If you couldn’t laugh, you’d cry. That adage seems to sum up a segment of liberal authors when it comes to the Bush Administration. F.U.B.A.R.: America’s Right-Wing Nightmare, written by the co-host and a producer of Air America Radio‘s “The Majority Report,” is the latest entry in the field of books taking on Bush and the conservative movement through satire, sarcasm, and humor. While F.U.B.A.R. has its moments, it doesn’t rise to the level of some of the leaders in the political humor genre, such as Al Franken and Michael Moore.
Like their compatriots, Sam Seder, the cohost of “The Majority Report,” and Stephen Sherrill, one of the show’s producers, don’t hold back. The attack even starts on the cover. Part of the first word of the military phrase for which the acronym “F.U.B.A.R.” stands is blackened out, “redacted by the U.S. Department of Justice, as per the U.S. Patriot Act.” They open the book referring to the current GOP as the “Rapture Right” and “an American Taliban.” Those labels mesh with the fact that much of the authors’ satirical attack on Bush and the GOP is on social issues. They start with “intelligent design” and ease right into the concept of the rapture that inspires the name they give the fringe right they believe has gained control of the Republican Party.
In their guide to “Your Place in the Apocalypse,” Seder and Sherrill address how to determine whether you will be taken into heaven or spend eternity in a burning lake of fire with Satan. They warn that if you’re worried about being Satan’s roommate, “the fact you’re even reading this is not a good sign.” How about homosexuals? “You’re doomed. Really, really doomed.” And if you’re a Democrat? “Satan. Fire. Lake. Eternity.”
A variety of styles and approaches are used in the chapters and various sidebars. Yet F.U.B.A.R. has some flow problems and some of the humor doesn’t seem to translate as well to the written page as it might to an aural medium.
After starting with intelligent design and religion, Seder and Sherrill move into areas such as Social Security reform and the Clear Skies Initiative. Then they move back to religious or morality-based topics, such as contraception, abortion, abstinence and even “Life as a Gay Republican.” Next, we move to their “Consumer Report on Buying a Congressman” and examination of some Bush appointees before returning to being a gay Republican (this time a congressman) and how to speak religiously. In addition to being somewhat choppy, the reader wonders why the authors decided to discuss an issue again, albeit from a slightly different perspective.
F.U.B.A.R. may be at its best with Seder’s and Sherrill’s parodies. Their version of the speech FDR would have given after Pearl Harbor if he were the same type of “war president” as Bush is alone almost worth the price of admission. Equally as entertaining, if not more so, is their skewering of the media, particularly New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Seder and Sherrill present three columns Friedman might have written had he been present at historical events. His column on Galileo’s inquisition is titled “The World is Flat,” and Friedman treats the massacre at Wounded Knee as a skirmish with “antidemocractic forces” in the effort to bring democracy to the Sioux nation.
Seder and Sherrill pepper the work with sufficient facts to make their satirical approach more biting and, for some, more alarming. Yet some of it tends to come off more as a comedy script. This may be due in part to Sherrill’s background as a writer for David Letterman’s Late Night and Moore’s TV Nation. This doesn’t undercut the theme but simply leaves the feeling that some parts would be better for a viewing or listening audience than a reader.
Given their background and the book’s title, no one is going to wonder where Seder and Sherrill stand on the issues. As a result, F.U.B.A.R. is a sermon for the choir. But even if they’re heading for that lake of fire, a choir still needs a laugh once in a while.