Being a cultural critic for The New York Times is sufficient reason for many Americans to dismiss you on partisan principle. Moving to the op-ed page from the theater section probably won't help push copies of your book in Provo either.
But Frank Rich's perspective as a theater critic is germane to The Greatest Story Ever Sold. Where many anti-Bush books devote themselves to tirelessly chronicling canards, Rich keeps his focus on the stagecraft—specifically, the administration's spin and stunts performed in the name of winning the battle for public opinion.
Rich's analysis is relentless and well argued, and it boils down to this: The Bush administration has done an unprecedented job in manipulating a wide spectrum of media to sell the war in Iraq to the American public.
Rich chronicles it all: the release of politically useful and patently false news, the bribing of news commentators, the perpetuation of fake reporters, and Bush's "Mission Accomplished" Top Gun moment. All of it is presented, contextualized, and debunked. Rinse, wash, repeat.
At times The Greatest Story feels more like a malfeasance catalog than a sustained narrative. But there's something larger at play in Rich's argument on how manipulation can turn a free press into a conduit for an administration whose selling pitch, we keep learning, was far rosier than the final product.
Of course, Rich raises questions that probably require another book to answer. In an age of partisan news and a metastasizing blogosphere, is public perception easier or harder to tweak? Would the tactics of Karl Rove and Co. work as well now, when bloggers can check a news story faster than George Allen can say "macaca"? Or would the tactics simply adapt and become even more underhanded?
If nothing else, Rich offers a primer for those who maybe haven't paid as much attention to the news as they would've liked these last few years. If you can make it through these pages without becoming enraged, you're either bipartisan to the point of nirvana or you're just not paying attention.