Books in Brief, May 2007
What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals by Terry McAuliffe and Steve Kettmann At the beginning of what promises to be a record-breaking fundraising Presidential campaign, an account from a fundraising master has never proved more insightful. In his memoir entitled What a Party! Terry “Mad Dog”McAuliffe details his 25 years fundraising and politicking for the Democrats. Throughout the work, McAuliffe makes it clear that he has the credibility to say what he wants––under his watch as Chairman, he writes, the Democratic National Committee was debt free, and even out-raised the Republicans. Since 1980, he has raised over a billion dollars for the Democrats. He uses his memoir as a platform to muse on current Democrats’ strengths and weaknesses, harping on the limited success they have had fighting the Republicans––best exemplified by their surrendering of the 2000 presidential election popular vote. Republicans be warned. The book is an ode to the Democrats. And all you Democrats ready to vote Obama or Edwards, also be warned, for McAuliffe’s account is a far cry from partiality, as he continuously exalts his “buds,” Bill and Hillary Clinton. But nevertheless, McAuliffe’s book is humorous and astute. Along the way from Carter to Bush, he offers a glimpse into the money-driven presidential campaigns of the modern era, tells tales of singing karaoke, playing golf with the Clintons, and, yes, how he came to wrestle an alligator.
1776 By David McCullough From George Orwell’s 1984 to Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, well-written books with dates in their titles are numerous. Add one more to the list. David McCullough’s 1776 is not just another “one if by land, two if by sea” and “shot heard round the world” textbook history. It sheds new light on the familiar tale of the American Revolution by bringing to life the experiences of the common man—an all- too-often forgotten figure in historical depictions. McCullough incorporates the letters and first-hand accounts of family members of the Revolution’s celebrities, and obscure figures, like the man manning the telescope for the Patriots as the British approached the shore. The novel centers, not surprisingly, on George Washington, the traditional hero of the American Revolution, but the intimate way McCullough depicts Washington is anything but traditional. We see the great General in moments of weakness and doubt. McCullough’s Washington is a human being, not just a triumphant military hero and Founding Father. If the book has one flaw, it would perhaps be that McCullough makes the story almost too personal, detracting at times from historical context. But overall, this narrative’s engaging story will not disappoint. Get transported back to 1776, feel the fear and uneasiness that plagued the colonists. Even with a story so familiar, McCullough makes it so personal that you’ll just briefly forget that you already know what happens. Terror Incorporated: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Network By Loretta Napoloeni Several years after September 11, finding new and interesting angles on terrorism is no easy task. But by focusing on the economics of scare tactics, Loretta Napoleoni’s Terror Incorporated adds another dimension to our understanding. Terror Incorporated is largely uninterested in cultural differences and ideological foundations of terrorism, and Napoleoni never veers from her methodical examination of the role of money in the development of terror networks. The book takes us back as far as the Cold War to demonstrate the role of the West’s inadvertent financial support of terror networks. She brilliantly juxtaposes historical events with economic figures to contextualize her findings. Through her discussions of what she calls the “New Economy of Terror,” Napoleoni does away with clichéd conceptions of the Middle East. Discussing phenomena such as the “Modern Jihad,” she provides an updated, empirical view of terrorism that shows terrorist groups as neither outdated nor wholly illogical—and, in the process, Napoleoni makes us realize that our ties to these organizations are not as distant as we might feel comfortable thinking.
If the book has one shortcoming, it is that its analysis is overwhelmingly based in economics, which can, at times, seem dry and hard to follow (for those who are not students of the subject). But generally, Napoleoni’s writing style is accessible, and Terror Incorporated will surely fascinate anyone looking to learn more about how the international terrorist system operates.