October 2004

Jennifer Leblanc

nonfiction

What We've Lost by Graydon Carter

Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter has outlined every step and misstep of the Bush Administration in What We’ve Lost. He doesn’t waste time speculating on Bush’s actions during the Vietnam War, his wife's or daughters' characters, nor is there any sex or real estate scandal here. He simply lets the facts speak for themselves. So I supposed that’s why I haven’t heard much about this book. If nothing else, this election has shown that no one cares about the facts. Carter tries to show us why we should.

Carter has broken down the past four years into chapters labeled "The Military," "Secrecy," "Judiciary," "Health Care," and so on. Each area is thoroughly researched, facts and statistics are given, and, unlike the vague Kitty Kelly book, every source is documented and legitimate. Carter never strays from the point to spout his own biases or beliefs. This book isn’t about a personal attack on the President, it’s an attack on the destructive errors of an arrogant administration.

Most of the book details the largest issues, of course, such as the war, the Patriot Act, Medicare and public funding for domestic programs. If anyone is interested in the numbers, which don’t require a CPA to understand, they would know that Social Security is actually fine, having taken in $100 million more than it gave out. They would also know that we are in debt to the world’s other strongest nations that we used to fund. The only thing keeping us from an Argentinean-economic crisis is our past standing, although Carter also trails our reputation’s decline, which took over 200 years to build and one administration to damage. Using a variety of foreign newspaper quotes Carter shows us the extent of the widespread anti-American sentiment.

The longest chapter is "Environment," which explains everything from how many acres of forest and wetland we’ve lost to the unsigned Kyoto treaty. Carter does not neglect Bush’s record as governor of Texas. When Bush left that post, Texas rated as the worst state in the country for water and air pollution.

But the small things will resonate the most. For example, parents of soldiers overseas have been spending their own $1,500 on Kevlar vests because the military has provided so few. Another example is the President’s Thanksgiving visit to the troops in Iraq, where he posed with them in front of a good ole fashioned American feast. But the troops weren’t allowed a single bite -- the food was just for the photo. An example that concerns all of us here at home is the signing and passing of numerous controversial bills and laws in the middle of the night or on the weekend, when the media won’t cover it, how are we to know?

Issues of Carter's overly heavy reliance on his researchers aside, the book is convincing. All John Kerry has to do to win this election is read from this book at his campaign stops.

What We've Lost by Graydon Carter
Farrar Straus & Girroux
ISBN: 0374288925
340 Pages