Rachel Maddow is more than just the uncontested queen of liberal-leaning lesbians; Rachel Maddow is the uncontested queen of forward-thinking, rational human beings. And her new book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power illustrates why she belongs on that throne. Here are five reasons why you should give the book a read:
1) It tilts just left of nonpartisan.
Drift explores the ways and reasons American wars have become so disjointed from American life over the past four decades, calling for accountability from an executive branch that has exercised almost monarchial power over America’s military since Vietman. Unlike the good folks over at Fox News, Maddow doesn’t subscribe to the “I hate a political party; let’s see what horrible crimes I can accuse them of” line of reasoning. Her aim is the hows and whys of bloated military spending and military secrecy, and she takes everyone to task who has perpetuated the problem, from Lyndon B. Johnson to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Yep, even that champion of human rights and social progression, President Obama.
2) The charm of The Rachel Maddow Show translates to the page.
Drift is densely packed with years of research and unapologetic political wonk, but just like on her show, Maddow tempers the academia with whimsical anecdotes and spit-taking humor. I own a book containing all the declassified documents from the Iran-Contra scandal; it’s like a thousand pages long. But Maddow sums it up thusly: Iran-Contra was like “‘F-k Congress,’ only in Latin.” She explores it more deeply than that, of course, but she does candor with a perfect mix of cleverness.
3) The writing is superb.
Every time I express pleasant surprise about how good the writing is in Drift, people roll their eyes at me and go, “Duh, it’s Rachel Maddow.” But just because someone is brilliant at mouth-words doesn’t mean they’ll be brilliant at written-words. But Maddow’s writing style is as engaging as her talking style, and the actual writing — from sentence structure to syntax — is obviously the work of a playful wordsmith.
Although, I love what she told NPR about her writing process:
Nothing about me wants to write. I reject it like a transplanted organ. It’s a little bit of a dark window into my soul. I don’t mind writing scripts. I don’t mind writing something that I’m going to read, because I think subconsciously, I’m confident that if I screw something up, or something is inelegant or embarrassing or even wrong, because I’m writing myself, I can ad-lib the correction on-air or fix it. When you’re writing for the eye, it’s unforgiving, and I find it hard for me to commit to a sentence.
4) It’ll make you smarter.
There’s a blurb on Drift‘s cover from Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Basically he says if you’re a conservative, you’ll hate the book on principle, and if you’re a liberal, you’ll love this book on principle. But he also says, “Aggressive debate is good for America. Drift is a book worth reading.” He’s right about that, and Drift is chock-full of stuff that’s actually worth talking about. It’s not trumped pundit propaganda about whatever legislator’s supposed war on whatever American way of life. It’s about actual war and its repercussions on actual American life. It’s well-researched and well-presented. There are lots of paradigm shifting big ideas that are worthy of debate.
5) It’s not a bunch of bitching.
One of the greatest movie speeches ever comes from Michael Douglas‘ Andrew Shepherd in The American President. He says his opponent is “interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of [the country's problems] and telling you who’s to blame for [them].” The days, that pretty accurately describes America’s political dialogue. But Maddow does more than shake down the causes of the unmooring of America’s military and the danger of consolidating America’s power into one branch of the government; she actually offers solutions. She promises to do it in the foreword and makes good on her promise throughout her book. Sure, she paints a bleak picture, but it’s laced with hope and optimism. You get the feeling she wrote the book because she believed things can get better.
Drift was my favorite nonfiction read of 2012 so far. Will you be reading it?