In “The President Is Missing,” the new novel co-authored by former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson, Clinton uses parts of this fast-paced fiction to say what he really thinks through the voice of a fictionalized President Duncan.
To wit: “Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells–conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony. . .There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade.”
And late in the book: “Our democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment. Today it’s ‘us versus them’ in America. Politics is little more than blood sport. As a result, our willingness to believe the worst about everyone outside our own bubble is growing, and our ability to solve problems and seize opportunities is shrinking. We have to do better. We have honest differences. We need vigorous debates. Healthy skepticism is good. It saves us from being too naive or too cynical. But it is impossible to preserve democracy when the well of trust runs completely dry.”
The book, however, is far from “all message.” It’s entertaining, fascinating for its inside view of the White House and the threat it imagines. Clinton and Patterson are quite a team. If you like books that mix espionage, politics and action, you’ll really like this one.
These comments should be widely circulated. All politicians should read this. All of the media must read this. Everyone who offers an opinion
or a reply electronically should read this and think twice before hitting the send button.
Jim, it’s No. 1 on the NY Times fiction paper and e-book list. I’m thinking at least some politicians and media types are among the readers.