The rash of anti-Bush polemics that marked the runup to the election has been well documented; more stealthy, but just as vigorous, was what we might call the Foxification of publishing. The launch of Penguin's Sentinel books and the expansion of Crown Forum show that publishers have finally internalized Murdoch's zeitgeist-altering insight: red state discourse sells—and not just in the exurbs of Ohio.
While publishing began to move right, responses from left-of-center independents, from Akashic to Verso, never got much traction. Noam Chomsky went mainstream with Hegemony or Survival (Holt/Owl), but rarely made talk shows. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, whose Empire (published in 2000) gave U.S. global hegemony its nickname and was hotly debated after 9/11, saw their trade follow-up Multitude (Penguin Press) meet mostly with dismissal or silence off-campus.
Still, American-style political satire and a torrent of polemical muckraking showed there was life beyond Sy Hersh for the Clintonocracy. The red tide may further advance in 2005, but in 2004 the blue states notched most of their rhetorical victories through publishing books.
In terms of White House workings, there were a flood of books about the administration's much-discussed secrecy and alleged deceit. American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips (Viking) followed a multigenerational trail of money and influence, while Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud (Scribner) took readers places that Fahrenheit 9/11 didn't go. Stephen Graubard (Command of Office; Basic) and Eric Alterman (When Presidents Lie; Viking) adopted a historical view, while John W. Dean focused solely on the present administration in Worse Than Watergate (Little, Brown). Ron Suskind, in The Price of Loyalty (S&S), detailed the consequences of crossing the president. Maureen Dowd's Bushworld (Putnam) sent up the whole business, and Charles Tiefer's Veering Right (Univ. of California) saw partisanship in the administration's engagements with legislation.
In covering the war in Iraq, Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack (S&S) depicted the decision's mechanics and implementation while apparently exchanging teeth for access; Richard A. Clarke's Against All Enemies (Free Press) was all bite. Rick Atkinson's In the Company of Soldiers (Holt), Evan Wright's Generation Kill (Putnam) and David Zucchino's Thunder Run (Atlantic Monthly) covered the front lines, with Wright coming the closest to a critical perspective; there was a marked absence of embed-turned-exposé. John Keegan's The Iraq War (Knopf) succinctly summed up the war's first phase (and made a case for it, too). Mahdi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer's The Bomb in My Garden (Wiley) offered a backstory to one of the war's rationales, while Overconfidence and War by Dominic Johnson (Harvard Univ.) provided a historical framework for evaluating a nation's—and a leader's—self-assessments, with the present administration not faring particularly well.
With massive cabinet turnover, Iraqi elections, skyrocketing Afghan drug production, the death of Arafat and eight trillion more dollars in debt newly approved, one imagines 2005 will be as busy as ever—on both sides of the punditry aisle.