cover image Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season

Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season

Matt Taibbi. New Press, $24.95 (331pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-891-7

Collecting articles Taibbi wrote for the New York Press, the Nation and Rolling Stone while covering the 2004 presidential election, this book is not so much a campaign diary as it is a compelling, and somewhat chaotic, mix of reporting, anecdote, social commentary and rant. After spending time primarily on the Democrat trail, but also working undercover with a few Republicans in Orlando, Taibbi came to the conclusion that people on both sides of the political fence seemed to be motivated ""mainly out of hatred and contempt for the guy on the other side, not inspiration or idealism."" In his introduction, Taibbi points out his big problem with the 2004 elections: the red vs. blue drama kicked America into such a fervor that the ""fraudulent electoral system was reaffirmed."" In each piece, Taibbi's rage and humor bleeds through, making this a vivid and very personal critique of both politics and the mainstream journalists who cover it. His unabashedly opinionated reporting-he writes of the antiwar marches in Washington, of following Dennis Kucinich around New Hampshire while high and of meeting John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit-will either amuse or irritate, depending on one's political persuasion, but it's hard not to be engrossed by the eccentric characters, entertaining scenarios and rich details that drive these stories. Though the newsworthy moment for this book may have passed, Taibbi's observations about the people he meets are acute, and his criticisms of American politics and the press will still feel relevant to many.