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Book Review: Mendacity Reigns Supreme, According to This Writer

Move over, John Locke. Out of the way, Thomas Jefferson. Roger Hodge has a new treatise on government to share with the American people.

Hodge, the former editor in chief of Harper’s magazine, rails against the political establishment with visceral intensity in his new book, and he does so from the political left — a change of pace in this electoral climate. As it turns out, that change of pace is a problematic one.

The title and cover photo appear explicit: The book is called “The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism,” a clear pun on the title of the president’s autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope.” And the cover of “The Mendacity of Hope” — tinged gray with Obama facing away from the reader — sends a clear message that Obama has turned his back on America. The style of the book is oratorical and full of big ideas, not unlike those political theorists writing at the dawn of America.

“The tone, in keeping with the spirit of the great republican pamphleteers, will be anything but deferential; you have embarked on a polemical journey and your guide, on occasion, will be rude,” Hodge writes at the end of the book’s first chapter.

But the title, cover photo and mission statement couldn’t be more misleading. This isn’t a book about Obama or his administration. It’s not a book criticizing Democrats, and it’s not a book criticizing Republicans. It’s a book criticizing, well, everything.

Ostensibly, Hodge’s main point in “The Mendacity of Hope” is that corporate moneyed interests have taken over politics, with Obama as the prototype. Hodge bashes the Supreme Court for its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, accuses politicians of all types of being in the pockets of corporations and lobbyists, and even gives a historical discourse on the perversion of the American governmental system. Alexander Hamilton is singled out for particular loathing.

But Hodge doesn’t limit himself to abusing Hamilton and Obama. You would be hard-pressed to find a well-known political figure or leader who doesn’t get dragged through the mud in “The Mendacity of Hope”: Joseph Biden, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Tom Daschle, Elena Kagan, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and the government’s entire economic staff feel Hodge’s wrath. That’s bipartisan hate, and it is certainly unexpected because this book claims to be about Obama.

“Given the Democrats’ career over the last three decades, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Democratic Party liberalism, overly stimulated by financial gimmickry, has committed suicide in a fit of autoerotic asphyxiation,” Hodge writes — and this about his favorite of the two parties. And of course, the autoerotic asphyxiation conclusion isn’t that difficult to avoid.

In addition to the often-ridiculous tone and the constant negativity, Hodge’s biggest problem is a lack of cohesiveness. In “The Mendacity of Hope,” he can’t decide what to complain about, so he complains about every issue on the table — financial regulation, health care, military operations and signing statements, to name a few.

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