3 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful
Anna L. (annalovesbooks) reviewed Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry, and the Bush Haters on
Helpful Score: 3
ISBN 0060723831 - For a while, I'd found that books with a religious tone sort of almost required two separate reviews: one for the believers, one for the rest of the world. Political books are beginning to fall into that sort of category, for a different reason. There's the quality of the writing, all by itself, and then there's the accuracy of the details and the degree of the slant. Fitting that into one review ought to be fun!
In Misunderestimated, author Bill Sammon presents the reader with what seems to be a somewhat behind the scenes look at George W. Bush's first term in office. (It should be noted that the book is copyrighted 2004 and ends before the 2004 election; the timing matters a great deal more than you'd think it would.) Beginning with Bush's besieged appearance at the Hilton Hotel in Portland, Sammon tells the story using the words of the participants often. This strengthens the sense of glimpsing behind the scenes details and gives some of the smaller stories within the big story great emotional impact.
The main purpose of the book seems to be summed up by the subtitle "The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry, and the Bush Haters". The trouble with that is simple: "The President" is almost a bit player in this book. The bulk of the writing is about Iraq, including a biography of Saddam Hussein, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is a larger figure than the president. "Battles... John Kerry" is a bit odd to throw in the title because Kerry doesn't make an actual appearance as a presidential candidate until the last chapter. Even then, there's little campaign information and no interaction between the two men. "Battles... Bush Haters" seems gratuitous as well; other than the first chapter, the "Bush Haters" don't seem to appear as a group and are never very well defined by Sammon. With all of that in mind, Sammon fails to live up to his own (somewhat whiny) title and earns himself 2 stars.
Sammon is an unusually biased author. Sure, there are left-wing and right-wing authors out there by the dozens, but Sammon - for the moment - stands out from the lot of them for me. First, he takes every opportunity to mock and belittle "the press" and "the media"... but on the cover, Sammon is noted to be the "Washington Times Senior White House Correspondent", making him part of the group he ridicules. Either he's got a superiority complex or he's irrational. Or both.
In addition, throughout the book, Sammon ridicules fairly constantly: he disparages Jessica Lynch for "cowering in the backseat of a Humvee" when she was taken hostage and blames only the Post for writing her as a hero, failing to mention that the Pentagon reported (April 2, 2003) that she had been shot and stabbed, even though she hadn't. He seems gleeful as he reports that she was raped, which isn't the only somewhat despicable moment on his part.
Sammon pointlessly dedicates an entire chapter to ridiculing Dan Rather's interview of Saddam Hussein, mocking Rather for being polite to Hussein, a mad man with a history of killing people who tick him off. More than anything else, Sammon seems to gloat, at every opportunity, about how Bush won not just one but two wars, referring to Afghanistan as over and Iraq as a "three week war", all the while failing to point out how many times the Bush Administration lied when they tried to implicate Hussein in the September 11th attacks. This is the problem with trying to write history as it happens - you get a lot wrong, because it's not over yet. We remain "bogged down in the quagmire" (a phrase Sammon takes exception to often) of war in both countries, and the comparisons to Vietnam (another thing that bothers Sammon) have gone on for years after both Bush and Sammon declared "Mission Accomplished".
On the up side, this is a very easy read. The riots in Portland and Bush's surprise visit to Baghdad for Thanksgiving are both very well written vignettes, as is the look at Powell's angst over his presentation to the United Nations. (A note about that portion of the book - almost word for word, it appears in a 2006 Washington Post article titled "Falling on His Sword" by Karen DeYoung; that article is an excerpt from her book ISBN 1400075645 Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (Vintage), which makes me curious if she credits Sammon for it.) Even though it doesn't flow smoothly, fails to live up to the title, and is biased, it's always good to get the story from all sides and Sammon's managed to present this one in a read-able way. The only other failing, in my opinion, is that there's no index, an egregious omission in any non-fiction title.