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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Madville Times reviews "Dasche v. Thune"

The most comprehensive review of Jon Lauck's book on the 2004 Tom Daschle/John Thune election campaign [Daschle vs. Thune: Anatomy of a High-Plains Senate Race (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007)] that I have seen so far has been published by Cory Allen Heidelberger on his blog Madville Times. The review is detailed enough to provide some sense of the substance of the book and how well it succeeds at accomplishing what it claims to do.

Cory prefaces his review by quoting some comments I made about what should be expected of a review of this kind of book. Put baldly, I called for some intensive fact-checking of the substantive content of the book. Cory carefully states, however, that his review will focus on the literary performance of the book. He provides some substantial evidence and analysis in that regard.

I have not done more than browse the book. A copy that was supposed to be kept in a certain office so people could read it at odd moments disappeared. I am curious about the book because I was involved in the coordinated campaign that year and the tenor of the campaign had all the intellectual merit and constructive discourse of a bunch of sixth-grade bullies out by the playground swing set taunting a buck-toothed hump-backed third grader. In the campaign, John Thune intensified and escalated the kind of personal attack he had tried on Sen. Tim Johnson two years previously.

Jon Lauck's blog Daschle v. Thune was a daily compendium of defamations and allegations aimed at agitating provincial resentments into flaming hatred . At the time, however, blogs were not read by very few people, and we considered Lauck's blog to be a compendium of the talking points being contrived by the Thune campaign to take down Daschle. Lauck terms the book a work of particpatory history, and I have been curious to see how he, who was a professor of history during the campaign, accounted for his role in the campaign.

According to Cory Heidelberger's review, Lauck doesn't. Cory notes that after some introductory discussion of the virtues of participatory history, Lauck all but disappears from the narrative. So does John Thune.

The book, says Cory, appears to be an extension of Lauck's blog in its continued attack on Daschle, not an account of campaign issues and an actual attempt to portray the character of the people involved.

The review makes me want to see a rigorous examination and correlation of factual claims.

Blogs often make the claim that they present something that the traditional media do not. This is true of Madville Times in this instance. It brings blogging into the realm of true discussion, and if you want to read a real review of this book--the Argus Leader attempt was cursory and timid--read Cory's. So far, it is the best effort out there.

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