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Amazon review

I just posted my first ever Amazon book review, of the new book Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President. I bought this book on Wednesday evening, and read it mostly on Thursday. This is a book published by the Rutland Herald and another Vermont paper, with each chapter written by a different reporter or former reporter who has covered Dean in the past. It was definitely worthwhile.

You can read my review over at Amazon, by following the link, or you can read it here:

Great job, for such a rush


I'm extremely impressed that they were able to get this book to press in under three months, and at how good a job they did in such a short time. I did find a few typos, but it reads well. Nevertheless, the rush job shows: This is a very sparse book. There's lot more to tell than they were able to get to. I finished the book the day after I bought it, and felt like I had just read a few chapters and was waiting for the rest.

However, this book is packed with information and perspective. Even as a Dean junkie who's been reading everything I could about him for a year and a half, I learned a few things. The books seems fair, and accurate. I didn't see anything that contradicted what I already knew about Dean from other sources, and given how many other sources I've read, that made me feel very confident about this book's truthfulness. It also strikes a good balance between discussing Dean's history, record, personality, and governing style, with one exception.

The book's biggest deficiency is that they weren't able to put in enough material on Dean's policies as governor. Out of ten chapters and about 240 pages, there are only three chapters - fewer than 80 pages - devoted to policy. These are one chapter each on fiscal policy, environmental policy, and civil unions. A couple of other major issues from Dean's tenure as governor, including school funding and early childhood intervention, are covered in part in other chapters. There's nothing in this book about judicial appointments, law & order, education policy (other than the aforementioned public school funding issue), affirmative action, and other important parts of a governor's record. School funding reform is described very briefly, and the book mostly talks about how Dean dealt with it as a political issue rather than delving into the policy. Health insurance reform, a centerpiece of Dean's governorship and of his presidential campaign, is only treated tangentially, as it relates to fiscal discipline and to Dean's campaigns and political history. There's no examination of the actual health insurance changes that Dean worked on, what they were, and how they worked out.

There is one place where I felt this book was unfair to Dean: the environment. Dean's environmental record is good on land conservation, reducing emissions, and renewable energy policy. His record is mixed, in some cases poor, on groundwater pollution, and stewardship of Vermont's Act 250 which which seeks to limit development. The Chapter "Green and Not Green" focuses on land conservation first, where it gives Dean a predictably glowing review, and then goes on to delve into his mixed record on Act 250 and pollution. There is not a single mention of emissions reduction, or renewable energy, the other two aspects of environmental policy where Dean did well.

The fact that this book is so much sparser than I'd have liked, gives it one advantage: It's a breeze to read, goes quickly, and is a good Dean primer to give to curious people. It doesn't have everthing a committed Deaniac might want, and won't satisfy a serious researcher, but it may be just about right for the casual reader looking for a broad introduction to Dean's record. And it does a good job of giving you what you need to know to make an educated guess about how Dean would handle the job of President.

I look forward to an expanded version of this book if Dean gets the Democratic nomination, with more chapters on his policies - especially health care - and a more complete and balanced treatment of his environmental record.
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