Progressive journalist Flanders sketches sharp portraits of six women in the Bush administration.
The author works in the best tradition of muckraking, less concerned with her subjects’ personalities than with their vested interests and ideological sways, which Flanders (Real Majority, Media Minority, not reviewed) understands to be the meat and potatoes of political journalism. Here, we rendezvous with the “politics of masquerade” and the women who provide George W. Bush with good cover against charges of racism or sexism. Far from window-dressing dummies, Flanders writes, these are canny, profoundly conservative politicians versed in the wordplay of Washington. National security advisor Condoleezza Rice, so often held up as an exemplar of American opportunity, is a board member of Chevron, which props up a corrupt Nigerian military government that suppresses Ogoni activists and killed the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. Communications director Karen Hughes “narrowed the terms of debate to a few emotive words: evil v. good. . . . It’s simple and profoundly undemocratic.” Christine Todd Whitman was “an attractive shill” with touted liberal credentials, but she came to head the EPA with an abysmal environmental record as governor of New Jersey. Interior Secretary Gale Norton in her days as an attorney filed lawsuits for grazing permits, against the surface mining act, and against the windfall profit tax; her strategy, writes the author, is to “first assure your audience that you are committed to ‘preserving and protecting the environment,’ but that it can be done more ‘wisely and effectively.’ ” As for the information we receive about these women from the news media, Flanders is justly appalled by publications that concentrate on their mascara more than their records. The New York Times, for example, tells us not about Rice's corporate and political connections, but that “she is always impeccably dressed, usually in a classic suit with a modest hemline, comfortable pumps and conservative jewelry.”
Reporting that matters, delivering information necessary to make knowledgeable decisions at the voting booth.