This expose of Washington politics revives the disreputable profession of muckraking, scrutinizing with an unforgiving eye the political culture of the Clinton era. Paying open tribute to the tone and illustrative style of Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon", the authors provide, in words and pictures, the scoop on the nefarious goings on in the capital city, the out of town arrivistes in the White House and on Capital Hill, and the corrupt stew of permanent officials and hangers-on which surrounds them: the lobbyists, the lawyers, the officials and the journalist elite. The book opens up the heart of American government, inside the Oval Office. It charts the rise of Bill Clinton, from the heady days of dope, group sex and anti-war movements snooping at Oxford, through the scandals of Whitewater and Paula Jones, and on to the political cowardice that led to the debacle of the 1994 mid-term elections. The book takes in members of the Clinton set, such as Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs, whose officers donated $1.2 million to the Clinton campaign and were amply repaid when their man became the President's chief economic officer. It peers into the murky activities of the liberal elite, whose foundations - MacArthur, Pew and Rockefeller - deploy upwards of $3 billion per year in shaping government policy on issues ranging from the environment to penal reform. It exposes the supremely influential role of the "Wall Street Journal", virtual inventor of the cult of Gingrichism, and the other media institutions whose myths the American public has no choice but to endure. The book also scrutinizes Congress, prostrate before the overwhelming power of the big bureaucracies and at the mercy of lawyer-lobbyists who oversee the crossroads of power and manage the necessary traffic of money and favours.
This post first appeared at j-hoberman.com.
Donald J. Trump is not the first professional entertainer or pitchman to be elected president of the United States but, however he may refuse to break character or take an adjustment, he is not Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was 1940s Hollywood incarnate. He was the embodiment of happy endings and uncomplicated emotions, amusing anecdotes and conspicuous consumption, cornball patriotism and paranoid anti-Communism, cheerful bromides and a built-in production code designed to suppress any uncomfortable truth. He was a true believer in the magic of the movies.
It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Alexander Cockburn, our good friend and staunch comrade, a wonderfully gifted writer and courageous journalist. We were privileged to publish half a dozen of his books, each major contributions to the culture and politics of the Left. Corruptions of Empire, published in 1988, displayed the impressive range of his writings, from trenchant indictments of imperialism and biting satire of liberal humbug to lyrical memories of his childhood and sardonic observation of the ruling order. Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon, written with Susanna Hecht, remains an exemplary account of a ravaged planet. Washington Babylon, written with Ken Silverstein, is a classic exposé of US politics and business. Each of these books went through many editions.
Across more than four decades Cockburn was a relentless and prophetic opponent of US militarism—his brothers Patrick and Andrew ensured that Alexander’s polemics were very well informed. We were proud to publish such works as Imperial Crusades (2004), written with Jeffrey St Clair and exploring the interconnections of the US wars of intervention. Alexander wrote for a wide spectrum of publications, with columns at different epochs in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal as well as the Village Voice (in its heyday) and the Nation. ‘Press Clips’ in the Village Voice set new standards for scrutiny of print and broadcast media. Alexander’s ‘Beat the Devil’ column in the Nation ran for nearly three decades and established him as the most radical, literate, consistent, uncompromising—and witty—voice of the Left in the United States. Cockburn was a long-time editor of the London-based New Left Review. In the 1990s, with Jeffrey St Clair, Alexander founded Counterpunch, the much-consulted political newsletter and website. The response to 9/11 was soon to show the necessity for independent media outlets. At some future date we hope to contribute to an appropriate memorial to ‘Alexander the Brilliant’ - as Edward Said once called him. In the meantime, all our sympathy goes out to his cruelly-bereaved family and friends.