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Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season Paperback – August 22, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Collecting articles Taibbi wrote for the New York Press, the Nation and Rolling Stone while covering the 2004 presidential election, this book is not so much a campaign diary as it is a compelling, and somewhat chaotic, mix of reporting, anecdote, social commentary and rant. After spending time primarily on the Democrat trail, but also working undercover with a few Republicans in Orlando, Taibbi came to the conclusion that people on both sides of the political fence seemed to be motivated "mainly out of hatred and contempt for the guy on the other side, not inspiration or idealism." In his introduction, Taibbi points out his big problem with the 2004 elections: the red vs. blue drama kicked America into such a fervor that the "fraudulent electoral system was reaffirmed." In each piece, Taibbi's rage and humor bleeds through, making this a vivid and very personal critique of both politics and the mainstream journalists who cover it. His unabashedly opinionated reporting-he writes of the antiwar marches in Washington, of following Dennis Kucinich around New Hampshire while high and of meeting John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit-will either amuse or irritate, depending on one's political persuasion, but it's hard not to be engrossed by the eccentric characters, entertaining scenarios and rich details that drive these stories. Though the newsworthy moment for this book may have passed, Taibbi's observations about the people he meets are acute, and his criticisms of American politics and the press will still feel relevant to many.
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.


"The funniest angry book and the angriest funny book since Hunter S. Thompson roared into town." —James Wolcott

“Catch one of the funniest and most honest American political journalists argue that the electoral system is seriously, seriously busted.” —Philadelphia City Paper

“Taibbi may be the only political writer in America that matters.” —Hartford Advocate

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307345718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307345714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bart Motes VINE VOICE on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, a disclaimer: Taibbi is very harsh with Christian fundamentalists and people of similar political beliefs. If you are one of those people, you'd be well-advised to stay away.

On the other hand, you don't have to be a raging left-winger to enjoy Taibbi's commentary otherwise. While the author's politics may be very left of center, he savages Democratic politicians as much or more than Republicans. There is a strong moral center in this book, which is why I characterize it as skeptical, not cynical. Taibbi comes from a journalist family and he has a keen eye for seeing through the spectacle that the political process is--as a symbiotic relationship between journalists and politicians and the junk-food diet public--simultaneously overfed and undernourished.

Taibbi's real bias, if you will, is in favor of substance and thought and against superficial b.s. of all types. So Kerry's ridiculous tarmac football photo ops come under fire, as do the artfully "diverse" Dean photo ops, and the shallowness of Wesley Clark's efforts to act knowledgeable about labor disputes. The only guy who comes out better than before is the one we love to make fun of: Dennis Kucinich. I'll admit that I was at one point a supporter of each of the first three and loved to make of that ridiculous gnome Kucinich. Taibbi expertly demolishes the appeal of making Kucinich into the national laughingstock, pointing that, yes, he looks ridiculous, but it's the media as bully that wants to make fun of him to reassure our own insecurities about not being that guy with the sculpted abs on the cover of Men's Health. Ouch. Touche, Mr. Taibbi.

This book is the perfect successor to Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.
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Format: Hardcover
In SPANKING THE DONKEY, Matt Taibbi presents something the combined forces of the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, and countless dozens of other journalistic outlets proved sadly incapable of presenting: an honest and unflinching look at the 2004 Presidential campaign in all its glorious inanity, irrelevance, and hypocrisy. Taibbi illustrates repeatedly the sheer silliness of the American whistle stop primary campaigning process, from the image-driven beauty contests in which every contestant struggles to make the least possible concrete statements to the press-driven horse race assessments. Along the way, he savages nearly every Democratic candidate, particularly John Kerry and Wesley Clark, reserving a soft spot in his heart only for the intellectual honesty and depth of belief in the quixotic campaign of Dennis Kucinich.

To address the Republican side of the process (since there were no meaningful primaries), Taibbi details a priceless, two-month escapade in which he went undercover as a volunteer in the Florida campaign operation of George W. Bush. In so doing, the author provides a fascinating look at a typical collection of Republican political operatives, campaign volunteers, and the Right's "true converts." He gives us a Tampa Deputy Sheriff who espouses a form of military cloning that would put Hitler to shame, a campaign office staffer who casually throws out a comment to a black volunteer that, "I know how you people don't like to work," and campaign volunteers whose take on Bush's gay policy is, "I don't know. He's never said anything.
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Format: Hardcover
Matt Taibbi, political contributor to Rolling Stone, New York Press, that magazine with the airbrushed nude photos, and many others, has always been able to wring hilarious true stories from the interiors of gorilla suits and from the hazes of hallucinogens. Now he does it in an easy to carry book form!

Join Taibbi on a whirlwind tour crisscrossing America as the nation decides on which man in an expensive suit the Democratic party fingers to run against Bush. It's a fun ride, and just turbulent enough for you to keep an air sickness bag close by. People from most points on the political spectrum will either love or hate this book, seeing that he shows neither the left or the right in a favorable light. Everyone is a victim of Taibbi's skewering. Pass the hot sauce!

Many of the pieces have been published before, and the best are what stayed. This way I don't have to worry about shelling out $4 for a copy of Rolling Stone if another awful "mall-ternative" band is on the cover. For new readers, he keeps things interesting - has a great gift for metaphor, a sense of humor that can cause sudden stomach pain, and a large collection of celebrity toenail clippings.

Only one disappointment - Punching The Donkey would have been a far better title.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Spanking the Donkey", Matt Taibbi's journal of the 2004 presidential campaign, is unlike any book of any campaign l've ever read. Resourceful, original and combative, Taibbi seeks to tell the story HIS way....and in doing so, uncovers the sham of those who run for president.

While last year's presidential race seems distant now, the author reminds us that it wasn't too long ago we were enmeshed in an election that pitted two woefully inept men. Taibbi covered the Democratic primary season and then went undercover to work for Bush and although he slams Kerry mercilessly, he saves his best ammo for the current occupant in the White House.

This book grew on me. For the first forty pages l was convinced that "Spanking the Donkey" was written by a man in his mid-thirties for an audience in their twenties. As the book continued, however, I became aware that Matt Taibbi is an exceptionally good writer. His narrative has rhythm and bite. He maintains humor throughout (which is not an easy thing to do) and he is refreshingly opinionated. For those of us who had the misfortune not to see his essays at their time of print, "Spanking the Donkey" is nonetheless a welcome retrospective to last year's hoopla.

No matter what one's political persuasion is there is something in this book for everyone. (I especially liked his criticism of author Bob Woodward) Taibbi's main contribution is to underscore the fact that as bad as the candidates are and as bad as the journalists are who cover them, the whole idea of campaign issues has been lost to rhetoric. For this alone, but for many other reasons, I highly recommend "Spanking the Donkey". I hope Matt Taibbi has another book in mind.
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