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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Legal Schnauzer Book Club

We might not have the pull of the Oprah Book Club. But by golly, we think it's our duty to alert readers whenever a particularly compelling read comes along.

So we will start with two books that have attracted our attention recently.

One is Machiavelli's Shadow, by Paul Alexander, which we already have discussed here and here. This is the most complete account we have so far of Karl Rove's involvement in the Bush Justice Department scandal. And it provides details about the tactics Rove developed in Texas and then used in his "second home," Alabama. The book devotes an entire chapter to the Don Siegelman case, so it should be of particular interest to folks in the Deep South.

FireDogLake has an excellent overview of Machiavelli's Shadow, along with an in-depth online chat with Alexander:

* FDL Book Salon Welcomes Paul Alexander

The second book, just out, is Wrecking Crew, by Thomas Frank, a Wall Street Journal columnist and author of the acclaimed What's the Matter With Kansas.

Wrecking Crew is an in-depth analysis of the corruption that has been at the heart of conservative rule for almost 30 years now. A number of excellent interviews with Frank are on the Web:

* Salon--"Thomas Frank on the Bush Administration: Sabotage by Design"

* BuzzFlash--"Thomas Frank's Wrecking Crew Explains the Right's All-Out Assault on Good Government"

* PBS--"Bill Moyers Talks With Thomas Frank"

* Democracy Now--"Thomas Frank on How Conservatives Rule"

Frank makes a compelling argument that modern conservatives are almost inherently corrupt and miserable at governance. An excerpt from Wrecking Crew is in the current issue of Harper's magazine (for subscribers only online, for now), and I highly recommend it.

A few key points from the Harper's piece:

* Journalists tend to present Jack Abramoff as "one bad apple" in the conservative batch. But Frank disagrees. "Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident, or the work of a few bad individuals," he writes. "It is a consequence of the triumph of a particular philosophy of government."

* Even though conservatives have ruled America for most of the past 25 to 30 years, they have a peculiar "sense of their own exclusion." This predicates everything they do, Frank writes.

* Some of us, me included, might think that GOP corruption is a fairly recent phenomenon that came with the George W. Bush administration. Nope, Frank says. He traces it to the early days of the Reagan era, particularly when a young Jack Abramoff took over the College Republicans in 1981.

* Frank points out the modern conservatives' penchant for bullying. Frank calls it a "swaggering truculence." (As someone who has been the target of conservative bullying for eight-plus years, this one really made my Schnauzer ears stand up.)

If I ruled the world, no American would be allowed to vote without having read these two books prior to the November election. (And I would throw in Kevin Phillips' The Politics of Rich and Poor as more required reading.) I think they are that important.

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