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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Strategist’s Bookshelf

Just as fall is the start of the Oscar movie hunt — when the studios shelve their popcorn features and roll out their character dramas — September marks the return of the serious book. While much of the literary buzz will be focused on bright, new novels, the autumn calendar is loaded with political nonfiction. Among the highlights this month:
Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush by Robert Draper. In late 2006 and early 2007, Draper — a journalist with GQ and a former writer for Texas Monthly— was granted six hour-long interviews with the President. During the writing of this book, he also interviewed more than 200 source close to Bush. What emerges is an attempt to give an intimate view of the Bush White House from the perspective of an outsider without an ax to grind. Excerpts from the book are already running on Slate. Early reviews say that the general picture is familiar to readers of the Woodward books (Bush at War, Plan of Attack, etc.) but that the details are fresh and revealing.
Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes by Mark Penn. Any kind of book by Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster released this close to the 2008 elections is intriguing for reasons beyond the particular content. But Penn’se ffort to identify the national cultural trends in religion, leisure, politics, and family life is interesting on another order of magnitude. He uses decades of research to produce the data and numbers which make up his trends, and much of what he writes is fascinating (for instance — he notes that 57 percent of journalists are women, and that in the fields of public relations and the law, gender proportions are trending the same way). If that sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, you can always read every page looking for insight into Sen. Clinton’s campaign strategy, and if I’m a high-level guy for Obama or Edwards, that’s exactly what I’m doing this week.
Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton. We all know that President Clinton’s current gig is philanthropist-in-chief, and Giving is a call to action for individuals to develop creative solutions to combat the problems of the world. It will be fascinating to see how the publicity for this book develops. Remember, Clinton’s memoirs set a worldwide record for single day non-fiction book sales, and he won a Grammy for the audio-version he recorded. You can be sure that each of his media appearances (starting with his appearance earlier this week on Larry King Live) will be closely coordinated with his wife’s campaign. My guess is that you can start queuing up for the book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Des Moines now.
The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgement Inside the Bush Administration by Jack Goldsmith. This weekend, the New York Times Sunday Magazine will publish a profile of Goldsmith, former chief of the White House Office of Legal Counsel, charged with telling the president what he is legally allowed to do. In 2003. In his first weeks on the job, Goldsmith came across the infanous “terror memos.” For the rest of his tenure in the White House, he tried to bring the administration back under what he saw as the rule of the law, fighting entrenched Bush officials on everything from trials of suspected terrorists to domestic surveillance. The preview of the NYT Magazine piece is already on the paper’s Most Emailed Articles list, and Goldsmith’s book hits the shelves on Sept 17th. Given that this thing comes out after Gen. Petraeus gives his report, I suspect it’s going to be in the news — a lot.
Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics by Jonathan Chait. Big Con, by the LA Times columnist and New Republic veteran Chait, is already getting debated on economics and politics blogs all over the Net. The book’s hypothesis is that reverse-Robin-Hood economic policies have been the most consistent feature of the Bush-era GOP. Chait offers a history of supply-side economists and a study of the baleful influence they’ve had on the Republican Party and public policy. The book is being excerpted on TNR’s web page, and the first sentence begins, “American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane.” While I’m not sure Big Con will convince any card-carrying Club for Growthers of the error of their ways, for the rest of us, I imagine this will be a good introduction to a subject we could all know a little more about, delivered in Chait’s trademark acidic style.

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