Good Detail, Bad Writing, Worse Design,
Although the book excels at detail and focus from issue to issue, the authors fail to do the side-by-side presentation in a manner that satisfies. This book could have been glorious if they had taken the US budget, done down the 30 agencies with discretionary funds, the relevant program lines, and then had three columns: what Bush (and his aides, most of whom do the talking and thinking) said, what they did, and what science and intelligence and real-world experts recommend be done.
The index stinks (names, not issues), and there is no bibliography. The footnotes are acceptable, but even more interesting would have been profiles with related bibliographies of how the right-wing think tanks and key personalities like Bill Kristol have shaped the debate, from the early days when Dick Cheney was saying Kristol was a moron (he is not) who could be ignored, to the later days when Cheney discovered that there are a lot of wealthy patrons who put their money where Kristol’s mouth is….
In brief, then, the authors appear to have tried, and failed, to deliver the definitive book cataloging, on an issue by issue basis in a manner easily used by a Challenger for the Presidency, the many specific ways in which this Administration is lying, switching and baiting, saying one thing and doing the other, or allowing destruction through malicious neglect.
If I were guiding an opposition research team today, I would tell them to take this book, and all the others I have cited above, cut the spines off, digitize everything, index everything, create a visualization link-chart using any one of several automated programs, and from that, create 100 one-page memos that consist of a nuclear sound-bit, a one-paragraph executive summary of Bush versus reality versus the opposing proposition, and a half page of detail and references. Neither the Democratic Leadership Council nor the leading challengers for the Democratic nomination appear to be doing their homework. Kerry’s math does not add up, Edward’s issues are simplistic, and both Sharpton and Kucinich are absolutely right: the Democrats are not talking substance yet.
This book is as close as I have seen to an issue-by-issue review, but if this is the best we can do, the Democrats will lose in 2004, not least because issue discussion is the non-negotiable first step toward outreach and creating a coalition of moderate Republicans, Independents, and Green-Reform-Libertarian allies without whom no one can beat Bush.