There are a number of favorites in this collection, but I enjoyed them more when I read them. The narrator's efforts to act out the characters was often annoying and inexcusibly indecipherable. Equally inexcusible was the abrupt transitions between essays; without giving complete attention to the narration (difficult to do during a commute), I would find myself in the middle of a different essay, so this recording may be best for other listening, like that cross-country drive across those stretches that permit you to daydream safely.
Still, it is Twain and you will find at least one tale, one story, one rant which will make you smile and take you back to earlier times in our frontier period or that time in your youth when you picked up your first Twain essay.
Dean's thesis is that many of the Republicans currently in power are authoritarian personalities with a lust for power. The former concept needs some explanation; an authoritarian personality (Adorno, et. al. 1950) is one who is enamored with convention and the authority, questioning neither and relying on punitive controls during times of crisis. Authoritarians reject the unusual and believe that difficult times support the suspension of rights. They are especially susceptible to rigid thinking in their concern with appearing powerful.
Dean pretty much gets it, spot on. He argues convincingly that Bush's great flaw is his personality characterized by a rigid world view and unthinking hubris leads him to impulsive decisions. More compelling than his analysis of Bush is his critique of Cheney's influence and how he would rather direct events from behind the scenes because this secrecy is instrumental in maintaining power. Such intellectual rigidity, sold to the public as necessities during a time of fear-sustaining national crisis, has lead the Cheney/Bush team to such intellectually bankrupt positions as threatening a veto of a defense appropriations measure because it carried McCain's anti-torture resolution, an action that would have denied the Defense Department without the funds needed for the war in Afghanistan. For Bush/Cheney, winning is more important that defending the laws of the United States, a conclusion well-supported by the 800 or so signing statements that collectively declare “We reserve the right to disregard legislative intent.”
Rest assured, this is a frightening read for those who are concerned about the direction the United States' executive branch, aided by a complicit Congress, has gone the past six years. Dean's book should stir those on the left and right to wrest back their government from those for whom power is more critical than principle or conscience. Highly recommended.
Goldberg promisses a balanced critique of the cultural elites. Unfortunately, all he delivers is an obvious tirade against 100 people who, in providing criticism of government, culture, and society have offended Goldberg's narrow sense of propriety. In so doing, Goldberg falls into the same traps he accuses of his targets-- political correctness (from a conservative interpretation in Goldberg's case), name-calling, character assassination, and just plain shallowness. Even his purported wit is mean-spirited as he betrays former colleagues to cash in on the "everything conservative is profitable" movement in America today. If one is looking for a solid critique of the left, this, sadly, is not it, because it has more in common with Rush than with Wm. F. or even George Will.
Read this if you are entertained by "sticking it to the man." Everyone else who enjoys thinking can give it a pass.
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