History Commons Groups

May 9, 2009

Books We Read: Takeover, by Charlie Savage

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of Democracy
by Charlie Savage
©2007 Little, Brown

Charlie Savage is, to my mind, a consummate reporter. When he wrote this book, he was with the Boston Globe, and now he hangs his hat at the New York Times. He does not, to my knowledge, spend a lot of time on the various cable talk fests like so many other reporters who aren’t fit to carry his pencil case. He simply…reports.

If you’re familiar with the eight years of Cheney-led depredations and assaults on civil liberties, then this book by and large plows familiar ground. Its value does not come in amazing new revelations or lurid, angry prose. Instead, it is almost a primer: going back all the way to the Founding Fathers and touching on the events that preceded the advent of Bush/Cheney, it provides a thumbnail history of attempts to widen and expand presidential powers at the expense of Congress (and to a lesser extent, the courts) before documenting the efforts of Bush/Cheney to implement the now-infamous “unitary executive theory,” which Stalin would have loved but which would have sent Jefferson into paroxysms of rage. Savage spends little time waxing wroth about the various actions and crimes of the Bush administration, but instead builds his case against executive depredation with one fact after another. In the end, his sober restraint and factual compilation is far more effective, and damning, than any rhetorical whipping administered by the blogosphere’s would-be Menckens.

You won’t buy it for its wordsmithing or its rhetorical flourishes, but it will become a centerpiece of your library of all things Bush.

I am working diligently to process it for the Commons as you read this.

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