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Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency Hardcover – July 22, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

While it would be easy to fill a sizable bookcase with books published in 2004 that were highly critical of George W. Bush, few of those authors carry the gravity of Senator Robert Byrd, who first came to congress when Truman was president. In Losing America, the veteran Democrat offers scathing criticism of Bush, whom he sees as undeserving of the office, unfit to lead, "callow and reckless," and "incredibly dangerous." Besides criticizing the much-discussed rise of the neoconservative philosophy, Byrd bemoans what he sees as the erosion of constitutionally mandated separation of powers. While many of his objections are colored with a high degree of personal dudgeon over perceived disrespect for him and his branch of government, he uses well-reasoned legal and historical arguments to illustrate his concerns. In Byrd's descriptions of encounters with Bush, the president is remarkably similar to the incurious, distracted cipher of contemporary books from Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, and though a certain level of decorum is generally practiced among governmental figures, the level of vitriol in his criticisms indicates that Byrd must either be confident he'll never need to be on Bush's good side or is simply too furious to care. As one might expect from a man accustomed to having people listen closely to him, Byrd has an ego; he tells of advising freshman senator Hillary Clinton to become a "work horse" and not a "show horse" and he is pleased when she chooses the latter (thanks to him, he indicates). Byrd is also a bit long-winded in making his points, often launching into lengthy historical anecdotes as a means of comparing and contrasting Bush to his predecessors. But his thoughts are not snarky op-eds from a pundit; they are well earned, compellingly expressed, and come from a politician much more experienced than most. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Attacks on the Bush presidency have proliferated in recent months, but few critics bring to the argument the weight of Senator Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has served under 11 presidents. Few combine his scholar's understanding of constitutional government with the experience gained in his nearly half-century of Senate tenure. Of course, it must be noted that Byrd is a veteran Democratic leader now attacking a Republican president during an election year. In his view, Bush and his advisers—Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Perle and Cheney—are dangerous not merely because their policies are ill conceived, but because they are intent on usurping the powers of the "the People's Branch of Government," Congress—refusing, for instance, to let Tom Ridge testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the proposed Department of Homeland Security. To Byrd the Constitution's checks and balances and the powers of the legislative branch, including the power of the purse and the power to declare war, have kept America a safe and functioning democracy. He argues, offering a series of instances, that the Bush administration is systematically, relentlessly and with stubborn arrogance making a mockery of these constitutional mandates through subterfuge, warmongering and intimidation of a Congress that is "cowed, timid, and deferential." Byrd is forthrightly critical of President Bush, charging him with "political mendacity" and saying that, in comparison with the other presidents he has known, "Bush #43 was in a class by himself—ineptitude supreme." This volume is a searing criticism, informed by Byrd's knowledge of history, leavened with his vast experience and written with his legendary rhetorical flourish.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 269 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393059421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393059427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,691,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those who knock this book don't understand the point of what Sen. Byrd is saying. In fact, from some of the negative reviews I've read here, it seems that some haven't even read the book at all and are merely throwing a review up in hopes of trashing this work so others won't read it. Well, I've read it, and I strongly advise everyone to read every word of it. It will give you an insider's view of how Congress and the Executive branch of government are functioning these days. When George Bush debated Al Gore in 2000, he said he would reach across the aisle and work with the Democrats to unite America in a common purpose. These words are laughable today. Senator Byrd, a long-time senate veteran who has worked with numerous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, speaks from years of experience in stating that he has never seen such callow, arrogant, and ignorant behavior as this Bush administration has demonstrated. Bush's contempt for Congress and crude grabs for power that have set our government's delicate and successful system of checks and balances on its ear for years to come are carefully presented by the senator. Bush's bill to authorize the war on Iraq was filled with language that took away the power of Congress to make war and gave Bush carte blanche permission to attack anyone he perceived as plotting against America. So what mechanism is in place to stop Bush and his hawks should he desire to attack Iran or North Korea or Jordan? The military in this country is supposed to be overseen by a civilian authority, but it seems that things have been reversed in Bush's administration. The military and its inherent need to make war is in charge in America, and Bush is merely an instrument of its will.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I note that many of the negative reviews have focused on Byrd's biography, particularly his past membership in the KKK. This book does not speak to racial equality or any other issues related to the klan. To bring up the KKK or Byrd's vote on the Marriage Amendment is a Red Herring, raised for the purpose of dismissing the book without considering its actual content.

As far as the book's content, it is about the Constitution's insistence on the separation of powers, congressional responsibility for spending, and the principle of transparency in government. Byrd argues that the Bush administration has railroaded the Senate into turning over much of its legal authority. He points out that the Senate has been cowardly in confronting this challenge. It is not journalism - Byrd is not trying to present the Bush administration's side in the matter. He presents a pretty good case and shows the reader the Constitutional and legal basis for his protest against current Executive branch policy and practice. I'd like to hear how those senators who voted for the October 10 '02 Iraq War Resolution answer Byrd's clear challenge: he states that they are disrespecting the Constitution by turning war-declaring authority over to the President.
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Format: Hardcover
A good political book to test your ability to rate on its merit and not on whether you share the author's ideology. (We should try harder to judge fairly rather than blindly follow that which supports our own views.)

Example: This book shares many of the same points as John Dean's, 'Worse Than Watergate,' but Byrd get's 4 stars, Dean get's 2. I'm not a conservative trashing Dean nor a liberal praising Byrd.

Byrd raises many troubling issues regarding the deterioration of the Constitution's separation of powers which should concern all American's. More imperialistic power and less accountability in the hands of a President you support may not seem so bad, but they will eventually land in the hands of a President you oppose.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Senator Byrd offers a great background for the long-term effects from the current administration's policies in light of our constitutional framework and hence adds another angle to the quandaries in which our country currently finds itself.

The author is open and honest in reflecting his arguments as his subjective perspective. Senator Byrd certainly earned my respect for his candor when he acknowledged that Democrats need to own their part of the responsibility in enabling a preemptive rather than collaborative war, as well as letting the Patriot Act pass without the due diligence it deserved.

In conjunction with Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" this book offers one of the best analyses of the impacts of the Bush administration's strategies and a compelling insight into some of the root causes for the heated bipartisan debates that I have had the pleasure to read recently.

Although, it is a bit slow to build up momentum within the first few chapters, it is still an eloquent account. I would highly recommend reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
When I moved to West Virginia a few years ago, I thought that Senator Byrd was a joke, the ultimate pork-barrel senator. After watching his behavior post-911 and reading this book, I am proud that he is my senator.

Byrd has been in Congress since the Korean War. He isn't a liberal firebrand like Michael Moore- he has been willing to work with people from across the political spectrum (especially to bring money to West Virginia). What comes across in this book is a profound sorrow that our time-tested system of government is being destroyed for short-term political advantage.

Byrd says that the real threat to our way of life is internal. Democracy is easy to subvert: the collapse of the Roman republic, is a classic case. Our Founding Fathers knew this, and the reason that our federal government seems so inefficient is that they designed it to be inefficient. They knew that leaders in the future would try to establish a dictatorship, and they feared that certainty more than the possibility of destruction from outside.

Byrd was one of the few politicians who stood up to the Bush administration when they demanded complete control to combat terrorism. He tried to stop the Democrats from swallowing the lies that led us into the Iraq war. He asked for straight answers to simple questions and was ignored. Now Byrd is asking more simple questions. Why are we giving up our liberties? When is the terrorism crisis going to end? We need to come with answers before it is too late.
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