Eric Boehlert


The New York Times Book Review Cheap Shot
You know there’s something deeply dishonest about a book review when it ignores the entire premise of the book in question. For a perfect example, see Sunday’s New York Times Book Review critique of Sidney Blumenthal’s “How Bush Rules.”

The book, a collection of Blumenthal’s Salon and Guardian essays, is built around two simple ideas; that Bush’s presidency has been a radical one and a failed one.

Yet the Times review refuses to address either point, choosing instead to dance around the edges, belittling Blumenthal for being too angry and too serious. I kid you not. Blumenthal lays out in excruciating detail the sins of the Bush administration–lives lost, billions squandered, international reputations diminished–and the Times deducts points because the book isn’t funny enough. (What’s funny is the fact the Times didn’t assign the review to a Washington political pro or presidential historian, but a MSM Gotham City magazine writer whose recent articles have included stories like “My Life as a Thin Person” and “Are Jews Smarter?”)

Every author understands that the politics of book reviews can be complicated and infuriating, and for the most part it’s every man and woman for themselves. (Disclosure: Blumenthal is a friend and former colleague of mine.) But what makes this review so irksome is it doubles as a swipe at an entire political movement; a calculated attempt to dismiss and ridicule Bush critics who time and again have been proven right about his incompetence, yet remain MSM targets. Indeed, the Times critique strains mightily to paint Bush critics as “smug,” “unglued,” “condescending,” “berserk”, and “not wholly credible” “loathers” who reside beyond the mainstream.

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