The Times backs up the truck and unloads over a dozen recent political books in this week's politics issue of the Sunday Book Review. The cover features a puzzling graphic of an American flag cut up confetti-style into its component red and white stripes. There's no mistaking the Times' slant, however: The issue demonstrates a pattern of liberal (or former conservative) reviewers giving bad notices to conservative books, and liberals enjoying books by fellow liberals.
Here are the highlights:
- The Times picked former conservative Michael Lind to review two books, one from former Bush speechwriter and Republican iconoclast Michael Gerson, the other by conservative John Bolton. Neither book passed muster with Lind. The text box summarized: "Gerson is compassionate. Bolton is conservative. Both have missed their moments."
- Alan Erhenhalt of Governing Magazine reviewed conservative writer David Frum's new book "Comeback - Conservatism That Can Win Again" and found it unoriginal, complaining Frum often "lapses back into vintage Reaganism."
- Tara McKelvey, an editor at the liberal American Prospect magazine, gave a negative review to liberal Washington Post reporter's Dana Milbank's breezy notebook dump "Homo Politicus."
- David Greenberg, a liberal history professor and columnist for Slate, favorably reviewed a scathing biography of former Sen. Jesse Helms by William Link, a review that consists of running down Sen. Helms' controversial career. The headline leaves no mistake "R, North Carolina - Senator Jesse Helms helped engineer the far right's ascendancy in the Republican Party." Actually, Helms started out his political career in the '50s working for Southern Democrats.
- Elsa Dixler, an editor for the Times book review, gave positive notices to two liberal books, one by Carl Oglesby, "Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement," the other by Susan Sherman, "America's Child: A Woman's Journey Through the Radical Sixties: A Memoir."
- R. Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, approved of two books by liberals, Amy Sullivan and E.J. Dionne, both dealing with the new-found tolerance of religion in the Democratic party. The review headline: "Left Wing and a Prayer - Can Democrats woo back the faithful? Two authors think they've already started."
- Orlando Patterson, professor of sociology at Harvard, throws a bit of a curve by giving a thumbs up to a book by Richard Thompson Ford that challenges liberal assumptions on racism, "The Race Wars - How Bluffing About Race Makes Race Relations Worse."
- Then it's back to liberal normality as Jill Nelson, who was once a Washington Post reporter, gave predominantly negative notices to two books by black conservatives, "Sellout" by Randall Kennedy, and "A Bound Man" by Shelby Steele on the Barack Obama phenomenon.
- Pro-Democratic contributor Matt Bai enjoyed the autobiography of San Francisco's colorful former mayor, liberal Democrat Willie Brown.
- Finally, New York Observer Editor Alexandra Jacobs didn't see the point of "Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary," a collection of "repetitive" essays by women writers "almost exclusively culled from the East Coast liberal establishment press."
You could level the same accusation toward the Times book review.