2008, Books, Non-Fiction

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (2008) by Vincent Bugliosi

I have “read” one book by Vincent Bugliosi before. (I say “read” because it was an audio book.) And in that book Bugliosi impressed me with his rather ruthless rigor of thought about an issue that was clouded by too many books and opinions.

But this book is a pale imitation. Instead of a rigorous, thorough prosecution of Bush – and there is that in part – we get character assassination, out-of-control hyperbole and personal attacks against the press and the reader! It is a very angry polemic. Bugliosi spends tons of time just ripping on Bush as a person.

I agree with him about Bush, but that’s not the point. The point is that character assassination shouldn’t be part of proving Bush did something deplorable. Nor should Bugliosi’s endless hyperbole, nor should insulting members of the media, nor should claiming practically all Americans – especially conservatives – are idiots.

Bugliosi is not for a second concerned about why the media and the American public went along with this farce – which to me is the more interesting question – he just thinks they are all idiots for it. I do think Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes at the very least, but I am under no illusions that he ever will be. Bugliosi does lay out a good case for an American prosecutor to go after him, but this case is buried in the mess of anger and ranting. This kind of thing might work well in a trial – I don’t know, I have never been to a trial – but it doesn’t work in book form.

For me, the question for history is how the worst president in US history got re-elected. For Bugliosi, the issue is that some great injustice has been done and we are all idiots for letting it happen. Bugliosi appears to view the world in discredited black-and-white moral terms that I thought he would be too smart to fall into. He doesn’t understand that by claiming that practically everyone else is insane makes the concept of sanity meaningless.

All of this might be somewhat bearable – given that he does lay out many, many compelling reasons to put Bush on trial – if it weren’t for the last chapter, a bizarre, unnecessary and frankly embarrassing rant on how the US has declined immeasurably.

Now, I would agree that the US is no longer the power it was say 20 years ago, but Bugliosi does so much more than this: the era of his childhood and young adulthood was roses and now everything has gone to shit. When he was young, men were men and leaders were leaders and there were no morally dubious decisions from the US government. (Does he know anything at all about the foreign policies of Eisenhower and Kennedy?!?!) This chapter is revisionist nostalgia at its worst and it would have no place in any trial of Bush and therefore should have been excised.

The last chapter takes what is a frustrating but at least fairly accurate rant and turns it into a sermon, and not a very good one. Preaching to the converted doesn’t work: if Bugliosi really wanted Bush to go to trial for his actions as President, he should have written something to try and convert those who don’t already think Bush is the devil.

But this book will convince no one: Bugliosi comes across as so angry that he is far too easy to dismiss, no matter how right he might be about Bush’s conduct.

Not worth your time.

Incidentally, to give you an idea of how much of rant this is: the book has well over 100 pages of notes – I think – and rather than just discussing sources the notes are used for additional rants about Bush, Cheney, Rice, the media and the American public.


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