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Slate’s Field Guide to the Candidates
by Steven D. Laib, J.D., M.S.
15 December 2003Steve Laib

William Saletan and the Slate staff have put together a small but concise guide to all of the candidates from the two major parties.


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.

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