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Weak, simplistic interpretations, one-sided viewpoints
on July 17, 2000
When I first read Tocueville's Democracy in America back at Fresno State University in 1984, I was struck with the superb and accurate analysis of American politics, culture, and society. Last week when I saw Ledeen's book, I was intrigued again and looked forward to more challenging, insightful analysis of the American character. However, don't let the elevated status of Toqueville's name begile you into thinking this is a work of another master. Ledeen dissapointed me greatly. He unfortunately takes events that he is interested in challenging, takes some quotes from the master, and attempts to suit his own intended outcome. For example, in an interesting discussion about American tycoons, Ledeen extols the virtues of good old fashioned competition with several anecdotes about self-made millionaires and billionaires, among them Carnegie, Gates, and Milken. Then, in a Faustian twist of sorts, he throws in two paragraphs about education, and how since the 60's, liberal thinking has taken competition out of education, and instead created a class of individuals who don't understand the concept of failure inherent in any competitive enterprise, especially the economy. Then in a surprise attack, he quotes General George Patten, that "the American people hate a loser." So 200 years of education are narrawed into two paragraphs! This sort of invalid syllogism happens over and over in Ledeen's book. He later reiterates (seemingly echoing the same tired mantra of Ollie North and Rush Limbuagh) how Bill Clinton undermined the national character, saying nothing of the overt character flaws in public officials throughout the past, including Bob Dole or Ollie North! It is a really pathetic attempt to take such a scholarly work as Tocquevilles and try to make out of context connections to today's so-called "national character." ...