Thursday, May 27, 2004

Tom Clancy vs. Bush

General Anthony Zinni garnered a lot of press when he came out swinging against the Bush administration on 60 Minutes, and his book Battle Ready does the same. That’s pretty amazing for a crusty military man to lash out at the high command. But what’s even more interesting is that Zinni’s co-author is none other than novelist Tom Clancy, author of such hugely popular books as The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger.

Clancy is perhaps the least likely writer imaginable to lend his name to a project bashing the Bush administration. Since the beginning of his literary career in the 1980s, he has been the most Republican of authors. Clancy owes his fame to Ronald Reagan, who propelled the unknown former insurance salesman to celebrity status when he endorsed The Hunt for Red October in 1985; Clancy, in turn, dedicated his novel Executive Orders to the 40th president a decade later. He is a Republican donor and reliable conservative, penning articles and book introductions against gun control and in favor of school prayer.

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The novelty of the book isn’t that Clancy has moved away from criticizing liberal elites; he hasn’t. Rather, it’s the suggestion that President Bush, who has so effectively positioned himself as the champion of Red State America, might in fact be no better than Clancy’s old left-wing villains. Clancy, after all, seems now to be harboring contempt for both “flower children” and the Bush administration, raising the question of whether, in the author’s mind, they are equally destructive forces. This is a possibility rarely considered in our polarized political climate. But in Battle Ready, Zinni and Clancy air a contention that has been percolating among right-wing realists for some time now–namely, that an overambitious Republican president can be just as bad for the U.S. military as a wimpy Democrat, albeit in a different way. Tom Clancy has long been one of popular culture’s most reliable conduits of conservatives attitudes. If this is where those attitudes are headed, Bush is in trouble indeed. [The New Republic]

No one harbors any illusion that Tom Clancy will join John Kerry on a campaign platform – but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing Bush any turns, either.