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REVIEW: Sidney Blumenthal has a message in book ‘How Bush Rules’ -- vote Democrat
Review by Michelle Simon

Since stepping back from a political career as a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal has catalogued how the Bush Administration systematically stripped Americans of their basic freedoms, evoked trickery regarding the invasion of Iraq, and undermined one of the country’s basic tenements: separation of the executive and legislative branches. Blumenthal tackles these issues in his new book How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime that Princeton University Press published in time for this year’s heated midterm elections.

While George W. Bush seems to have became the favorite target of political pundits in this election year, Blumenthal’s work addresses some of its more disturbing legacies -- denying the torture of prisoners in Abu Graib and Gitmo, lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, dismantling social programs such as social security, and its courting of the religious right -- before Bush became every political hack’s favorite punching bag. Many of the chapters were originally published way back in 2003.

Blumenthal salvaged much of How Bush Rules from columns he wrote for the Guardian UK, and Salon.com. How Bush Rules, a collection of essays Blumenthal wrote over the years of Bush’s presidency, sometimes meanders from point to point. Still, he writes about many defining moments of this administration that readers will find familiar and worth revisiting.

One remarkable moment for me was this administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. First, in 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency predicted that a major flood would hit New Orleans, yet federal funding for the Army Corps of Engineers was drastically cut and funneled into the war in Iraq, a failure that Blumenthal describes with the accuracy of a sniper’s gunfire.

One amusing anecdote includes the White House giving press credentials to a fake reporter who in real life was a gay prostitute, which Blumental gloats is an example of how low the Administration is willing to sink in order to manipulate the press. James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, was given unlimited clearance by the Bush gang to help divert queries during press conferences when questions from real reporters got too heated. Guckert wasn’t subjected to the usual security checks from the FBI as other reporters were.

Blumenthal’s analysis of the Bush regime and the Republicans is thoughtful and concise, but his premise appears to say that if we just got them out of office and voted for the Democrats everything would be fine. What this country needs is a serious third party to oppose the Republicans and the Democrats, who both are slaves to corporate greed. Democrats do everything Republicans do; the main difference is they are more sneaky about it.

Scale: 5 stars: Incredible!... 4 stars: Excellent... 3 stars: Good... 2 stars: Mediocre... 1 star: Lame!

Rating: 3 stars

Michelle Simon, a graduate of Holy Names University, is an assistant director at a San Francisco Bay Area university and a political activist. She still fits into her Catholic high school uniform.

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