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The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 165 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This blistering j'accuse has vitriol to spare for George Bush—calling him a "spoiled brat" and "blowhard"—and his policies, but its main target is the PR machinery that promoted those policies to the American people. New York Times columnist Rich revisits nearly every Bush administration publicity gambit, including Iraqi WMD claims, Bush's "Mission Accomplished" triumph, the Swift-boating of John Kerry and the writing of fake prowar letters-to-the-editor from soldiers. He uncovers nothing new, but his meticulously researched recap-cum-debunking—complete with appended 80-page time line comparing administration spin to actual events—builds a comprehensive picture of a White House propaganda campaign to bamboozle the public, smear critics, camouflage policy disasters and win the 2002 and 2004 elections through trumped-up security anxieties. Along the way, he pillories a sycophantic media (Bob Woodward gets spanked hard), spineless Democrats and an infotainment culture that happily accommodates the Bush administration's erasure of the line between reality and fiction. Sometimes Rich's critique of Republican politics as cynical image-manipulation goes overboard, as in his "wag the dog" theory of the Iraq war as a Karl Rove electoral maneuver; more often, though, it's on target. The result is a caustic, hard-hitting indictment of the Bush administration, timed to make a splash in the upcoming election campaign. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

New York Times columnist Rich offers few revelations, but the weight of all the things already published about the war in Iraq and the rationale for going to war provides a staggering indictment of the Bush administration's penchant for "truthiness" and public-relations glitter rather than substantive policy. Rich's analysis is acidly pointed as he reviews the litany of half-truths told by the Bush administration in the lead-up to the war and since then. Faced with the prospect of an FBI whistle blower disclosing the administration's incompetence in recognizing terrorist threats before 9/11, the administration launched a stream of PR distractions: Bush's Top Gun appearance on a carrier with a banner announcing "Mission Accomplished," the false packaging of Private Jessica Lynch, the blustering about uncovering administration leakers when Valerie Plame was publicly revealed as an undercover agent. Rich maintains that Bush himself was behind the leak. By the time Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the PR spin machine that had sustained the president since 9/11 was in undeniable tatters. Rich offers a time line of events and commentary that makes the case that the government has played fast and loose with the facts regarding Iraq for political advantage. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420098X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200984
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,333,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on September 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Unlike the obvious majority of one-star "reviewers" of THE GREATEST STORY EVER SOLD (who have probably never read a book containing more than fifty words to a page), I read and thoroughly enjoyed Frank Rich's story of the Bush II Administration's use of half-truths, misdirection, staging of alternate realities, and general truthiness to promote a disuniting agenda and hide its astonishing incompetence. As a long-time drama critic turned weekly op-ed columnist for the New York Times, who better to critique the overweening theatricality of a Presidency predicated on its own supporters' willing suspension of disbelief and acceptance of image and symbols over content and truth?

Mr. Rich's approach in THE GREATEST STORY EVER SOLD is disarmingly simple - retell the chronological story of the Bush II Presidency, focusing on the manner in which the Administration presented and sold its case to the American public. What emerges, of course, is a pattern of deceptions and staged events that have resulted in a failed Presidency (with approval ratings rivaling those of Nixon after Watergate), a country more polarized than ever, and a lower American standing in the world than at any time in our history. What also emerges, however, is a portrait of the mainstream media that for far too long acted as the President's lapdog, cowed by the aftershocks of 9/11 ("watch what you say!"), panic-stricken over the notion of seeming traitorous simply by asking a question, and fawning obsequiously over the Bush Administration out of fear of losing their vaunted access (failing to recognize the irony of their being used as tools of the Administration's propaganda program).

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Format: Hardcover
Frank Rich, Paul Krugman and Keith Olbermann are among the few current journalists looking behind the Oz-like curtain of the Bush administration to call all the spades exactly what they are -- spades.Month by month, sometimes even day by day, Rich lays out the "do as we say, not as we do" battle plans of Bush, Cheney, Rove et al on Iraq, Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, the economy, civil rights, education, health care and scores of other issues that affect all Americans.The book takes the fragments of news we've received for the past five-plus years and puts them in a better context than other writers (save the aforementioned trio) have done.As a former newsman who now does public relations consulting, I found Rich's book especially interesting. It reminded me of when I and other Air Force public information officers were ordered by another president to tell Americans that Francis Gary Powers was taking air samples -- not spying -- when his U-2 was shot down in 1960.A few days later, President Eisenhower had to admit what the Russians and everyone except some American citizens knew -- Powers was indeed spying. Unfortunately, today's administration is even less truthful than the one in charge then, and it will take longer for all Americans to realize it. Rich's book will help speed the process.
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Format: Hardcover
When Frank Rich sits at his type writer people in the White House shudder. And with good reason, for the New York Times columnist skewers them every Sunday with a combination of able research and wry wit. People taking pleasure in his Sunday columns will delight in this book. Those who detest him will likely have an aneurysm. Already, as can be seen among the reviews for this book, GOP attacks have either taken out their long knives to stab or tried to dismiss Rich as just another Bush Hater.

Such ad hominem attacks fail to reply to the care with which Rich approaches the topic or the strength of his argument. Seeing the Bush White House at its heart as arrogant and disdaining the constraints of tradition and law, the book traces a parade of failures and attempts to explain how time and again the administration can distract the American people from reality. In this Rich saves his greatest venom for his own peers in the media in general and at his own paper in particular. Why did they not challenge the White House when it made charges, often demonstrably false, such as Dick Cheney's recent claims never to have claimed Saddam was involved in 9/11? How did they give the government a pass on Afghanistan even as the US began shifting troops to Iraq leaving that country on the precipice of falling back into the hands of the Taliban? Remember how every prisoner at Gunatanamo was "the worst of the worst," and only now we know many innocent people remain in a legal limbo, turned over by bounty hunters in Pakistan to the US military, and even now remaining in captivity because the White House is loath to admit its mistake? Or how come the media does not question why terrorists become the most active in the summer and fall of even years?
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Format: Hardcover
There are many one-star reviews here from the foaming-at-the-mouth crowd about a book they have not read. I was forwarded an email asking me to come here and freep (I hold an acct. at freerepublic)- some of these folks are the same people who wrote reviews about their favorite right-wing books and included comments FREAKING! out that the left hasn't even read, say, Ann Coulter. Sad really. Such hate and twisted hypocrisy.

Anyway--I really have read this book, and it is very well written. But then I don't consider Bush a true Republican, he is an extremist of another kind, and even people like Joe Scarborough are coming around to see this.
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