Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bookchat: (1) Harry Reid's chat tour brings him to FDL's Book Salon at 5pm ET. (2) The NYTBR gives play to "Nixonland," but assigns it to an idiot.



Which means he's got to do the circuit -- though it may be a slightly cushier circuit when you happen to be the Senate majority leader.

I gather Jon Stewart kind of softballed him on The Daily Show, and last night Keith Olbermann was generally respectful on Countdown. But Keith did at least raise the question of Holy Joe Lieberman.

Harry, as you know, has taken to claiming that Holy Joe "votes with us," meaning Senate Democrats, "on everything but the war." Some of our blogmates have done some tabulating and come up with a long, long list of fairly important issues on which His Holiness has emphatically not voted "with us." Of course it was pointed out that with HH everything is "the war," as indeed it is. Where HH's BFF Chimpy the Prez is fighting a War-unto-Eternity Against Terror, a fight that seems to include a war-to-the-death against civil rights and even democracy itself, our Joe is in the death grip of a one-man War Against Stuff I Don't Like. And indeed in that war he always votes his conscience.

Which leaves one other minor matter on which Holy Joe doesn't exactly vote "with us": this wearying business of his having dismissed the entire Democratic presidential field and endorsed a Republican for president. At this year's Republican National Convention, we can expect Holy Joe to be 2008's Zell Miller.

(Say -- to digress a moment -- if you were Hillary, wouldn't you be just the tiniest bit peeved at your old friend Holy Joe? After all that you and Mr. Hillary did in last year's election to help him slide his carcass back into the Senate, even after he lost the Democratic nomination, he disses you like that? I thought if there was anything Clintons knew how to do, it was hold a grudge.)

Now, Keith did bring up the matter of Holy Joe supporting McCranky of the GOP to Harry. Harry joked about about how "you would ask about that," and talked about the Dems' slender majority, and especially with "Senator Johnson's illness" the even slimmer majority, which on the war (still pretending that it's only on the war that His Holiness votes with the McConnellites) became no majority. Amidst the jovial burbling, there was sort of a hint that with a more security majority, His Holiness's Democratic friends in the Senate may actually start listening to the bilge he blithers. Clearly, though, Harry and his cohorts have to figure out some strategy for dealing with their old pal -- at least by the start of the RNC.

So modest kudos to Keith for putting the question to Harry. More robust kudos to Harry himself for exposing himself to FDL's Book Salon. He can duck the awkward questions if he likes, but you can be sure the FDL questioners will ask them.

(2) IF YOU THINK Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America IS A BOOK OF SOME IMPORTANCE,

It appears that the NYT Book Review is giving major play to Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, and it's nice to see that the editors grasp that it's an important book, all 881 pages of it (which doesn't even include the preface!).

Against that, though, is the astonishing fact that somebody at the NYTBR had the brilliant idea of assigning the book to that pompous phony George Will, one of the worst manifestations of Beltway insiderism. Oh, I guess we can sort of see the logic. They turn to a "conservative" reviewer because they've got the idea that this is a "liberal" book.

First, as far as I can tell it isn't a liberal book. It is, rather, an in-depth look at the process whereby the Johnson landslide of 1964 gave way a mere eight years later to the Nixon landslide of 1972, creating the fault lines that have hardened into what we now know as red states vs. blue states. Read the last paragraph of the preface:

The main character in Nixonland is not Richard Nixon. Its protagonist, in fact, has no name--but lives on every page. It is the voter who, in 1964, pulled the lever for the Democrat for president because to do anything else, at least that particular Tuesday in November, seemed to court civilizational chaos, and who, eight years later, pulled the lever for the Republican for exactly the same reason.

And second, George Will isn't a conservative, he's an idiot. Having put in my time trying to read the little shithead, I have no intention of reading his review. Nobody's paying me to, so I don't have to do it.

I'm reliably informed, though, that George declares Rick "juvenile" and "adolescent," but nevertheless describes the book as "compulsively readable." The problem is that when you've been judged juvenile or adolescent by George Will, what has been said? Is the idea that George is "grown-up"? As they say in Yiddish, weh's mir.

Parenthetically, isn't this just the perfect example of why it's so easy to scorn the NYT? Sure, it would be impossible for any newspaper to live up to the exalted reputation that the NYT unaccountably enjoys. The newspaper business is tough, even apart from the increasingly grueling economics of it.

But when the Times blows the easy-as-pie stuff, that's just plain ridiculous. The average village idiot knew that Judith Miller had gone over to the other side and was producing persistently preposterous propaganda for the Bush regime, and you can be sure lots of people inside the paper damn well knew it. How did those smart editors not figure it out until it exploded in their faces? (One answer is provided, as I suggested here recently, by the newspaper plot line in Season Five of David Simon's The Wire.)

I'll bet each of us could think of a hundred writers who could have feasted on Nixonland. I'll just throw out the most obvious: Russell Baker. I don't know whether he would have liked the book, but that's not the issue. Can you imagine Russell Baker guiding us through the turbulence of that eight-year period?

Apparently the editors of the NYTBR can't.

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At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Nixon was a baseball fan.
George Will is a baseball fan.
Seems logical enough to me. . . .


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