'Now or Never' Rehashes Old News, Name-Calling But Doesn't Offer Economic Solutions

If you “bitched about pundits shaping the debate and, possibly, the election outcomes” in 2008, then Jack Cafferty has the following message for you: “go to hell.”

It’s par for the course as the CNN anchor serves as judge, jury and executioner for the Bush administration in his latest book, “Now or Never: Getting Down to the Business of Saving Our American Dream.”

Despite the title, what his book doesn’t tell us is how to save the economy. Instead, it spends more time looking back than forward, cataloguing the events that led up to the coronation of President Barack Obama.

If you missed the last few years on the American scene, then you might want to read “Now or Never” to catch up. But if you were around, then rehashing the subprime mortgage debacle, banks, and bailouts – oh my! – is a tiring endeavor.

Cafferty goes on about everything from the economy to terrorism, campaigns and elections, and foreign policy. When it comes to “enhanced interrogation,” he admits “I’m no expert” but nonetheless shares “My feeling” about everything under the sun.

He refers to Bush as a “jerk” and “the idiot in the White House” and calls Gov. Sarah Palin a “dingbat” with “the intellectual depth of a saucer of milk.” Meanwhile, he hails Obama as “born to lead,” saying, “There is a magic, a charisma, and an aura about Obama.” Obama’s speeches are “brilliant” and “stirring.”

The book even has the requisite Bush-Hitler comparison – on Gitmo detainees – “We all sat here like the people in Europe did during Hitler’s rise to power and wrung our hands and said, ‘Isn’t this terrible?’ and it just went right on happening and nobody did a goddamn thing about it.”

I’m guessing fans of the “Cafferty File” segments on CNN’s “Situation Room” might enjoy this book. After all, tons of them are quoted. Cafferty also quotes himself liberally, blended with comments from viewers boosting his positions. So if you’re interested in what the host said on the air a year and a half ago, or you’re dying to know what Sue from Wichita had to say, you’ll love this book.

One such gem from an obviously ill-informed viewer was particularly appalling. Writing about Bush’s attempt to make diplomatic progress with that North Korean gentleman Kim Jong Il, Cafferty recounts:

“When I asked viewers whether the Kim-Bush correspondence might change anything, Mike in Annapolis wrote, ‘Yeah, a lot will change. We can now show the reclusive North Koreans how to outsource jobs, in-source illegals, import low quality crap and how to hate our elected officials. When we get through normalizing relations with the North Koreans, they will wish they never ever met us.”

Clearly, Mike knows nothing about North Korea. It’s appalling that Cafferty would allow a comment like that to stand, but he does.

But then, he fails to take the left to task for anything.

Excusing Obama for a Senate vote he found objectionable, Cafferty writes, “Obama had to do what he had to do to get elected. If he were the second coming of JFK – the savior of democracy in our time – he couldn’t save the nation if he lost to McCain.”

He is absolutely astounded that anyone could not vote for Obama, suggesting racism could be to blame: “With fifty-eight million people voting for John McCain, you can bet that for some of those people, their vote had nothing to do with John McCain. It had to do with ‘I ain’t voting for a black man,’ period.”

Yet, Cafferty had already declared that this first African-American president “had single-handedly carried the country on his back beyond the racial boundaries that had divided us for more than two hundred years.”

After all this Cafferty laughably asks, “Are the media, in fact, a liberal-tilting playing field?” Later in the same paragraph, he gushes, “Edging out Hillary and her eighteen million supporters proved that Obama was not only cool, talented, smart, and politically savvy but that he could be tough and passionate, too.”

He swears CNN had meetings during the 2008 campaign cycle about treating both sides fairly. Still, his commentary on the media was revealing: “Is there such a thing as an absolutely pure, 100 percent distilled objective analysis? No way.”  

“My point is, you’ve got to take some responsibility for shaping your own view of things. It’s not my job to protect you from yourself,” he says. “I’ve got no sympathy for morons.”

Every now and then, he offers a comment that’s not as predictable even hitting the nail on the head. On the subject of bailouts, he renders this entirely rational statement:

“…to allow the federal government to, in effect, take over and/or manage some of our biggest financial institutions is to compromise our capitalism. The engines that drove our economy to be the most powerful the world has ever seen are free markets and an entrepreneurial spirit that allows those willing to take big risks to reap big rewards. You didn’t hear pundits or stock-pickers talking much about the long-term effects of messing with that.”

Amidst all the fervent accusations that the Bush administration destroyed the country, when it comes to the lending crisis Cafferty does “Blame naïve, irresponsible, impulsive consumers.”

“[T]he sobering truth is, nobody forces you to get sucked into a trick mortgage,” he says. “You walk in off the street and sign on the dotted line. If it’s a deal you can’t live with, whose fault is that?”

And while looking to Obama’s “thoughtful, clear-headed analysis of issues,” Cafferty gives this advice: “eliminate whole departments of waste. Let’s pare it to, say, the 20 percent that’s absolutely vital to our well-being. The other 80 percent is marginal to worthless.”

Cafferty’s book might have been better as a memoir, as the chapters dropped in randomly about his family are engaging and touching at times. He writes of losing his first wife to divorce largely because of his alcoholism, of gaining a new wife and two more daughters, fighting to raise all four of his daughters as productive members of society, and finally, of his second wife’s unexpected death in September 2008. These chapters have a completely different tone and subject matter than the rest of the book, yet are dropped in without purpose between his caustic political commentaries on the last few years.

Cafferty has been through a lot in his personal life. With the emphasis this book brings to his connection with his viewers, it would have made more sense for him to focus on the memoir side and give them more insight into what makes him Cafferty. That would have served readers better than this tedious rehashing of anti-Republican vitriol.

Amy Menefee is a contributing editor for the Business & Media Institute.