." And, he adds that "The press refuses to subject him to critical scrutiny because of their great personal affection for him."
But even though Greenwald is critical of TV host Chris Matthews in the book, reading between the lines of some quotes from "Hardball" in the may tell us how the Republican leaders get away with their stuff. On one show, Matthews argues with Howard Dean about why people vote for one candidate or another. Per Dean, people vote on values, and Democrats need to make known their values. Says Matthews, "No, they vote on personalities." And, following the Bush speech on the flight deck of the carrier, Matthews is quoted as saying, "Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy...The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
If Matthews is right, and I think, for the most part, he is, then we are probably in for years more of the Republican strategy of running candidates who project visions of courage, conviction, strength, family values, affection for wars and the military, and fiscal restraint....even if none of this is consistent with the candidates past or future. Whether the person is a hypocrite or not may not be as important as the personality projected. O.K., but, to end, now tell me how Barack Obama fits into all of this.