- Hardcover: 331 pages
- Publisher: New Press, The (April 7, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1565848918
- ISBN-13: 978-1565848917
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Spanking The Donkey: Dispatches From The Dumb Season Hardcover – April 7, 2005
Learn more about the top issues of this year's presidential race with these books sponsored by Wiley.Learn more.
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.
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Taibbi is partisan, cruel, and often side-splittingly funny.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely hilarious and insightful, there needs to be more journalism like this.Published 22 months ago by Brian
Matt Tiabbi is hilarious, smart, and I would read anything he writes. I miss him so much in Rolling Stone.Published on August 25, 2014 by hannah
Those who don't remember history are doomed to relive it. Or something like that. If so, reading about the 2004 campaign is probably a good idea. Read morePublished on April 6, 2014 by NyiNya
Read this book. Taibbi captures the absurdity of modern campaign politics and explains why politicians are not answerable to the public. Read morePublished on May 26, 2013 by DG
Daringly honest, surprisingly thoughtful, charmingly humorous, Taibbi looks at the confusing world of American political culture from a point of consciousness sadly missing in main... Read morePublished on October 5, 2009 by Martha Bromberg
Matt Taibbi is great at writing as the disgusted Washington outsider, trying to examine how things work there. Read morePublished on May 13, 2009 by R. Smith
Taibbi is a journalist similar to Hunter Thompson, and the 'gonzo' style of reporting. He takes no prisoners in his approach to coverage of the ludicrous process of a presidential... Read morePublished on April 5, 2008 by Patrick A. Villano