cover image The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics

The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today's Politics

William Safire. Random House (NY), $23 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41755-2

In the biblical Book of Job, an upright man suffers for no apparent reason and later reconciles himself with the God whose fairness he questioned. A paean to patience? Hardly, maintains Safire, who interprets Job's central lesson to be that we are morally obligated to defy unjust authority and to hold those in power accountable. The New York Times columnist celebrates Malcolm X, Andrei Sakharov and Menachem Begin as dissenters of Joban stature. With mixed success, he draws on the lessons of the biblical tale in order to critique President Bush's failure to topple Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton's political career and the doings of Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and others. Safire movingly portrays Abraham Lincoln as ``our most Joban president,'' one who refused to compromise his principles. His conversationally written gloss sets forth guidelines for how to pursue a ``Joban life'' by refusing to accept injustice from any quarter. An appendix reprints the Book of Job. Illustrated with William Blake engravings. Author tour. (Oct.)