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Politics : Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 Paperback – Bargain Price, June 28, 2005
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book's essays are about a great variety of issues, both inside and outside the United States. Notable are his experiences as speechwriter to Jimmy Carter, his activities as election observer in Nicaragua and Pakistan, his work as a journalist during various presidential campaign candidates and his brilliant and insightful essays on the structural flaws in the American political system, in particular the elections.
Personally I do not agree with Hertzberg on many things (I'm more on the left than he is), but this book will appeal to any reader regardless of his or her political position. As long as you have even a passing interest in American politics, you will find this book provides some very pleasant, eloquent and humane reflections on the workings and effects of Washington and its policies. Despite the anecdotal nature of this collection, Hertzberg never loses sight of the bigger picture. It is hard to find a more intelligent and responsible defender of the weak and downtrodden in the United States today.
The articles in Politics range far and wide, from commentary on presidential elections to reviews of concerts. I particularly enjoyed Hertzberg's evaluation of Jimmy Carter and his Presidency (he was a speechwriter in that Administration) and his rueful analysis of how differently (and more wisely) an Al Gore Administration might have handled September 11 and its aftermath than did Bush. It was also interesting to see how prescient Hertzberg was at times in predicting election outcomes and cultural trends, and how at other times he was completely off the mark.
This is a book to be read carefully over a long period of time. Keep it handy, especially during the next few months before November 2004, and dip into it when a dose of clearheadedness is required.