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Fanatics & Fools:
Arianna Huffington is a rare breed of political celebrity: an articulate pundit who left the intellectually safe world of criticizing elected officials to try her hand at actually becoming one. While her campaign for Governor of California in the highly unusual 2003 recall election was unsuccessful, the experience has brought valuable insight and perspective to Fanatics and Fools. Huffington, a former supporter of Newt Gingrich, has recently occupied a unique place in the political landscape as she moved away from the right, never quite arrived at the left and dwelled somewhere askew from what is thought of as the center. In this book, she grudgingly endorses the idea of voting with the Democrats in the 2004 presidential election despite grave misgivings about the Democratic Party, which she accuses of too often trying to be a watered-down of the Republicans. But even those Democrats, she feels, are infinitely preferable to the George W. Bush administration with its record of corporate favoritism and patterns of deception leading up to the invasion of Iraq. A section chronicling her experience in campaigning may not seem particularly relevant to people living outside California, but it's a pretty interesting passage. Few skilled opinion makers ever get out and run themselves (imagine George Will or David Broder giving stump speeches), and Huffington brings humor and humility to her account. Her characterization of Arnold Schwarzenegger includes stinging criticisms of his policies but conveys grudging admiration for the actor turned Governor. Her criticisms of Bush and the Republicans are impassioned; well supported, their sheer volume impedes her effort to create a unified message. Still, Huffington's wit and candor, coupled with her recently gained battleground experience, make Fanatics and Fools a terrific read. --John Moe [via]