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Sunday, September 19, 2004; Page BW11

Politics

In this season of electoral fervor, the paperback political titles keep coming fast and furious. Here's a taste of some of the more heated:

Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, by Douglas Brinkley (HarperPerennial, $14.95). In a new introduction to the updated edition of this "story of one young American's Vietnam War odyssey," eminent historian Brinkley makes his position on recent campaign maneuvers clear: "A group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, aided by Republican money, formed to challenge Kerry on everything from whether he deserved his first Purple Heart to whether he committed treason when he testified about atrocities in front of J. William Fulbright's Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971. But it was too late. The reality of Kerry's 'Band of Brothers' on the campaign trail . . . had already seared itself on the American imagination. The only question that remained following the Democratic Convention in Boston was whether Kerry's moving Vietnam-era patriotism would help send him to the White House."

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke (Free Press, $14). The national security expert who served three presidents -- Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton -- has a thing or two he'd like to tell you about the current administration's failings. "There is no sign that three years after 9/11, the Bush administration can make the new Department of Homeland Security work, achieve coordination among federal security agencies, or significantly reduce domestic vulnerabilities. Far from uniting Americans in efforts to defend our country, the Bush administration has divided the nation by contorted legal doctrines. . . . And then there is Iraq."

Take Back the Right: How the Neocons and the Religious Right Have Betrayed the Conservative Movement, by Philip Gold (Carroll & Graf, $14). This memoir-manifesto by "one of the Cassandras of the conservative movement" takes our leaders to task for a multitude of sins. On the international front, "a deluge of endless war and intermittent terror, occasioned by an empire we neither need nor can sustain -- an ugly, perverse empire that addresses those whom we conquer physically, and those whom we conquer in other ways, with an arrogant You'll thank us later." On the economic front: "Trillions upon trillions in unpayable debt already amassed. . . . trillions more coming at us as national security expenditures." On the trade front: "Today, America has the profile of a nineteenth-century European colony. We export food and raw materials; we let others sell us most of the rest of what we need. Perhaps it's not that stark. . . . The world still craves our weapons and our porn (read here, popular culture)."

Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court vs. the American People, by Jamin B. Raskin (Routledge, $19.95). The author, a professor of constitutional law at American University, takes on such hot-button constitutional topics as redistricting, flag-burning and the right to vote as they've played out in recent Supreme Court cases, most notably Bush v. Gore. "If we permit an election to be stolen every now and then," he writes, "there will no doubt be hell to pay later. What if we looked at the presidential election of 2000 as a huge rock being thrown through the window of American democracy? In the pivotal state of Florida, we know that tens of thousands of people were illegally purged from the voter rolls, hundreds of thousands disenfranchised by state law, and more than 175,000 ballots left on the table uncounted when the Supreme Court jumped in to stop vote-counting." If you're still wondering how Raskin feels, consider his next comment: "The majority's 5-4 decision to block the manual recount was a madcap flight from the rule of law and a brutal offense against political democracy."

-- Jennifer Howard


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