Battle of the Books
In the era of round-the-clock cable TV, talk radio and social media, it's easy to forget that books provide a rare forum for thoughtful--or at least detailed--examinations of national issues. In the past weeks, there were reminders of the power of political books--and some unusual twists.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's memoir, In My Time, published last week, may not have led to "heads exploding all over Washington," as he promised, but it resulted in heated discussions of issues that cast long shadows over the country. Not surprisingly, Cheney defended his hawkish views, but surprisingly he criticized fellow members of the Bush Administration.
One of Cheney's targets, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, firmly disputed sections of the book, particularly one depicting her as tearfully telling Cheney that he had been right and that the administration shouldn't have apologized for misleading arguments in the rush to go to war against Iraq. Rice is in an enviable position for people criticized in such a way: her political book, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, appears November 1 and may include some quickly re-written sections concerning the Office of the Vice President.
In an unusual twist, an obstacle to the presidential ambitions of Texas Governor Rick Perry may be two books--his own. The most recent is Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington, which appeared last November (and whose foreword is, in another twist, by current rival Newt Gingrich) and takes positions that, diplomatically put, might not fly in the general election: senators should again be elected by state legislatures, the Governor writes; federal income tax is "a great milestone on the road to serfdom"; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all Ponzi schemes. Love his ideas or abhor them, there they are in black and white in Fed Up!
Some people say books are irrelevant in the modern world. Hardly.
Happy reading! --John Mutter