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Throw the book at ’em

Clint Willis, editor of The I Hate Republicans Reader: Why the GOP Is Totally Wrong About Everything (Thunder’s Mouth Press; $13.95), doesn’t really hate all Republicans. He distinguishes between the "little ‘r’ republicans" (Grandma, maybe, or that flag-waving neighbor) and the "capital ‘R’ Republicans" (robber barons and imperious plutocrats). It’s the latter group he has problems with. These are the ones, he says, "who are actually out there doing it and being paid to do it; the ones who are actually implementing these policies and leading the charge."

Starting with the stolen 2000 election, the past three years have seen a succession of distressing developments that would make Orwell balk: the horrors of 9/11 leading to suppression of civil liberties at home and belligerent policies abroad. A war in Iraq, fought for ever-fluid reasons that seem more specious by the day. Allegations of war profiteering leveled at the vice-president’s former company. The running up of mammoth deficits with the thinly veiled aim of squeezing funds from necessary social programs. An energy bill drafted in secret by unnamed energy-industry lobbyists. The list goes on.

"Every time I would read about the latest outrage, I’d find myself thinking, ‘I hate Republicans,’" Willis says. "It’s not just a few Republicans. It’s everything they stand for. It seems to me that to be a Republican these days, you either have to be not paying much attention, which I think is often the case, or you’ve got to be cynical and a little bit corrupt. The kind of things they’re doing are so obviously motivated by greed, and yet they’re constantly dressing them up in other clothing."

The book’s main selling point is the trove of factual ammunition it offers for anyone who’s ever had to spar with amateur Limbaughs and O’Reillys. After all, there are few things worse than being shouted down by some blowhard and finding oneself as ineffectual at rebuttal as Fox News token liberal Alan Colmes.

"I admit I avoid those conversations, often because I feel like I’m not really prepared for them. I’m not going to sit there and just make assertions that I can’t back up pretty strongly," Willis says, adding that the right’s transgressions have grown so numerous that "there are so many things you could say that you don’t really feel you can carry your whole argument in your head."

At 410 pages, with works from 35 contributors, the reader is hefty but handy, a portable and quotable paperback. Besides requisite sardonic Bush-bashing from lefty jesters like Michael Moore and Al Franken, there are thoughtful analyses like Alan Dershowitz’s parsing of the conflicts of interest bedeviling the five Supreme Court justices who handed Bush the presidency, or Jonathan Schell’s persuasive argument that the Bushies’ pursuit of the war in Iraq (and concurrent neglect of North Korea) has essentially struck a blow for nuclear proliferation. Most astonishing is an excerpt from expat reporter Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Plume), which methodically explains how prior to the 2000 election, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris used software to purge thousands of "felons" (mostly minorities, mostly Democrats) from the Florida voter rolls. Some of those targeted committed their "felonies" in the year 2007. Palast’s reporting, prominently featured in the UK, was all but ignored in the US.

"When I was researching the book I was amazed at some of the stuff that turned up," Willis says. "I think if you read this book, you can never again vote Republican. You’d feel too dirty. These guys are such liars. And such hypocrites. And such scoundrels. They’re greedy, corrupt, self-deluded individuals. In Buddhist terms, it’s really terrible — these guys are all coming back as, I dunno, something really unpleasant."

Fortunately, there’s also a generous helping of comic relief scattered throughout the pages. The best are the anagrams — not only does "G. Dubya" translate into "Bad Guy," but "compassionate conservative" can be rendered both as "conspire to save a vast income!" and "come, vote: save patrician’s son."

The book joins a crowded market, what with recent tomes from Franken, Moore, Joe Conason, Molly Ivins, and Jim Hightower that also articulate the liberal world-view and expose GOP lies. But The I Hate Republicans Reader is a neat, inexpensive distillation of all those, and one more sign that once-cowed Democrats are finally shaking themselves from their torpor and shouting back.

"[The GOP] have crossed the line in so many areas that no matter what your particular pet issue is — be it the environment, the poor, labor, war and peace, media, corporate power, education — they’ve been in there stomping all over them in a very callous and brutal way," says Willis. "They’re maybe a little overconfident here, which may help us in the long run."

Issue Date: January 2 - 8, 2004
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