About The Book
From “one of the funniest and most honest American political journalists” (Joel Tannenbaum, Philadelphia City Paper) comes a collection of reportage on the worst of the Bush years.
Matt Taibbi is notorious as a journalistic agitator, a stone thrower, a “natural provocateur” (Salon.com). His scathing, vibrant prose shines an unflinching spotlight on the corruption, dishonesty, and sheer laziness of our leaders.
Smells Like Dead Elephantsbrings together Taibbi’s most incisive, intense, and hilarious work from his “Road Work” column in Rolling Stone. Written over the last two years, a period in our history with no shortage of outrages to compel Taibbi’s pen, these pieces paint a shocking portrait of our government at work—or, as Taibbi points out in “The Worst Congress Ever,” rarely working. “In the Sixties and Seventies, Congress met an average of 162 days a year. The 109th Congress set the all-time record for fewest days worked by a U.S. Congress: 93. Figuring for half-days, in fact, the 109th Congress probably worked almost two months less than the notorious ‘Do-Nothing’ Congress of 1948.”
Taibbi has plenty to say about George W. Bush, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and all the rest, but he doesn’t just hit inside the Beltway. He gets involved in the action, infiltrating Senator Conrad Burns’s birthday party under disguise as a lobbyist for a fictional oil firm that wants to drill in the Grand Canyon. He floats into apocalyptic post-Katrina New Orleans in a dinghy with Sean Penn. He goes to Iraq as an embedded reporter, where he witnesses the mind-boggling dysfunction of our occupation and spends three nights in Abu Ghraib prison. And he reports from two of the most bizarre and telling trials in recent memory: California v. Michael Jackson and the evolution-vs.-intelligent-design trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A brilliant collection from one of the most entertaining political writers of today, Smells Like Dead Elephants is a stylish record of the offenses of the Bush years.
“A political reporter with the gonzo spirit that made Hunter S. Thompson and P. J. O’Rourke so much fun . . . Taibbi also exhibits a fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress.” —Peter Carlson, The Washington Post
Praise for Spanking the Donkey:
“Certainly the funniest . . . look at the [2004 presidential] campaign.” —Jon Stewart
“Not so much a campaign diary as it is a compelling, and somewhat chaotic, mix of reporting, anecdote, social commentary, and rant. In each piece, Taibbi’s rage and humor bleeds through, making this a vivid and very personal critique of both politics and the mainstream journalists who cover it. . . . It’s hard not to be engrossed by the eccentric characters, entertaining scenarios, and rich details that drive [Taibbi’s] stories.” —Publishers Weekly
“The funniest angry book and the angriest funny book since Hunter S. Thompson roared into town.” —James Wolcott
“Taibbi may be the only political writer in America that matters.” —Harford Advocate
“Extremely funny and breathtaking in his ferocity.” —Alexander Chancellor
“Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists I read because I want to, not because I have to. His detached contempt is pitch perfect. He’ll piss you off and make you laugh out loud, usually within the space of a single paragraph.” —Tom Tomorrow
Congress has always been a kind of muddy ideological cemetery, a place where good ideas go to die in a maelstrom of bureaucratic hedging and rank favor trading. Its whole history is one long love letter to sleaze, idiocy, and pigheaded, glacial conservatism. That Congress exists mainly to misspend our money and snore its way through even the direst political crises is something we Americans understand instinctively. “There is no native criminal class except Congress,” Mark Twain said—a joke that still provokes a laugh of recognition a hundred years later.
But the 109th Congress is no mild departure from the norm, no slight deviation in an already-underwhelming history. No, this is nothing less than a historic shift in how our democracy is run. The Republicans who control this Congress are revolutionaries, and they have brought their revolutionary vision for the House and Senate quite unpleasantly to fruition.
In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.