The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 3 September 2003

Lies, and the Lying Liars who Tell Them

A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

by Al Franken

Bill Clinton was caught lying about sex (married to Hillary, can you really blame him?). The lie led to perjury and impeachment, and a relentless hounding by Republicans and the "vast right-wing conspiracy" trying to bring him down. George W. Bush lied about massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. This didn't lead to perjury, but one can argue that lying in the State of the Union, with the entire nation as jury and judge, is indeed perjury. It lead to the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis. Impeachable offense? Historically speaking, no. But the Republicans set the bar incredibly low during the Clinton administration. By their own standards, Bush should be in jail by now. On both sides of the political spectrum, there have been books upon books about the percieved biases within the media and whether or not America is a fundamentally liberal or conservative nation (I'd argue we're really slightly left of center). This book is yet another in the long-winded argument, and a particularly sharp one. Franken takes many of the bold statements made by pundits on the right and exposes many as outright lies. One can argue that the people he choses to go after are just bad researchers, unconcerned with getting the facts straight. After all, rarely do everyday viewers of Fox News Channel really go after misstatements by any of the many right-leaning commentators they feature. Franken, though, sees a clear pattern of misrepresentation and beligerent inability to admit mistakes as well as an overall dedication, it seems, to lowering the "debate" to the level of screaming argument. In this, Franken is sharp and observant. Using the research talents of 14 Harvard students, TeamFranken, he sets the record straight. Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others earn thorough criticism for their own shrill criticism of their idea of the left. Franken is sharply dedicated to the facts, but is also dedicated to satire. He is, after all, a comedian and veteran of Saturday Night Live. He doesn't put himself forward as a knowledgable pundit, as do so many of his targets. He convincingly sets the blame for the lowering of the level of debate on the shoulders of the right, who accuse the left of the same thing. He outlines a pattern of intransigent partisanship, and laments the loss of civility in our public debate. Franken, also, manages to admit his own missteps. In one hilarious chapter, he takes on Bob Jones University, and comes away feeling vaguely guilty and sickened by the experience. Also, two chapters here fall into the realm of cartoonish satire, and aren't nearly as sharp and witty as those chapters where he really brings the facts to the table. Franken was famously sued by Fox News over his use of their copyrighted catch-phrase. The case was thrown out of court, and Franken's sales skyrocketed. What was Fox thinking?

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See also: [Stupid White Men]