The Right-Wing Assault on America’s Founding Principles
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“Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder.”

Thus spoke Thomas Paine, a Founding Uncle if not a Founding Father, whose words are scarcely ever evoked these days. By The Al Franken Show staffer Norton’s judicious account, that’s because Paine is just too darned revolutionary; certainly nothing he said gives aid and comfort to the neocons who have taken the name of the founders in vain in order to justify their imperialist adventures around the globe. Thus, when Dick Cheney wanted to plead for legitimacy in invading Iraq, he summoned up the cozy image of spreading democracy; when he wanted to legitimate the constitution there, he likened the process to the long one of making our own, concluding, “So this is a tough, difficult thing we’re trying to do.” Maybe so, says Norton, but the analogy is wholly false: it just sounds good to quote or mention the founders “when you’re defending a disastrous war,” just as it’s an expedient thing to liken, say, contras and mujahedeen to our own revolutionaries. (Never the insurgents, though: they’re Saddamists and terrorists, not patriots.) Norton is wry and sometimes a tad smartass, but his points are well taken. As John Dean remarked, and as Norton documents in case after case, “the Bush administration has made the Nixon administration look as clean and open as a Quaker picnic.” It’s thus a great irony, Norton argues, that the Bushies so intently strip away civil liberties even as they profess to be legitimate heirs to the likes of Adams, Washington and Jefferson. In the matter of nepotism alone, Norton deftly shows, they don’t even approach operating in the same moral universe.

More Jon Stewart’s America than Alistair Cooke’s, but with a fierce and often funny point. Just the thing for the midterm elections.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-58542-486-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: TarcherPerigee
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2006