A historian harshly assesses the Bush Administration’s efforts to combat terrorism and wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brushing aside the former president’s claim that he cannot be fairly judged until after his death, Anderson (History/Texas A&M Univ.; The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action, 2004, etc.) insists that the legacies and lessons of the Bush presidency are already ripe for appraisal. After supplying useful potted histories of Iraq, “the Improbable Country,” and Afghanistan, “the Graveyard of Empires,” and a 30-year review of U.S. policy toward and battles with al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the author brings the reader up to 9/11. From there, he focuses on George W. Bush’s presidency, an account of unrelieved hubris, malfeasance, deceptions and incompetence. The short version, widely available prior to this book’s publication, is as follows: Having ignored signals that should have alerted them to al-Qaeda’s attacks, Bush officials pressed for laws that curbed domestic civil liberties, even as they engaged in extra-legal methods to fight a misguided and certainly misnamed “war on terror.” Then, taking advantage of a traumatized electorate, an incurious, revenge-minded president, aided by Cheney, Rumsfeld and a brace of Pentagon neocons, abetted by a pliant CIA and a duped Colin Powell, cherry-picked evidence, lied to the country and rushed into a disastrous war for oil in Iraq against an unsavory dictator, easily demonized because he possessed WMDs, an accusation never proven. This horribly wrong turn in Iraq squandered the world’s good will, allowed Osama bin Laden to escape capture and the Taliban to regroup in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a mismanaged, bloody Iraq occupation depleted our treasury, depressed our military and robbed us of any moral credibility. Untroubled by the succeeding administration’s adoption of many of the Bush policies—Guantánamo remains open, the Patriot Act was extended—or by recent upheavals in the Muslim world that have demonstrated once again the difficulties of a properly calibrated American diplomatic and military response, Anderson approvingly cites a fellow professor’s judgment that, when it comes to Bush, there may be “no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.” A relentlessly tendentious account sure to delight Bush critics and infuriate admirers.


Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-974752-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet