In what will probably become an annual anthology, Flippin offers a collection of essays and excerpts from a variety of commentators on prominent political issues of 2001.
Beginning with analyses of the 2000 presidential election and ending with two energetic calls for the death of the ABM treaty (from Richard Pearle and Jeanne Kirkpatrick), this uneven volume plays mostly to the political middle—essayists from the far left and far right are not represented, and some familiar and important voices are also absent, including William F. Buckley Jr., George Will, Maureen Dowd, and Michael Kinsley. (But poor Bill Buckner: two different writers allude to his World Series miscue.) There is no absence of stridency, however. Vincent Bugliosi (whose “None Dare Call It Treason” appears here in truncated form) calls Clarence Thomas the “Pavlovian puppet” of Justice Scalia, and we can read once again Katha Pollitt’s notorious declaration (in 9/11’s immediate aftermath) that “the flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war.” Numerous pieces are fun to read again—especially Marjorie Williams’s analysis of the Clinton-Gore relationship, one of Molly Ivins’s acerbic assessments of President Bush, and James Wolcott’s energetic spanking of television pundits (Chris Matthews, he says, is overly fond of “free associating like Dutch Schultz on his deathbed”). There is some poignancy, as well—an excerpt from the late Meg Greenfield’s Washington; the final, measured column of Anthony Lewis’s 32-year career. Issues like global warming and stem-cell research get some attention, and there are some thoughtful essays on race by Lani Guinier, Randall Kennedy, and Glenn Loury. Not surprisingly, 9/11 receives much attention. Thomas L. Friedman reminds us that religious totalitarianism is what we’re battling, and Michael Wolff writes what Bill Maher said on television—that the 9/11 hijackers were many things, but they certainly weren’t “cowards.” An odd selection is President Bush’s Sept. 20 address to Congress—a speech crafted by committee.
An engaging if not always premier premiere.