30 April 2009

What Happened; Persepolis

I finished two books recently.

What Happened is Scott McClellan's political memoir and the story of his time as press secretary under the Bush administration. It is a pretty good recap of the major scandals of the administration: the "sixteen words" controversy, the Valerie Plame leak and the subsequent special investigation, and hurricane Katrina.

What is really interesting is McClellan's assessment of Bush's character and of how the administration chose to deal with Congress and the media. In McClellan's eyes, Bush wasn't an idiot, but he was intellectually dishonest, never seeking out views opposed to his own. And Bush wasn't a liar, but many in his administration were. McClellan has harsh words for the Bush administration's strategy of constantly trying to manipulate the press for short-term gain, as if it had still been waging a campaign— the so-called "permanent campaign." Perhaps the height of hypocrisy was the Bush-authorized leaking of Valerie Plame's name from classified documents, for the purpose of discrediting critics of the administration.

So why was Bush so set on the Iraq war in the first place? Because apparently, he was gripped by an awe-inspiring vision of a democratic Middle East. It borders on the unbelievable that he put so many in danger to indulge this dream.

What Happened is a light-reading history of the Bush administration and an interesting look inside the White House. However, if you are a political junkie, which I'm not, I suspect you might not find enough of substance in here to keep you entertained.

Persepolis is a comic book, the story of a girl's coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. It's deeply moving to watch the installation of a theocracy through the eyes of a little girl who blossoms into a liberal-minded woman. Persepolis is both quite poignant and entertaining.

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