Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Update on 'American Theocracy'

On March 20, I blogged on "American Theocracy," Kevin Phillips' new blockbuster on the long-term impact of the Bush administration's policies. Phillips was a conservative Republican cheerleader and Ronald Reagan acolyte early on, but has become scathingly critical of the president.

Well, I'm amazed at the number of book reviewers who are tying themselves in knots not over what Phillips says, but why he is saying it. The usually sane Kevin Drum is losing his marbles over the whole thing. He confesses in a TPM Cafe post that:

I read "American Theocracy a couple of months ago so that I could review it for the Washington Monthly. Unfortunately, I struggled so much with the review that eventually we killed it. My problem was simple: I couldn't make up my mind whether Kevin Phillips was a visionary with an important wakeup call or a once-brilliant analyst who had let Bush hatred turn him into an obsessive crank.

Since then I've read several reviews of "American Theocracy" and I've noticed that I'm not alone. Most of the reviewers aren't willing to say it baldly, but it's pretty obvious they aren't quite sure what to make of Phillips's arguments. So they just excerpt lots of quotes and then carefully suggest that the book contains a "provocative message" that's "worth listening to."

How boring. Instead, let's try to really answer the question. Is Kevin Phillips a visionary or a crank?

Wrong question, Kevin. It's inane to try to figure out whether to shoot the messenger rather than discussing his message.

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