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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sorriest excuse for a book review I've ever read

A helpful reader, Allan J. Favish, has emailed me to point out that finally, in Sunday's edition, the New York Times has finally gotten around to reviewing John O'Neill's Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.  I say "finally" because this week, the book holds the number three spot on the NYT's own best-seller list for the second week in a row; it held the number one spot threefourfive, and six   weeks ago; and it's been on the list now for eight consecutive weeks.   

I'm a fan of book reviews, having commissioned and/or edited about a dozen very strong, article-length book reviews — as the first person to hold that editorship unmixed with other responsibilities — for the Texas Law Review.  (The reviewers I dealt with included Professors Charles Alan Wright, Herma Hill Kay, Mark Tushnet, Douglass Laycock, Sanford Levinson, and William C. Powers, Jr.)  So I'll claim some credentials as, so to speak, a "book review reviewer."  But frankly, no expertise is needed to size up this particular book review as a piece of shallow, partisan garbage.  Written by "Susannah Meadows[, who] is covering the Kerry campaign for Newsweek," this one concludes:

Kerry has never been a terribly beloved figure in Massachusetts politics, and in the presidential race he's buoyed more by hatred of Bush than by any passion for his candidacy. But the irony is that this book goes after the one piece of Kerry's history that left the politician with his greatest friends, the lifelong die-hards for the cause. In its determination to wreck Kerry's candidacy, ''Unfit for Command'' seems to reveal more about the authors than about Kerry.

But Ms. Meadows' extremely superficial review reveals more about herself and her determination to promote Kerry's candidacy than it does about the book.  Here, for example, is the review's entire description of the controversy over Kerry's medals:

Navy records have discredited the book's claim that Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star and third Purple Heart — though only after the sensation hijacked cable news for a month.

That's it — half a sentence that mentions only half the medals in dispute; and far, far less than half an effort at comprehensiveness or honesty. 

Ms. Meadows' begins her review with this statement, very nearly the only accurate one in her entire review:

If John Kerry loses the presidential election, ''Unfit for Command,'' by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason.

Yes, ma'am — and you and the NYT will be on record as having completely failed to grasp, much less to honestly deal with, that chief reason.  This is an effort so pathetic that it actually should be insulting even to Sen. Kerry's partisans.

Posted by Beldar at 12:29 AM in Books, Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Sorriest excuse for a book review I've ever read and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» "A PIECE OF SHALLOW, PARTISAN GARBAGE." from PRESTOPUNDIT -- "It's a team sport, baby!"

Tracked on Oct 10, 2004 2:01:55 AM

» Dismissed, not debated from Lead and Gold

Tracked on Oct 10, 2004 9:42:20 PM


(1) bags75 made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 6:34:10 AM | Permalink

It would be nice to see the MSM check out the Swift Boat story as much as they tried to make up the Bush National Guard story. I think it is clear to anyone watching the election with any objectivity that the MSM is running point for Kerry and will fall on their swords for him. All you have to do is look at the lack of coverage of this story and the actions of CBS and now ABC.

(2) Kevin Willis made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 7:38:51 AM | Permalink

While I didn't think much of Unfit for Command, and was never as convinced as other conservatives that it was such a good thing for the Republican side, I could hardly fault the swift boat vets for being angry and Kerry. I always thought the controversy had a lot more to do with what Kerry did when he got home--and that, given how he trashed the Vets and argued that maybe four or five thousand might be killed if American pulled out (instead of the eventual mass slaughter of 3 million Cambodians and Vietnamese that did occur), Kerry deserves much, much worse for what he did when he got home that for any inconsistencies in his war stories.

While I don't think Unfit for Command was a great or revelatory book, and it places it clearly descend into an anti-Kerry hatchet job, it was very interesting that such an inflammatory piece of semi-journalism was completely ignored by everyone but Fox for weeks. CBS couldn't wait to run a story on how someone might have thought Bush wasn't all that peppy as a National Guard member, even if it meant using clearly suspect documents, but nothing for the signficant claims of the Swift Boat Vets that Kerry's war record was a fraud and that he committed war crimes. Nothing. Three days for Kitty Kelly's psuedo-journalism suggesting Bush snorted coke at Camp David, but not a moment for the Swift Boat Vets. Even if I thought there were holes in the Swift Boat Vets stories--and I think there are some--if I was a news person, I would have had them on and challenged them. What great theater! But for the longest time, the closest I saw in the mainstream media was Chris Matthews attacking . . . Michelle Malkin? He couldn't find John O'Neil?

In the end, I think it is the reactions and strategies of the left that will likely cost Kerry this election more than anything the Swift Boat Vets have had to say.

(3) ncoic6 made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 12:05:43 PM | Permalink


The best that can be said for the Meadows' review is that she clearly is not a book reviewer. It raises questions about her objectivity as a reporter detailed by Newsweek to cover the Kerry camp.

If, as she speculates, any Kerry loss will have been blamed on UFC, then an ultimate irony for the best brains at the New York Times is that such a pivotally important tome was ignored by them, and instead, farmed out to a stringer for Newsweek.

(4) Allan Yackey made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 2:00:49 PM | Permalink

I am an Incountry Viet Nam Veteran (1967- 1968). That is important.

THE ISSUE for the Swift Boat Veterans, and indeed all Viet Nam Veterans, has always been John Kerry's conduct when he returned.

John Kerry has been given multiple opportunities during this campaign to withdraw his claim that rape, torture and baby killing happened daily, were a government policy and were participated in by all Incountry Veterans. He has repeatedly declined to withdraw those charges.

His entire credibility then comes into question. That is why his activity in Viet Nam is under attack. I fyou really check you will find that his own material supstantiates most of the Swift Boat Veterans claims.

Understanding this may well be beyond most people's willingness to invest the time. But there is a very simple way to check this out.

John Edwards said something along the lines of "If you want to know about John Kerry spend 3 minutes with a Viet Nam Veteran". I would encourage you to do that.

You probably know where a VFW or American Legion Post is in your neighborhood. Go to the door. Tell whomever answers it that you really do not understand the relationship between Viet Nam Veterans and John Kerry. Tell them that you are looking for a Viet Nam Veteran because you want to understand.

I think within three minutes you will begin to understand. But plan to spend a few hours. Viet Nam Incountry Veterans have been waiting for some one to express an interest for over 3 decades. They will be happy you asked. So will you.

(5) lyle made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 3:54:11 PM | Permalink

The NY Times and its media clones are rotting from within.

Their coverage of Unfit for Command is a case in point. The SwiftVet charges were major news but the Times failed to mention them. When they became public knowledge, the Times chose not to investigate. When they gained credibility anyway, the Times dismissed them as unsubstantiated. Long after Unfit had delivered its decisive impact on the 2004 election, the Times grudgingly woke to the fact. And long after every literate American had heard of Unfit, they hired a slovenly half-informed hack to phone in a hatchet job.

The impaired news jugment that the Times displayed with regard to Unfit has become commonplace. When editors becomes so undisciplined and agenda-driven that they can no longer recognize or report real news, they render themselves irrelevant if not malignant.

Jayson Blair's fraud was a tumor. The Rather/Mapes fraud was a tumor. Old Media types refuse to see that the cancer on their credibility has metastasized. They can't stop the cancer because they are the cancer.

(6) leon dixon made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 4:35:46 PM | Permalink

Maybe we should have a prize for the best book review extant of Unfit for Command?

(7) Jill Livingston made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 4:58:28 PM | Permalink

If Bush loses this election it will be partly because the media is too biased, lazy, ignorant, dishonest and stupid. Their lack of knowledge of military history, culture, policies and procedures is appalling. But what is more appalling is the media's lack of interest to even research, to learn. But the other part of any lose has to be placed with the Bush team who ASSUMED they would get even a hint of more honest and intelligent coverage. This has allowed Kerry to shamefully take advantage of the unspoken code of honor amoung the military to not publicly speak ill of another nor to boast. I know military vets who are Bush supporters, but don't want to hear about any irregularities re Kerry's military history. If 99.99% of the press (and the public) have no military background then what does one expect in this day and age of reporting?

(8) OhMike made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 5:29:33 PM | Permalink

I'm with lyle. What he said.

The Swifvets story IS major news. I respectfully disagree with those, even with Vietnam vets, who think Kerry's biggest calumny was when he slandered his brothers in arms after his "tour of duty," but while they still served and suffered. They have a every right to despise him for that. In fact, we all should. But the fraud Kerry's self-promotion as a war hero and his use of fabrications like the Cambodia story to impugn a President and our foreign policy ARE newsworthy evidence of his his being UNFIT FOR Command.

Gee, what do the Swiftvets have to do, spell it out?

That a "news" organization like The New York Times can muster only this weak effort of a book review, IN STEAD OF a real investigative story about the lies Kerry has told to try to bamboozle his way to the Presidency, is a real indictment of what passes for journalism in the MSM TODAY. It's shameful.

(9) troglodyte made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 10:29:43 PM | Permalink

All of this leaves one wondering, if JFK does win this election, as so many of my faculty colleagues hope, where, precisely, is he going to get an army? My folks back in Alabama, who've put two of my nephews into the miltary, aren't going to; two of may nephews are inn the miltary, but there is zero chance they will re-enlist under Kerry. Dittto my cousins in FL. Here at CAL, there are vast hordes of Kerry supporters, but the only folks I know who joined (or have any intetion of doing so) did so because of Bush, and will get out asap if Kerry is CICV.

I repeat myself. Barring a draft, where if this "commander in chief" going to find an army to command?

(10) TIm made the following comment | Oct 10, 2004 10:51:39 PM | Permalink

Makes me wonder if she even read it.

(11) Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain made the following comment | Oct 11, 2004 5:36:14 AM | Permalink

In 1999 (or so, I had a 30ish or so SSG wearing a Ranger tab come to my (Reserve) unit.
A serious 'trainer', he performed his duties without fan fare for nearly 13 months, and rabidly, albeit quietly supported my mantra of ..you hang around, its not if you're called its when, and we are here to prepare....

Odd as it seems, it was happenstance that I "discovered" that not only had we served in Somalia back in 93 together (in overlapping timeframes, but he had been a 1/75th 1st LT at the time--dunno how I could have totally missed him.

The point here, however, is that this young man so believed in his "code" as a commissioned officer, that he resigned his commission rather than continue to serve under Bill Clinton in that capacity thereafter. Officers, for those not blessed with the privelege of the experience of service, have THAT "luxury"--to me, that said tons in terms of honor, integrity, and defining "betrayal"--

Allan is right, more I suspect, than most in the LLLM or the greater non serving population at large is willing to give us.

As defined by the USC and added to as an exclamation point by the Logan Act, john Kerry is a traitor, every bit as egregious as Benedict Arnold.

I would personally volunteer to put the noose around his neck, withold the "sandbag"/head sack, pull the lever and spit in his eye as he went screaming through the trap. I would then go home and sleep just fine with a self satisfied smile on my face. I'd imagine there'd be quite a bit of competition for that job, however.

It is not a "conservative" thing or a "liberal" thing, it transcends "politics"-- its a "MILITARY" thing.

Choose, domesticate or Eradicate
(As in, we're here to domesticate them (if we can) or eradicate them if we must.....)

(12) JAT made the following comment | Oct 11, 2004 6:28:13 PM | Permalink

Posted by: Allan Yackey on October 10, 2004 02:00 PM |

God Bless Alan - Swift Vets must be heard! I was only a deepwater sailor during Viet Nam, but can remember only too well about Jane Fonda and the others like Kerry - seeing young men coming home from a war to be treated like dirt is beyond belief. Please, everyone, help defeat Kerry!

(13) Jon Daly made the following comment | Oct 14, 2004 10:23:15 AM | Permalink

It is a mistake to believe that the NYT, 60 Minutes and all the other MSM have not looked into the Swift Boat Veterans. You can be sure they have looked and looked hard. They just didn't find what they wanted. Conservatives can rest assured that the silence of the MSM on this issue is deafening. It is probably the most we could hope for.

(14) luud made the following comment | Oct 25, 2004 8:29:01 AM | Permalink

I keep reading angry right wing denunciations of anybody brazen enough to characterize this book for what it is--a shoddy collection of pseudo-historical hearsay, contradicted at almost every turn by the accepted, official record and by eyewitness accounts that contradict the rumors peddled as "evidence" in this hit job.

You of course take the opposite partisan tack--that it's all true! Dammit, why can't everybody see this!

So at first glance it's a tie, or at least that's how the supposedly "liberal" media treated it. I'd think you'd be happy with that. But when you attempt to disprove a set of accepted facts, a record that has stood essentially unchallenged for more than 30 years, you can't just put forth your "story" and expect the rest of the world to buy it. It doesn't work that way.

The target of a smear job isn't guilty until proven innocent, it's up to the challenger to prove he has a case. CBS was rightly brushed aside when they didn't make their case against Bush strongly enough, with the suspect documents overshadowing the fact that the essential story they tell appears to be correct. The Swift Boat Veterans proved to all but the hardest nosed right wing pundits and true believers that they were motivated, as a post above suggests, much more by anger at "Jane Fonda and the others like Kerry - seeing young men coming home from a war to be treated like dirt" than by some honorable need to "set the record straight" regarding Kerry's valorous service in Vietnam. Their inability to separate these two issues, and to accept that it's possible to be an honorable war hero and a "contemptible" war protester in the same lifetime, is the real failure of their endeavor.

Like it or not, that's how they'll be remembered: as a bunch of angry guys with a vendetta, who believe their ends justified their means. Better to just get over it.

(15) hilarie hanson made the following comment | Oct 25, 2004 8:25:11 PM | Permalink

Pseudo.historical, hearsay, accepted official records? You clearly have not cared to verify the legitimacy of the "evidence" submitted by the swift-vets. The pseudo-historical hearsay consists of actual after action reports, sworn affidavits by participants in the same operations being questioned and Kerry's own writter words. Even more damning is his refusal to execute a form 180 which would put and end to all of the controversy. What possible reason could he have to justify his refusal to sign, and what possible reason could your "liberal press" have to fail to investigate such behavior. If Kerry is truely a man of "honor" gave such "valorous" service, then he should stand up and defend his honor instead of hiding behind the press and the party he has so thoroughly deceived.

(16) Al made the following comment | Oct 31, 2004 1:31:25 PM | Permalink

"Sunday's edition, the New York Times has finally gotten around to reviewing John O'Neill's Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."

And exactly how many weeks ON the New York Times Best Sellers List?

I read it and it fully exposes John Kerry for what he is, plain and simple a traitor a coward and a selfserving waste of human flesh.

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