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What You Should Know about Politics... But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues

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Its a very exciting time in American politics. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses across the nation has shattered old records. More than ever, in this election year people are paying attention to the issues. But in a world of sound bites and deliberate misinformation and a political scene that is literally colored by a partisan divide--blue vs. red--how does the avera Its a very exciting time in American politics. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses across the nation has shattered old records. More than ever, in this election year people are paying attention to the issues. But in a world of sound bites and deliberate misinformation and a political scene that is literally colored by a partisan divide--blue vs. red--how does the average educated American find a reliable source that's free of political spin? What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don't breaks it all down, issue by issue, explaining who stands for what, and why--whether it's the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, oil and renewable energy sources, or climate change. If you're a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, it's the perfect book to brush up on a single topic or read through to get a deeper understanding of the often-mucky world of American politics. Polls have shown that interest in the presidential campaign traditionally peaks 3-6 weeks before the elections. But this is also a book that transcends the season. It's truly for anyone who wants to know more about the issues, which are perennial issues that will continue to affect our everyday lives.


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Its a very exciting time in American politics. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses across the nation has shattered old records. More than ever, in this election year people are paying attention to the issues. But in a world of sound bites and deliberate misinformation and a political scene that is literally colored by a partisan divide--blue vs. red--how does the avera Its a very exciting time in American politics. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses across the nation has shattered old records. More than ever, in this election year people are paying attention to the issues. But in a world of sound bites and deliberate misinformation and a political scene that is literally colored by a partisan divide--blue vs. red--how does the average educated American find a reliable source that's free of political spin? What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don't breaks it all down, issue by issue, explaining who stands for what, and why--whether it's the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, oil and renewable energy sources, or climate change. If you're a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, it's the perfect book to brush up on a single topic or read through to get a deeper understanding of the often-mucky world of American politics. Polls have shown that interest in the presidential campaign traditionally peaks 3-6 weeks before the elections. But this is also a book that transcends the season. It's truly for anyone who wants to know more about the issues, which are perennial issues that will continue to affect our everyday lives.

30 review for What You Should Know about Politics... But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    A fast, fun overview of an enormous topic. I waffled on the rating for this one, between three and four. It was a "four" for me until I got to her remarks on homeschoolers in the Education chapter. She says, "... greater numbers of Americans either put their children in religious schools or chose to homeschool them. They would prefer not to pay for public education because they don't use or want its services." Ouch. Talk about a wildly erroneous generalization! I'm not saying that there aren't h A fast, fun overview of an enormous topic. I waffled on the rating for this one, between three and four. It was a "four" for me until I got to her remarks on homeschoolers in the Education chapter. She says, "... greater numbers of Americans either put their children in religious schools or chose to homeschool them. They would prefer not to pay for public education because they don't use or want its services." Ouch. Talk about a wildly erroneous generalization! I'm not saying that there aren't homeschoolers who hold this view, but in all my years as a member of various homeschool communities, I can't recall ever hearing anyone say such a thing. The homeschoolers I know would all admit that homeschooling is not the right choice for every family, and that an excellent public school system is a benefit to everyone. Anyway, having stumbled over such a blatantly inaccurate piece of "information" in a section about which I have some knowledge made me a bit more skeptical about her claims in other sections. Still, I did enjoy the book a lot. Conrad succeeds in making complex subjects seem comprehensible, and she has an amusing, if occasionally too flippant, style. Most of what she covered was familiar, but the book was a nice refresher on a wide range of political issues. My reservation is that she sounds confident and authoritative but is, perhaps, not as well informed as she imagines on some subjects.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    Claims to be a non-partison guide to modern political issues (as of 2008) and delivers. It discusses major issues and where the different parties & groups usually stand and why without trying to say who is right or wrong.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Cross

    I'd recommend this book to anyone around my age. It covered a great deal of political topics, ranging from economy to education. Conrad's writing was very conversational and included more 'I's in it than I would have predicted (not a complaint, I enjoyed her input). One thing you must note if you choose to read this book...If you do read this, rent (or buy) the most recent edition. The one I rented from the library, and the only one available, was published in 2008. Obama wasn't even president y I'd recommend this book to anyone around my age. It covered a great deal of political topics, ranging from economy to education. Conrad's writing was very conversational and included more 'I's in it than I would have predicted (not a complaint, I enjoyed her input). One thing you must note if you choose to read this book...If you do read this, rent (or buy) the most recent edition. The one I rented from the library, and the only one available, was published in 2008. Obama wasn't even president yet. I noticed that almost immediately, realizing that nothing surpassed 2008. However, I continued to read on despite not being the most recent. I found that this book was a quick sum of ~30 years that my schooling failed to teach me. None of my history classes taught recent history, anything beyond 1960's or Vietnam...so this was a great wrap up of what happened prior to my birth -> until I began focusing on real world, current events. Definitely recommend but highly suggest looking for the latest edition!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Luis A.

    I picked up this book, along with The Everything American Government Book, out of desperation. I had spent most of my life saying that I didn’t care about politics or the news except in the greater context and curation provided in history books. Then one day I woke up to realize that we’re living history and are here to take action or, at the very least, witness the ride. However, whenever I read a news article, I understood no more than 30%. I was missing the blueprint of how government and pol I picked up this book, along with The Everything American Government Book, out of desperation. I had spent most of my life saying that I didn’t care about politics or the news except in the greater context and curation provided in history books. Then one day I woke up to realize that we’re living history and are here to take action or, at the very least, witness the ride. However, whenever I read a news article, I understood no more than 30%. I was missing the blueprint of how government and politics work (or are supposed to work) and the background of most current affairs. I could’ve kept reading newspapers and magazines and hope to, by sheer repetition, construct the desired mental maps. But there’s gotta be a book that short cuts this, I thought, and amazon.com took me to What You Should Know About Politics… But Don’t. The title said it all for me. And the subtitle added more validity to it: A Nonpartisan Guide To The Issues That Matter. Jessamyn Conrad does a very nice job identifying and describing some of the most important political and cultural topics of this decade. For each topic, Conrad provides background information about the issue at hand and the players that surround it, sometimes going back several decades. This background was essential in helping me weave a narrative (in my mind) and be better equipped to formulate a position. The book touches on 13 topics in a little less than 400 pages. With approximately 30 pages per topic, the book is not at risk of being boring, especially because the topics are independent of each other. As for the subtitle, Conrad limits her narrative to providing the main viewpoints around each topic, and the arguments presented by opposing parties. She doesn’t adjudicate the upper hand (ethical or logical) to any particular position. So, in my opinion, it checks the nonpartisan box. The one thing missing perhaps is a complete update of the 13 topics, and perhaps the addition of new ones… things changed on January 20, 2017! This is the third edition, published in 2016, when Obama was still president. In sum, if you’re looking to build or strengthen your blueprint of current American politics, read this book… and buy the fourth edition when it comes out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    Excellent primer for overview of important topics crucial to any sort of understanding of political will and intent for voters. Naomi Wolf offers an introduction to this edition that ties it to the recent ascendancy of Trump and Company. I like the way Conrad sets up chapters similarly: bullets, background, a bit of history, bolded key words, presentation of dis/similar points of view. I like the readability of this book. I like its coverage: elections, the economy, foreign policy, the military, hea Excellent primer for overview of important topics crucial to any sort of understanding of political will and intent for voters. Naomi Wolf offers an introduction to this edition that ties it to the recent ascendancy of Trump and Company. I like the way Conrad sets up chapters similarly: bullets, background, a bit of history, bolded key words, presentation of dis/similar points of view. I like the readability of this book. I like its coverage: elections, the economy, foreign policy, the military, health care, energy, the environment, civil liberties, culture wars, socioeconomic policy, homeland security, education and trade. I like the sensible approach of the book, as well as its (overall) non-partisan considerations. Lots to be reminded of; lots to learn.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wesley

    I'm giving this two stars because you might as well purchase the first edition second-hand for how little this book is updated. The fourth edition was not warranted at all. There is absolutely nothing in this book past the year 2014. A third edition was published in 2016. This one was published in 2019. Where is ANY coverage of the change in the political landscape due to Obama's second term? The 2016 election? The Trump White House? Bernie Sanders and the Democratic progressives? Definitely an I'm giving this two stars because you might as well purchase the first edition second-hand for how little this book is updated. The fourth edition was not warranted at all. There is absolutely nothing in this book past the year 2014. A third edition was published in 2016. This one was published in 2019. Where is ANY coverage of the change in the political landscape due to Obama's second term? The 2016 election? The Trump White House? Bernie Sanders and the Democratic progressives? Definitely an ill-advised attempt to make money. I paid $12 for it and I will be returning it for my money. Once again, great to understand the development of politics leading up to 2008, but not contemporaneous at ALL and for a "new" edition, it is incredibly dated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Somewhat outdated. Good summation. Broad range of issues- "I wrote this book to fill a void, the existence of which has been made more apparent by the myriad mudslinging volumes in the Ann Coulter/Michael Moore mold, books that are more about theater than ideas, that have more to do with misplaced hate than thoughtful contemplation of the issues ahead." Somewhat outdated. Good summation. Broad range of issues- "I wrote this book to fill a void, the existence of which has been made more apparent by the myriad mudslinging volumes in the Ann Coulter/Michael Moore mold, books that are more about theater than ideas, that have more to do with misplaced hate than thoughtful contemplation of the issues ahead."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ronan Drew

    This book purports to be an unbiased look at politics and to describe what each side says about various issues. It is not nonpartisan. It is biased to the left. And it doesn't even do a very good job of explaining why those on the left believe what they do. A great disappointment. This book purports to be an unbiased look at politics and to describe what each side says about various issues. It is not nonpartisan. It is biased to the left. And it doesn't even do a very good job of explaining why those on the left believe what they do. A great disappointment.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    Good review- I'm making an attempt to understand politics better! Would be better if updated to Trump era :) Good review- I'm making an attempt to understand politics better! Would be better if updated to Trump era :)

  10. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Kierra ♥

    With the 2016 election, I wanted to be more informed about politics. This book helped me to learn about key issues, the history of said issues, and current status of issues. The winning factor in the books title was nonpartisan and it was true to the word. I did not feel the author trying to sway me on an issue. The facts were given and footnotes provided. I think this is a great book for anyone looking to learn more about politics.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    A Solid Refresher This was a good nonpartisan book on politics. It outlines each of the current issues along party lines and the prevailing arguments for each side. I also picked up a few useful tidbits along the way as well with some issues from a historical aspect. The only thing I would forewarn readers is that it could use another edition update as it focuses a lot on the Clinton and Bush administrations while only touching on Obama’s.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chinook

    This did exactly what it said it would do - gave a bipartisan introduction to the basic issues that exist in the political climate (before Trump - I'm sure the next edition will have some interesting changes). It would be an ideal book for every American voter to read as a campaign began. It's too bad that most probably wouldn't be open to doing so - after all, half didn't even vote. This did exactly what it said it would do - gave a bipartisan introduction to the basic issues that exist in the political climate (before Trump - I'm sure the next edition will have some interesting changes). It would be an ideal book for every American voter to read as a campaign began. It's too bad that most probably wouldn't be open to doing so - after all, half didn't even vote.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Blake Rozendaal

    Jessamyn Conrad has created a well researched handbook to some of the most popular issues. The book has been put together as a quick guide to the issues and the chapters can be read in any order to get a clear picture. In terms of bias, multiple perspectives are presented and compared in each chapter. In addition, the history of the debate and how public opinion has changed is also covered.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Obada Kattih

    After acknowledging for so long that I knew nothing about politics, I finally decided to try and do something about it, so I decided to read this book. Now I can confidently say that I still know almost nothing about politics, but I know a little more than I did before reading this book. This book claims to be a non-partisan guide and a wide range of political topics, and it certainly delivers (frankly I don't think I've ever read a book that was quite this unbiased). Each of the topics covered After acknowledging for so long that I knew nothing about politics, I finally decided to try and do something about it, so I decided to read this book. Now I can confidently say that I still know almost nothing about politics, but I know a little more than I did before reading this book. This book claims to be a non-partisan guide and a wide range of political topics, and it certainly delivers (frankly I don't think I've ever read a book that was quite this unbiased). Each of the topics covered could themselves fill multiple volumes, but this book was only able to dedicate a chapter to each, which just goes to show the breadth this book was trying to cover. As mentioned, each chapter covers a topic, and these chapters could be read on their own, so the book doesn't need to be read in order, and if you're only interested in certain topics you could only read those chapters. All the chapters were incredibly thorough and well researched. I cannot fathom the amount of work that must have been put into writing this book. However, some chapters were definitely more entertaining than others - whether that is due to my personal preferences or due to how well the chapters were written I cannot say. Each chapter is divided into three sections. The first is simply a summary and key bullet points of what will be covered in the chapter. This is followed by a section titled "background to current debates", which is followed by section titled "current debates". Since each chapter can be read on its own, I thought it best to list the chapters and give my rating for each one: 1. Elections: 3/5 2. The economy: 4/5 3. Foreign policy: 5/5 4. The military: 4/5 5. Healthcare: 5/5 6. Energy: 5/5 7. The environment: 4/5 8. Civil liberties: 4/5 9. Culture wars: 4/5 10. Socioeconomic policy: 5/5 11. Homeland Security: 4/5 12. Education: 4/5 13. Trade: 5/5 I certainly learned an incredible amount from this book. If you, like me, are completely lost when it comes to the world of politics, this book may not be a horrible place to start.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Edwards

    Nice succinct rundown of most of today's top political debates including great background information and summaries of all of the groups that do and don't support the various positions on these topics and their reasonings. Nice succinct rundown of most of today's top political debates including great background information and summaries of all of the groups that do and don't support the various positions on these topics and their reasonings.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I didn't finish this book. The author aims for the pretense of neutrality, and instead presents a point of view so steeped in privilege see seems oblivious to it. The treatment of the material is far too superficial to be considered anything more than an introduction to the topics. Unfortunately some caution would be required even there because some of her explanations are error-ridden. For example, her discussion of gerrymandering gets the math wrong and therefore fails to show how someone who I didn't finish this book. The author aims for the pretense of neutrality, and instead presents a point of view so steeped in privilege see seems oblivious to it. The treatment of the material is far too superficial to be considered anything more than an introduction to the topics. Unfortunately some caution would be required even there because some of her explanations are error-ridden. For example, her discussion of gerrymandering gets the math wrong and therefore fails to show how someone who draws district lines could change the results of an election. Overall, the book has an annoying he-said-she-said feeling to it and is desperately short on analysis, evaluation, or even explanation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Greg T Miraglia

    This should be required reading for all voters. It is very information heavy. In fact, its all information. There's no gossip or side-taking. Just information. This is one of the most profound reads I've had the pleasure of reading. It reminded me that growing up during the Bush years doesn't mean I knew the complexities of the era. It reminded me that Clinton and Bush were both more moderate than my generation makes them out to be. It reminded me why John McCain will always be the most honest an This should be required reading for all voters. It is very information heavy. In fact, its all information. There's no gossip or side-taking. Just information. This is one of the most profound reads I've had the pleasure of reading. It reminded me that growing up during the Bush years doesn't mean I knew the complexities of the era. It reminded me that Clinton and Bush were both more moderate than my generation makes them out to be. It reminded me why John McCain will always be the most honest and decent Republican of my lifetime. It taught me a lot- too much to summarize. Go read this book. You're looking at the reviews, so you either have or want too. Do it. You won't regret it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Peck

    One should be vary wary of any book or person who purports to provide a no partisan review of politics. In the great tradition of Sal Alinski - lying about your position is just all right. Don't waste your time if you hope for real non partisan analysis. I had great hopes for it but wish I never bought it. One should be vary wary of any book or person who purports to provide a no partisan review of politics. In the great tradition of Sal Alinski - lying about your position is just all right. Don't waste your time if you hope for real non partisan analysis. I had great hopes for it but wish I never bought it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Ruppert

    For anyone who wishes they had a better grasp on politics without all the vitriol of either side. While this book is dry at times, it is also engaging in a way that feels safer than anything you'll find online. Conrad provides a non-inflammatory explanation of what various political leanings are all about and the events that shaped our current political landscape. For anyone who wishes they had a better grasp on politics without all the vitriol of either side. While this book is dry at times, it is also engaging in a way that feels safer than anything you'll find online. Conrad provides a non-inflammatory explanation of what various political leanings are all about and the events that shaped our current political landscape.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    This is a must read. Very readable, explains all aspects of the Federal government in lay language. Written bey the daughter of a former governor of N Dakota (D) and niece of a senator form N Dakota (R)! Balanced, non-partisan.

  21. 5 out of 5

    keith

    I did really enjoy this and it was informative, it just didn't 100% hit the mark for me. Still, I would recommend reading it if you're curious to know more about modern US politics, just don't expect an extremely up to date account of the issues. I did really enjoy this and it was informative, it just didn't 100% hit the mark for me. Still, I would recommend reading it if you're curious to know more about modern US politics, just don't expect an extremely up to date account of the issues.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Geogeo

    If you don’t know much about politics or don’t k ow where you stand in the political field this is probably the best book to read and get you going. Very nonpartisan surprisingly. The author did a good job

  23. 5 out of 5

    Britt Brown

    I learned quite a lot from the book. It’s not completely current, but since most of the issues have been debated for years, it have me a great background.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    NOTES: Generally speaking, Democrats want to regulate economic life but stay out of individuals’ personal lives, while Republicans want as little economic regulation as possible but often support laws regulating moral behavior. Politicians of both parties are frequently accused of taking donations from certain industries, corporations, or other special interests, and then supporting positions accordingly, in what is sometimes called a quid pro quo arrangement. Many think that we should move the ele NOTES: Generally speaking, Democrats want to regulate economic life but stay out of individuals’ personal lives, while Republicans want as little economic regulation as possible but often support laws regulating moral behavior. Politicians of both parties are frequently accused of taking donations from certain industries, corporations, or other special interests, and then supporting positions accordingly, in what is sometimes called a quid pro quo arrangement. Many think that we should move the election to a weekend or make election day a national holiday to encourage voter turnout, which is what most developed nations do. Many contend that the Electoral College encourages candidates to campaign almost exclusively in swing states— states that can go either Democrat or Republican and which tend to do so by a small margin. Very few of us fully grasp how specific economic indicators— such as the value of the dollar or the amount of the national debt— affect our everyday lives. In 2011 America’s GDP was estimated to be around $ 15 trillion, the largest of any single nation in the world— although the European Union has a collective GDP that is now slightly higher. To provide some scale, a trillion dollars is a thousand billion, a million million, or $ 1,000,000,000,000. For most developed countries, anything over 3 percent growth per year is considered healthy. US annual growth was around 4 or 5 percent during the late 1990s— which was considered a boom, or a period of high growth— and under 2 percent in 2007-08. By contrast, China has achieved growth of 8 to 12 percent a year for twenty-two of the last twenty-five years. Even if you think the banking bailout was unfair, or don’t agree with bailouts for ideological reasons, the hard truth is that if the government had not stepped in in 2007– 8, the banking system would have collapsed. And because banks are so essential to how the economy works, the entire economy would have ground to a halt. Your bank balance would have been $ 0. Credit cards wouldn’t work. By the way, this really is possible and something like it happened in Iceland in 2008. Pretty much nobody in policy or politics— or finance— thinks there was any choice once the crisis hit. The fact that the government has consistently chosen top- down intervention like bank bailouts rather than bottom- up intervention like renegotiating mortgages for individuals, joined with rising income inequality and a jobless economic recovery, created pressures that exploded in 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street movement, or OWS, in New York. The movement spread to other cities and countries and is generally called the Occupy movement. In general, people who are involved with the Occupy movement think the way Wall Street and the government have handled the economy serves to increase the wealth and power of the few at the expense of the many, as enshrined in the motto, “We are the 99 percent.” In 2011, less than 20 percent of Americans paid over a 15 percent marginal tax rate. The highest marginal tax bracket in 2011 was 35 percent. Some liberals think the current system of capital gains values the act of investing over the act of working and therefore that capital gains should be taxed at rates the same as ordinary income because we should value work over investment. Generally speaking, Democrats want to regulate economic life but stay out of individuals’ personal lives, while Republicans want as little economic regulation as possible but often support laws regulating moral behavior. the wealthiest four hundred families own as much as the bottom 150 million Americans and pay an effective tax rate of about 18 percent. Obama’s Buffett rule states that those who make over $ 1 million a year should pay at least 30 percent of their income in tax, no matter what the income derives from. If you think taxes are high now, in the 1950s the top income bracket paid 90 percent of income to federal taxes! This was true in many other countries, including Great Britain. People who don’t make enough to pay income tax still pay payroll tax, in addition to sales taxes and other indirect taxes like excise duties. This is a classic difference between conservatives and liberals: conservatives often focus on the interests of the individual, while liberals tend to want to further the interests of society in general. To lift the economy, money from tax cuts has to be spent. Low- income and middle- class families usually spend the money they get back from tax cuts. The wealthy tend to save that money: they have enough to buy what they want and need anyway. Liberals think taxes are justifiable for three main reasons: (1) taxes pay for the infrastructure, legal system, educational resources, and economic opportunities that allow people to make a lot of money in the first place; (2) providing for social programs and safety nets raises the overall standard of living, allowing for more productive employees, a larger number of active consumers, greater entrepreneurship, and a more dynamic economy overall; (3) many really do believe in giving back through their taxes— having done well in life, they feel that it is their moral obligation to help others. Underlying this is a belief that the government can fix problems. Discretionary spending accounts for about one- third of the federal government’s overall outlay and includes money for defense, parks, schools, and other national priorities. Mandatory spending pays for Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and Social Security. These programs are called entitlements because all Americans are entitled to them if they qualify. To make up the deficits in our national budget, we borrow money from other countries. China is the biggest holder of American debt. Roosevelt’s maxim “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” referring to diplomacy coupled with strong defense, summed up an extremely successful strategy. During his tenure, Roosevelt deftly avoided war with Germany, helped negotiate an end to the Russo- Japanese War, and set the tone for contemporary American foreign policy. Two decades later, Adolf Hitler’s rampant expansionism would force America’s interventionist hand. World War II may have been the only morally clear international engagement in American history— and whether it could have been prevented is still fiercely debated in foreign policy circles. The Marshall Plan, put into place just after World War II, exemplified American civilian aid. In just four years, the Marshall Plan injected $ 18 billion into Europe’s devastated economy; this was essential to preventing the spread of communism, to which the poorest tend to be more amenable. By providing food and money to literally rebuild the Continent, the Marshall Plan helped bring Europe back from the brink. Even the Vietnam War’s once fiercest advocates, including its main architect, then- secretary of defense Robert McNamara, now think it was a mistake. Essentially, US officials misunderstood the nature of the conflict: it was a civil war that had little to do with international communism and posed little, if any, threat to America or to international stability. Unsurprisingly, then, a great fear of repeating the mistakes made in Vietnam continues to inform many Americans’ views on foreign policy. The United States is too big, too powerful, and already has its finger in too many foreign pies for old- school isolationism to be tenable. Eisenhower identified core conservative tenets, stating that America’s “basic purposes” were “to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations.” It would be difficult to overstate just how awful Hussein was. He once had his entire cabinet murdered at a meeting. Though Hussein was thoroughly despicable, the Bush administration was concerned that getting rid of him was more dangerous than allowing him to stay in charge. One skirmish over weapons inspections in 1998 led to a major US- led bombing campaign under President Bill Clinton called Operation Desert Fox. Desert Fox would later prove to be a watershed moment in American relations with Iraq. Years later, we would discover that Desert Fox so demoralized the Iraqis that they never again developed major weapons (though they did keep building conventional missiles). In fact, Hussein’s most feared arms were destroyed between 1995 and 1998. Throughout the 1990s the majority of politicians and most of the intelligence community thought that containment was working in Iraq. Most Americans who lived through Vietnam— including those who served— are generally averse to violent intervention and think military actions should be used cautiously, as a very last resort. Under the Constitution, Congress is supposed to declare war, but because the president is the commander in chief, the spheres of military power of these two branches of government overlap, often with confusing results. Liberal internationalists have begun to articulate a different approach that treats disease, poverty, famine, and resource shortages as strategic threats because they are often the root causes of violent conflict. America’s support for Israel— and Israel’s continued existence— remains one of the top stated reasons for anti- American sentiment among radical Muslims. Why America supports Israel so strongly in the first place. There are several reasons. For a long time— though not now after the Arab Spring— Israel was the only democracy in the region. President Obama’s address just over a week after the protests started was an inspiration for many Egyptians. Obama called on the government to refrain from violence and listen to the people, and asserted American support for universal human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly. Obama’s announcement was read by many as a veiled request for Mubarak to step down. Some foreign affairs experts think our preoccupation with the Middle East may be a distraction from even more serious matters: Russia is redeveloping rapidly, becoming an epicenter of wealth and ambition. Developing at an almost unimaginable clip, China is bent on strengthening its military and technological capabilities. And though the nation has shed its communist policies, embraced capitalism, and opened itself to the world, China remains profoundly undemocratic, with no civil liberties, no political opposition allowed, and no labor rights for its millions of workers. The United States lacks a clear foreign policy toward China, instead dealing with the giant nation as a trading partner and banker. Many worry that this lack of an overall strategy with China— to whom the US owes $ 600 billion— is dangerous. India is a traditional enemy of China and may help contain any aggression by that country. North Korea has long been a foreign policy concern. Korea is rabidly opposed to the United States and heads the most closed society in the world. Obama announced a major reorganization of the military in 2011 that would reduce or eliminate our capability of fighting two wars at once. A major issue right now is how to help ease reentry into civilian life for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. To help ex-soldiers, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the GI Bill, a huge aid package that paid tuition at private and public universities and even included money for books and living expenses. The military no longer offers a free ticket to outside education. The Veterans Administration, or VA, provides federally funded medical care to those who have served, and has been criticized in the past for failing to provide adequate services—especially mental health services. Around two hundred thousand veterans are homeless, usually as a result of mental illness or addiction, which many maintain was caused or exacerbated by their time in the military. In 2007 President George W. Bush’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that a new program had helped move 20,000 vets into housing. In 2006 the military faced a $530 million budget shortfall at domestic facilities because the war in Iraq was using up all of the armed forces’ funding. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, an extremely wealthy, arch-conservative Christian who has almost no ties to any politicians except religious right-wing Republicans and their allies. He is personally connected to figures who have publicly written about the possibility of a Christian conservative revolution to overthrow the standing government. Global priorities are shifting and the Department of Defense is less attracted to ground-war capabilities and is focusing more resources on the air force and navy. Foreign policy hawks cry foul over any defense reductions, and any given specific cut will make somebody angry, but keep in mind that the defense budget has grown by over half in the ten years to 2012. Hopefully, this generation will follow through and provide the appropriate resources to those who bear the greatest cost in any military engagement—the soldiers themselves.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Duffy

    This is a broad non-partisan look at current American political issues (taking into account that it takes 12-18 months to get a book published in the mainstream Publishing venues). It looks at the historical (briefly to give context) and then recent in the last 20+ years changes in public views, court decisions, government policy etc. Your political inclinations should not be challenged by this -- each issue is looked at from a multitude of angles and each viewpoint is brought out. The chapters d This is a broad non-partisan look at current American political issues (taking into account that it takes 12-18 months to get a book published in the mainstream Publishing venues). It looks at the historical (briefly to give context) and then recent in the last 20+ years changes in public views, court decisions, government policy etc. Your political inclinations should not be challenged by this -- each issue is looked at from a multitude of angles and each viewpoint is brought out. The chapters deal with Elections including the controversy over the Electoral College and voting machines, the Economy, Foreign Policy, the Military (including the use of Contractors), Health Care, Energy (our oil based society), The Environment (climate change, Cap and Trade, Carbon Tax, renewable energy and Water, Civil Liberites from wire tapping to domain vs private property rights, Culture Wars things like same sex marriage, abortion, public display of the ten commandments, then it's onto Socioeconomic Policy items like immigration, labor and agricultural subsidies, Homeland Security which covers everything from security to intelligence and disaster relief and rounds it out with Educational policies and ends with Trade Policy which includes tariffs and trade agreements. Lots of heavy topics but written in understandable language, should be required reading in high school and colleges.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    A really good nonpartisan primer on the main discussion points in US politics. Each chapter takes the time to establish and explain the terminology, then outlines the history of the issue leading up to the modern debate. Conrad did a great job of laying out the general beliefs of each ideological stance, the alignment between idea and party and how it has shifted across time, and the common arguments and counterpoints each side makes in such a way that a layman can follow it. I also felt like it A really good nonpartisan primer on the main discussion points in US politics. Each chapter takes the time to establish and explain the terminology, then outlines the history of the issue leading up to the modern debate. Conrad did a great job of laying out the general beliefs of each ideological stance, the alignment between idea and party and how it has shifted across time, and the common arguments and counterpoints each side makes in such a way that a layman can follow it. I also felt like it avoided bias or criticism of any particular stance, keeping its objective clear: to inform about the big picture rather than advance any particular idea. This would be 5 stars for me if it was up to date, but the last edition was released in May 2016, and it seems like the information for it was likely compiled in 2015 at best. That means it's over a full presidential election cycle outdated at this point. Most of its material focuses on the years of the Bush administration and the first Obama administration. That said, it's not so far out of date that the issues have completely changed, and it's still a great crash course for the period it covers. It's just unfortunate that the continuing evolution of these topics over the past few years couldn't be captured before the upcoming election.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Gruenenfelder

    I was motivated to read this book when I saw both Bob Dole and Barack Obama were recommending the same work. I have long searched for a book that acts on a primer on pretty much every topic in politics: this one executes it well. It tries to show all sides of key issues, both the frequently discussed and the lesser known. The book clearly has a bias toward maintaining a present system of internationalism/interventionism, as well as toward agricultural subsidies and similar issues. Their flaws are I was motivated to read this book when I saw both Bob Dole and Barack Obama were recommending the same work. I have long searched for a book that acts on a primer on pretty much every topic in politics: this one executes it well. It tries to show all sides of key issues, both the frequently discussed and the lesser known. The book clearly has a bias toward maintaining a present system of internationalism/interventionism, as well as toward agricultural subsidies and similar issues. Their flaws are very much addressed, but still largely pushed aside. It's quite odd, as the book tries throughout to avoid bias, and yet falls victim to establishment bias at various times. (One could claim the same of the frequent use of the term "far-left" to describe progressive policy proponents.) None of this is totally surprising, considering the author is the daughter of a former United States Senator from North Dakota. The book being imperfect does not make me recommend it any less. Any political book should be consistently analyzed for bias, and this one is no exception. I think young-people-becoming-voters would be more educated on the pressing issues of our day if this book were taught in civics classes. And if I were to be running a new outsider candidate for office, I would absolutely gift them this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Tong

    I listened to this book as an audiobook after the presidential election of 2020. I just felt like I had gaps in understanding that I wanted to fill. The book did a moderate job at this. Firstly, there are several editions. The audiobook isn’t the most recent edition, apparently published in 2016, but it doesn’t cover the Obama presidency at all it seems like all the information stops in 2010-2012? None of the topics went particularly deep, but a very wide breadth of information was covered, whic I listened to this book as an audiobook after the presidential election of 2020. I just felt like I had gaps in understanding that I wanted to fill. The book did a moderate job at this. Firstly, there are several editions. The audiobook isn’t the most recent edition, apparently published in 2016, but it doesn’t cover the Obama presidency at all it seems like all the information stops in 2010-2012? None of the topics went particularly deep, but a very wide breadth of information was covered, which I appreciated, because I wanted this as a primer. I believe it did deliver as an introductory primer. I’m not sure anything exists that is perfectly nonpartisan, but this didn’t do nonpartisan as well as it aims to. It’s definitely bent a smidgen left, and because I tend toward the left, I found myself thinking I “understood” things about my viewpoint better, but that’s literally what’s confirmation bias is, so in some ways, I didn’t really grow that much after reading it. My next steps in working to be politically wiser are to sit down with this book, chapter by chapter, reread the chapter, and find other books that help me understand the various arguments better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Conquest

    Published in 2008, so if you are reading this now it will obviously be somewhat dated. Gives a decent overview of peculiarities of the American political system and how it relates to things like alternative energy and foreign policy. Gives minor background to people like John Edwards and Ross Perot and the impact they had. Some retrospective comedy can be had. The health care section in particular holds a plethora of gems including how most politicians including Illinois senator Barack Obama fee Published in 2008, so if you are reading this now it will obviously be somewhat dated. Gives a decent overview of peculiarities of the American political system and how it relates to things like alternative energy and foreign policy. Gives minor background to people like John Edwards and Ross Perot and the impact they had. Some retrospective comedy can be had. The health care section in particular holds a plethora of gems including how most politicians including Illinois senator Barack Obama feel that people would outright reject the notion of the government forcing you to purchase insurance and that nationalized health care would greatly benefit small businesses over large companies. Also had a laugh at a section that if I remember correctly was talking about how David Petraeus has a bright future in politics. A few years later his career ends because he lets his biographer wax the carrot. Shame!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam Karapandzich

    A decent primer to many aspects of political argument. Conrad does a good a job in remaining non-partisan through the book. If you are largely ignorant in many areas of politics, this is a good starting area. The book at many times feel disjointed, which is likely due to the fact it is updated and rereleased every 4 years for presidential elections. The problem with that is the bulk of the information is from prior to 2008, which makes it less relevant today. To counter that point, in defense of A decent primer to many aspects of political argument. Conrad does a good a job in remaining non-partisan through the book. If you are largely ignorant in many areas of politics, this is a good starting area. The book at many times feel disjointed, which is likely due to the fact it is updated and rereleased every 4 years for presidential elections. The problem with that is the bulk of the information is from prior to 2008, which makes it less relevant today. To counter that point, in defense of the author, the U.S. political landscape has changed so drastically in the past year it wouldn't be fair to hold her to those standards. My major qualm about the book is the complete lack of race relations, particularly those regarding African Americans. The Immigration section touches on hispanics in America, but African Americans are barely mentioned. Systemic racism is a deep, embedded issue in this country and to not say more than a few sentences on it is a misgiving.

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