I admit to being a biased reviewer.  Donkey Cons is a book about the Democratic Party, and I will say up front that I don’t much care for the Democrats.  Consider a sorry, random list: Kennedy (pick one), Pelo-si, Schu-mer, Clinton (pick one), Dean, Kerry, Lieber-man.  The names alone are enough to turn one’s stomach.  There is only one other organization whose leadership can come as close to bringing up the bile—the Republicans.

My disdain for both parties is not a part of a lame attempt to be “fair and balanced.”  While there remain significant differences between the parties, they are both part of a ruling regime that always takes the country down the road to empire abroad and centralized government at home.  Democrats had an opportunity in 2002 to oppose both the President’s rush to war and the creation of an Orwellian-sounding Department of “Homeland Security,” which had been their idea in the first place.  For the most part, they tried to play it safe, and they have suffered the consequences at the polls.

Lynn Vincent (of World) and Robert Stacy McCain (of the Washington Times) argue that, of the two major parties, one is essentially dishonorable and evil and should cease to exist.  (They subtitle one chapter “The Party of Treason and Subversion,” which indicates that they see the Democrats not merely as the opposition party but as a destructive alien force.)  To support their thesis, the authors produce numerous examples of Democratic perfidy and corruption.  To the extent that their purpose is to convince the reader that many Democrats are bad, they succeed.  But Donkey Cons holds little appeal for anyone who isn’t already a partisan Republican, and it enters a market already saturated with the products of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bernard Goldberg, Michelle Malkin, and many others.

While Donkey Cons has its flaws, there is no doubt that it has the goods on quite a few corrupt and contemptible Democrats.  The drunken, lecherous, 800-pound gorilla in the room is Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy.  When Kennedy drove off Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island with a young woman as his passenger 37 years ago, he faced a continuum of honorable options, beginning with risking his life in order to save her.  Failing that, he could have alerted the proper authorities in a timely fashion.  The final option would have been to resign his office in disgrace.  The obvious reason why he failed to choose any of the three suggests itself: Kennedy is a dishonorable man.  What Vincent and McCain neglect to add is that, these days, Kennedy is most dangerous not behind the wheel but when partnering with Republicans such as George W. Bush and John McCain to centralize public education or to unlock the border and throw away the key.

Another perfidious Democrat that Donkey Cons exposes is former Detroit mayor Coleman Young.  In office, Young accelerated white flight, raised taxes, and expanded city government, while cutting back on the police force in the face of rising crime rates.  It was his administration that destroyed the Poletown neighborhood, via eminent domain, to build a General Motors plant (now closed)—a generation before the notorious Kelo decision.  Coleman Young might serve well as the poster mayor of anarcho-tyranny.

Inevitably, Vincent and McCain recite the sins of Bill Clinton, giving most space to the fundraising scandal from the 1996 election while completely ignoring Waco.  They indulge in the speculation, not entirely implausible, that Janet Reno gave Ken Starr the go-ahead to investigate the Lewinsky case so as to deprive the Chinagate investigations of oxygen.  They also dredge up murky allegations of midnight drug running into the airport at Mena, Arkansas, in the 1980’s that supposedly implicate Bill Clinton, while ignoring the other part of that conspiracy theory: the speculation that the operation was managed at the behest of the Reagan administration in order to fund the Contras.

And while Donkey Cons denounces Democrats who oppose Republican foreign policy, I found I could not always trust the authors’ reporting.  For instance, they cite Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) in an attempt to bolster the alarmism of the Bush administration:

The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998.  We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability.  Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.

Since Byrd consistently opposed the build-up to war, I decided to check this speech.  In spite of the period that follows the word weapons, Vincent and McCain actually cut Senator Byrd off in mid-sentence in a way that makes him seem deeply worried about the threat from Iraq.  In fact, the West Virginia senator went on to say,

Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons but has not yet achieved nuclear capability.  It is now October of 2002.  Four years have gone by in which neither this administration nor the previous one felt compelled to invade Iraq to protect against the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction.  Until today.  Until 33 days until election day.  Now we are being told that we must act immediately, before adjournment and before the elections.  Why the rush?

Before the war, many observers considered it plausible that Iraq might have had several items that fit the term “weapons of mass destruction.”  Indeed, a few obsolete mustard-gas shells did turn up, eventually.  But the Bush administration wasn’t content simply to assert that Saddam Hussein might have a few such weapons.  In his infamous speech in Cincinnati (October 7, 2002), the President spoke of a “grave” and “gathering” threat and “clear evidence of peril.”  Even in the truncated form presented in Donkey Cons, Sen. Byrd’s statement doesn’t begin to approach the hysteria evinced by the President and his administration, the Republican Party, and the chattering (and typing) classes that supported Bush’s drive to war.

Toward the end of their book, Vincent and McCain engage in the pointless exercise of listing the numerous Democrats who received campaign donations from Jack Abramoff’s clients.  This proves nothing, as the scandal doesn’t concern who took money from these clients.  Nor can the authors assert that Abramoff directed clients to give money to any Democrats, or that he bribed them—the central charge involved in the Abramoff case.

There is, of course, no question that the history of the Democratic Party is rife with corruption, and that the Democrats have to their credit more sex and good-old-boys-on-the-take scandals than the Republicans can boast.  But after years of Republican rule that has driven the country deeply into debt and into the quagmire of Iraq, it takes a true believer to get worked up over the many genuine outrages that Vincent and McCain document.


[Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime9 and Corruption in the Democratic Party, by Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain Nashville: Nelson Current) 273 pp., $24.99]