Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back, by James Carville. Simon and Schuster, New York. 306 pp. $23.00
From the day President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, Democrats -- characterized as "liberals" -- have been under continuous attack by right-wing pundits and politicians like Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Jesse Helms, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Trent Lott, Robert Novak, the late Barbara Olson, Jerry Falwell and William Bennett.
Clinton was accused by these individuals of everything from high treason to murder, individual members of Congress -- like Max Cleland, who left three limbs behind in Vietnam -- were smeared as unpatriotic, and "the media," as if there were such a monolithic institution, was dubbed "left wing."
When well-regarded actors such as Tim Robbins and Sean Penn spoke out against the war in Iraq, the right-wingers called on their constituents to boycott their future films. But when ham actor and noted conservative Arnold Schwartzenegger threw his hat into the ring for California governor, the line disappeared, and suddenly it was OK for showbiz folk to dabble in politics.
When George W. Bush took office in January, 2000, after an obviously rigged election in which he lost the popular vote and only got in because of the machinations of his Florida governor brother and the intervention of a Supreme Court that had largely been appointed by administrations his daddy either headed or served in as second-in-command, the right-wing sob-sisters took to portraying themselves as victims, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Controlling the White House, both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and much of print and television journalism, any criticism of Bush now became un-American. The more than 50 percent of Americans who had previously been dismissed as "liberals" now became known, in the parlance of Fox News, as "Bush-haters."
And that's when the backlash began. Books like Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country?" and Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" quickly rose to the top of the bestseller list. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's "Living History" became the top-selling non-fiction book of the year by far.
As Franken famously told O'Reilly at last year's Los Angeles Book Expo, "We've just been taking it and we're not going to sit for it any more."
Which brings us to the latest offering by Democratic strategist and Clinton campaign manager James Carville. I first became acquainted with Carville years ago in Pennsylvania when, after the tragic death of Republican Sen. John Heinz, he ran the campaign of an unknown college professor, Harrison Wofford, against that of Republican Gov. Dick Thornburg to fill Heinz's seat.
Thornburg had a huge war chest, the backing of the first President Bush and had served two terms as governor. Wofford wasn't given a snowball's chance in hell. But Carville and his candidate pulled it off, and Thornburg was forced to take a position as secretary of something or other down in Washington.
In Carville's "Had Enough," he takes a somewhat more serious position than do Franken and Moore in their books, but still he is not without a sense of humor, a quality of which the right-wing opposition seems bereft.
"You know, back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs and our military would be totally overstretched," he writes. "You know what: I did vote for Al Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true."
Where Carville's book differs from those of his contemporary progressive authors, however, is that rather than simply shooting arrows at his right-wing targets, he also provides thoughtful commentaries about how things could be different, and sets an agenda for America on issues as diverse as Medicare, Homeland Security and tort reform.
In answer to the question posed in Carville's title, we here at the Reporter have had quite enough of a draft-dodging, AWOL alcoholic and the rabble who support him telling us we give aid and comfort to the enemy, are unpatriotic and un-American. His "handbook for fighting back" is a valuable document, and one that ought to be read by any American who's "Had Enough."
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||January 13 2004|