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You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America Paperback – September 9, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alexis de Tocqueville is a guiding spirit for this wide-ranging text, which advances a familiar argument: that moneyed and privileged interests, rather than the needs and opinions of ordinary citizens, dominate contemporary American politics. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper's magazine, begins by lamenting the lack of basic comprehension of the Constitution and American government on the part of the political and media elite. From there, he proceeds thematically, considering the influence of the Republican and Democratic parties, the effects of social class and education, among other topics. Detours into local politics, including an extended account of a dispute over the construction of a Target store in Portsmouth, R.I., feel digressive, as do the author's occasional forays into history, in which he takes aim at targets on both sides of the political aisle from Joseph McCarthy to Woodrow Wilson and James Polk. MacArthur's book will likely inspire like-minded political progressives, despite his harsh criticism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but its crossover appeal may be limited. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

JOHN R. MACARTHUR is the president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. An award-winning journalist, he has previously written for The New York Times, United Press International, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the acclaimed books The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy, and Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633602
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,350,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chris A. Mcninch on September 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
Everyone hears it as a kid, that they can be anything they want when they grow up; be it cowboy, astronaut, dinosaur, or, of course, President of the United States. John R. MacArthur's fascinating new book You Can't Be President reveals that unless you're part of an extremely select minority all of those career paths are about equally as viable. I don't necessarily read a lot of political books (though I like to think I follow politics a bit more closely than the average bear) yet from the second I picked this up I was instantly engrossed. It's written in an extremely accessible and involving, but also utterly convincing, style that explodes one of the fundamental precepts of our society: that with enough hard work and elbow grease you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. It's an incredibly thought-provoking and infuriating book that's definitely "must-read" for this election year.
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Format: Paperback
I've never read a book like this. For starters it's a page turner. The stories told reveal terrible truths about this nation. Truths more frightening and more deeply rooted than I had any idea. Rarely do we gain access to the depth of reporting evidenced here.

The book is a ripping indictment of what most of us know in our gut. And despite the onerous knowledge haunting any reader who cares for democracy, the result is somehow incredibly provoking and inspiring. I hesitate to repeat the contents of the book when its author does such a thorough and artful job. Also I hesitate to say things which really require many paragraphs to begin to understand. That and the sound-bite is way too effective a bait for the internet trolls.

Suffice it to say that I extend gratitude toward the author and hope that many read this book and are as inspired as I am to follow Jefferson's dictum so aptly quoted in MacArthur's first chapter: "We are never permitted to despair of the Commonwealth."

Count one more standing with you John MacArthur. You are a true patriot.
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Format: Paperback
For those of you who don't understand the reference to David Halberstam he was a much feared and respected journalist who wrote about everyone from Eisenhower to Carter. To his credit he was on Nixon's enemies list and Lyndon Johnson had him followed.

It's easy to see how John MacArthur, an award-winning journalist, author of "The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy," could win the ire of the Bush clan and the Clintons. His copy is straight-forward, easy to read, in a style anyone can follow, loaded with supportive information that blends seamlessly with his theme: government by the people is a myth. The approach is not so much an attack when he has done so well to support it as an indictment of the American political system. Hopefully, we will see some changes in the future under Obama.

In this book Mr. MacArthur describes how party bosses, like Richard Daley of Chicago and the Clintons rule with an iron fist. How without so much as a nod from the federal government, Daley destroyed Meigs field in what the Chicago Sun-Times described as a land grab. No doubt some of Daley's rich realtors, donors to his reign as mayor, got richer. MacArthur describes it best:

"Just before midnight on March 30, 2003, with no warning to the Federal Aviation Administration, Daley ordered bulldozers under police escort to rip into sections of the nearly 4,000-foot runway and thus render it unusable for takeoffs and landings."

The author has much to say about the 2004 presidential campaign and Hillary's ambition to be president no matter what it cost the nation. MacArthur describes it on page 66:

"In [Hillary's] view, Howard Dean's very nomination posed a major threat to her power over the Democratic Party.
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Format: Paperback
YCBP is a fast-paced run through the many ways our "Democracy" fails to be democratic. While depressing, these weren't exacly revelations. Rather, many of these examples demonstrate John Dewey's truism that "politics is the shadow cast over society by business." Keep in mind, however; this isn't a "deep" or analytical book. YCBP is mildy interesting but nothing special. I've read better books along these themes so I would recommend that you keep looking...

Not terrible but not recommended.
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