UTTER INCOMPETENTS by Tom Oliphant

UTTER INCOMPETENTS

Ego and Ideology in the Age of Bush

KIRKUS REVIEW

PBS commentator and former Boston Globe correspondent Oliphant excoriates all things Bush.

Although he frankly confesses his left-of-center bias, Oliphant insists that it’s not his own political perspective, but rather the behavior of the Bush administration that accounts for the severe judgment rendered here. On the list of Bush missteps, mistakes and missed opportunities, Oliphant (Praying For Gil Hodges: A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family’s Love of the Brooklyn Dodgers, 2005) gives pride of place to the war in Iraq, a “blunder of epic proportions” that threatens to obscure the administration’s many other disasters. Bush’s astonishing ineptitude, he argues, extends to issues ranging from energy to education to healthcare, from the economy to the environment. The president has failed to protect Americans from terrorist threats and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He is unable to control the country’s porous borders, and he’s incapable of handling natural disasters like Katrina. Not to mention the fact that he’s presided over the ruination of America’s international reputation. By confining himself to a tight inner circle that shielded him from scrutiny or accountability, by allowing ideology and special-interest cronyism to govern his decisions, by his poor work habits and his preference for imagery over accomplishment, by his willful refusal to consider serious alternatives and, then, to carefully monitor the execution of his policies, Bush has ineptly—and, so infuriating to his critics, arrogantly—run an administration certain to be condemned by history. By the end of this polemic, Oliphant drops all pretense of sober assessment: “It wasn’t just Iraq … [i]t was everything.” Really? Everything? While marginally better written than the raft of recent Bush-bashing books, Oliphant’s screed suffers from the same sin as most of these efforts: overkill. Perhaps history will judge the Bush administration every bit the irredeemable enterprise Oliphant supposes, but his refusal to identify even a single accomplishment, even one admirable feature of the president’s stewardship, leaves the reader as skeptical of Oliphant’s judgment as of the president’s.

Certain to hearten that considerable portion of the country impatient for the clock to run out on this beleaguered administration.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-312-36017-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2007




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