Book Review: America: The Last Best Hope Volume 3 by William J. Bennett

America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 3
From the Collapse of Communism to the Rise of Radical Islam
written by William J. Bennett
Thomas Nelson, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-5955-5428-4
Interest: High school/Adult
Reviewed from copy received through the Book Sneeze program.

BLURB: Twenty years ago, John McCain was serving his second year in the Senate, and Colin Powell had just been promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There was no Fox News Channel, no American Idol. Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni ruled Iraq and Iran, respectively. George W. Bush was the fairly unnoticeable son of the then-president. If you asked someone to "email me," you would have received a blank stare, and "Amazon" was a forest in South America. Finally, 20 years ago a young man named Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The two decades from 1988 to 2008 have proved to be some of the most pivotal in America's history.

I really enjoyed reading this book for several reasons.  First, many of the things that Bennett talks about I remember, the coming down of the Berlin Wall, Desert Storm, election nastiness, and the war on terror.  He does provide details that I did not know however changing how I see some of these events.  His insider status allows him to discuss intelligently the ups and downs of the last twenty years.  I appreciated the fact that Bennett, in the footnotes, tells the reader of his own involvement in politics over the last twenty years.  He is clearly a Republican, but I think he still manages to discuss those he disagrees with in an objective way.  He talks about events and choices rather than motivations and thoughts, except where he personally knew what the motivations were because of his involvement.

The second thing I especially liked about this book is how clearly and concisely events are described.  Politically and socially events such as those discussed in this book have complex and varied causes and consequences.  Bennett provides a nice amount of depth without harping on different topics or discussing things to death.  This allowed me to get an idea of the impact of various events and choices over time, without getting lost in the details.

The third thing I appreciated was Bennett's honesty.  He discusses the elections and decisions of various President's, discussing both the pros and cons of some of those decisions.  He allows the reader to see both the strengths and weaknesses of different presidents without being overly judgmental.  I liked how he conveyed respect for the office of President even when the men who held the office did foolish things.  His discussion of the media reminded me of how disrespectful of our leaders we as a society, and especially the media, have become.  Of course, the foolish and sometimes scandalous choices of our leaders don't help.  I think, however, it is possible to thoroughly disagree with someone and still respect the office.

This book is best for readers who want an overview of the political history of the last twenty years.  The focus is primarily on past presidents and the events they dealt with while in office.  Bennett does discuss social events both American and foreign that had profound political implications, such as September 11, the shootings at Virginia Tech, the collapse of communism, etc. Despite the many mistakes made by America over the years, Bennett still expresses hope and belief that the United States of America can and does continue to have a powerful effect on the world around us and we need to take responsibility for this.


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