The author of this short polemic is a most interesting man. On his blog (http://dennisperrin.blogspot.com/ ) he writes about current events, sociological trends, the ups and downs of his life, his children, his troubled childhood, the comedy scene and other issues in a most engaging manner. What is most appealing about Mr. Perrin is how unpretentious he is. He has been through many highs and lows in his life. He was once something of a big shot. He worked for the outstanding group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), appeared on C-Span and other media outlets to argue against the American war on Iraq in 1991, wrote jokes for Bill Maher and other comedians, and published a book about Michael O’Donoghue to which Chevy Chase contributed a blurb of praise. But eight or nine years ago he developed some very severe financial problems and eneded up in Michigan working as a mall janitor. He later worked for a time at a janitorial service owned by John Birchers. The author’s descent down the American class ladder seems to have provided him with a whole new perspective on class and social status in this country. He mentions only one experience relating to his janitorial service in this book, when he talked to the owner of a Korean eatery at a mall food court about the situation in Korea.
In more than one way the book serves as a brief introduction to the radical leftist critique of how our political class serves the rich and powerful. Much of this book gives a summary of the Democratic Party’s historical support for repression of labor militancy domestically and, in the third world, human rights violations and war crimes. Gore Vidal produced a little book about the American presidency some years ago that had a similar idea as this one but I think this book is better than Vidal’s.
People who are well versed in the works of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn will probably not be staggered by much new information in this book. And the book is too short to go into significant depth on the issues. Among the issues mentioned are Andrew Jackson’s ethnic cleansing, Grover Cleveland’s repression of the Pullman strike, Eugene Debs’s imprisonment, the geostrategic and economic rivalries that were the driving force behind American involvement in World War II, etc (not resistance to aggression and war crimes). But of course it is always good to review aspects of our history. Moreover Perrin writes very well.
The author makes some effective points in this book. Early on he points out that Jimmy Carter is greatly under-appreciated for the way his phony "human rights" rhetoric provided new legtimacy to American imperialism. In spite of being denounced as a weak liberal Carter provided massive military aid to Indonesia’s near genocidal assault in East Timor, ignored Archbishop Romero’s plea not to send aid to the military junta in El Salvador, etc. Regarding Iraq, Perrin notes that most liberals probably would have supported an invasion of Iraq in 2003 if Al Gore had been in office. Most liberals objected to the Iraq war on the ground that it was a tactical mistake and not an act of international aggression. I think this point is frequently overlooked in discussing "anti-war" Democrats.
Perrin’s book ends with a discussion of the Nader campaign of 2000, his brief support for the war on Afghanistan which was encouraged by his former friend Christopher Hitchens, the Kerry campaign of 2004 and, in the last and best chapter of the book, his attendance at the annual Daily Kos convention in 2007. The chapter on the Dailykos is quite good. The conclusion he reaches about liberal "netroots" activism is all too painfully true.
The author has many gifts and it is an injustice that he dosen’t have regular paid writing work at the moment. He could write about a great many subjects in a lively way. The Nation should fire Eric Alterman and hire Perrin.