cover image How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime

How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime

Sidney Blumenthal, . . Princeton Univ., $26.95 (420pp) ISBN 978-0-691-12888-7

Before joining the Clinton White House as a senior adviser, Blumenthal was a political correspondent for magazines like Vanity Fair and the New Yorker ; with this collection of articles published in Salon and the British Guardian , he returns to his journalist roots. Because the majority of the columns are only two or three pages long, it's difficult for Blumenthal to create a sustained argument. The effect is more like a string of scattershot reactions to current events out of which recurring themes occasionally emerge. But even these themes—the incompetence of Bush's closest advisers, the president's voracious assumption of executive powers, the creation of American gulags—fall short of cohering into a pointed attack, despite Blumenthal's best efforts to assert "a crisis over democracy." Instead, his thoughts wander to matters like U.S./U.K. relations or the decline of the columnist Robert Novak, while explosive topics like Vice-President Cheney's unprecedented powers get lost in the shuffle. Thus, Blumenthal's most heated rhetoric, like his claim of "a revolt within the military against Bush," winds up feeling overblown. The effect is especially frustrating given his keen observations of microscopic political detail—it's too bad this collection doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. (Sept.)