I can’t remember
when there were so many presidential candidates to keep track of, or at least
this many from one party. Not only are there a lot of candidates, most
of them have had such a low profile in the press that it is difficult to
keep track of who is who and what they stand for. That’s where Slate’s Field Guide to the Candidates comes in. William Saletan and the Slate
staff have put together a small but concise guide to all of the candidates
from the two major parties. From Carol Moseley Braun to George W. Bush,
you can get a snapshot of their lives, their medical history, government
experience, military service, religious background and even favorite songs,
in some cases, should you find that that important.
The best feature of Slate’s Field Guide is its truly non-partisan
nature. The authors give you the best, the worst, and even poke fun
at everyone. The body language photos are especially entertaining.
Each candidate’s qualities are given an examination, including their agenda,
worldview, buzzwords, bravest act, major gaffs and flip-flops. Where
simple statements are not enough there is explanation, including contextual
background and related information. In the case of Carol Moseley Braun’s
spat with George Will, the entire setting was laid out, including the statements
of both sides from Will’s opening salvo to Braun’s apology. In the
case of President Bush’s malapropisms the Field Guide takes on its
own Timothy Noah in saying that it is just a natural thing that happens to
all of us sometimes. Perhaps Bob Graham’s notebook entries are the
most interesting. Despite Tim Russert’s statement that some people
have called his notebook keeping bizarre, in fact, most of the entries are
fairly ordinary. Graham inherited the practice from his dairy farmer
father who kept notes on his herd.
In short, while this may not be the definitive guide, it does an excellent
job of giving a solid amount of background information. It is a fairly
quick read and is quite entertaining at times. While it could go into
more detail the reader looking for basic information will find it an excellent
tool and can use it as a springboard for understanding current events for
each candidate. It also can be very instructive to those who have heard
the media sound bites without the context. At a list price of $8.99,
the price is right too.
If Slate’s Field Guide has one weakness, it is the lack of information on Hillary Clinton. Oh, I forgot, she isn’t running. Or is she?
Slate's Field Guide to the Candidates is available on Amazon.com.
Steven Laib is a practicing attorney.