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Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  495 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
The 2004 Election Was a Circus, and Matt Taibbi enjoyed a Front-Row Seat.

As a correspondent for the New York Press, The Nation, and Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi scoured the political landscape for hard-hitting news stories. But the closer he got to the politicians, the more pompous and vapid they appeared. How could he write anything meaningful about these puffed-up martinet
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Broadway Books (first published 2005)
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Jun 03, 2014 Adam rated it liked it
Spanking the donkey this earlier work covering the 2004 election is his busiest writing, filled with skits, jokes and lots of gonzo antics like drug taking and wearing silly outfits. Its thesis that Taibbi delivers in more nuanced fashion in later books is of the presidential election as an elaborate version of the third world military parade. He heaps endless scorn on all the candidates and both parties, and the reporters who give it such an air of importance. The only politicos he retains any ...more
Jun 26, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
Spanking the Donkey is gonzo journalism at its finest. This might as well have been called Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail: 2004, as Matt Taibbi dove deep into the pathetic horror show that is American presidential politics. The bulk of the book has Taibbi following the campaigns of the Democratic contenders, campaigns that were all about mealy-mouthed pandering and the horse race, except for the Kucinich campaign, which was all about idealism and principles. Taibbi was as horrified as t ...more
Ian Danskin
Oct 01, 2011 Ian Danskin rated it really liked it
Let's be honest: some chunks of this book are just tiresome. Many of the short essays, mini-satires originally from The Beast, that are collected between the longer sections, are throw-aways, though funny enough. I'll admit to finally skipping some in the second half. But the longer sections are not just smart, and not just funny - the longer sections are important. The first essay, about the wild under-counting of an anti-war protest (especially in light of the more recent over-counting of the ...more
Jun 08, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
not as interesting as his other stuff, but that could be because it's mostly articles/essays written while he was on the campaign trail in 2004; reading about failed democratic presidential hopefuls isn't as riveting now as it would have been then, i am sure.

nevertheless, i am always up for taibbi's acerbic wit and super-cynical outlook.. this guy does not swallow any politician's bullshit!

exemplary quote: "This is a theme I began to consider on the Dean trip, the election as a kind of rituali
Mar 21, 2009 Heron rated it really liked it
Oh goodness. What a GREAT fucking book. Taibbi is a brilliant, hilarious, radically liberal(?) columnist. This book, covering the 2004 primaries and presidential race, pulls up the frilly skirt of the American electoral process to reveal the ridiculousness and hypocrisy underneath. READ THIS BOOK. Like, seriously. For your own good.
Oct 25, 2008 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of a good screed
Recommended to Alan by: Multnomah County library
Matt Taibbi is brilliantly articulate in the midst of despair. Writing about the most depressing Presidential campaign ever held in America will do that to you. The despair, perhaps, was inevitable - but the brilliance was never a given.

His campaign journal for 2004 is full of bile, approaching the theoretical limit of concentration for such stuff even more closely than Joe Queenan. He was railing against the future he saw coming, and events have shown him to be, for the most part, correct.

Sep 29, 2009 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
In Spanking the Donkey Taibbi covers the 2004 presidential election from the Democratic primary through the general election. His contempt for Bush is obvious, admitted, and hardly even defended. He views the war as obviously immoral, and cannot countenance the reality that most Americans actually supported it, at least for a time. So he begins looking for a viable Democratic candidate to challenge Bush, but is utterly disillusioned at the field of candidates and their pathetic campaigns. His on ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Teri rated it really liked it
I love Matt Taibbi's writing. It's always entertaining and insightful, regardless of the topic. This book is about his experiences with the Democratic primary in the 2004 election. It's not your usual political book. He exposes the hype and the stagecraft, while admiring the sincerity of the unique candidate, Dennis Kucinich. He describes what it's really like to travel from photo op to photo op, what goes on behind the staged scenes, life among the press, etc. I love reading it and can't put it ...more
Josh Bunting
This is one of my top 5 favorite campaign books. It's hilarious and brilliant and full of energy, the Operation Ivy album of books. Fortunately for us he stuck around for a while longer.
Jun 23, 2008 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
A great look at the 2004 election. I would describe it as a Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 for the 21st century, but Taibbi spends a bit too much time actively trying to emulate Hunter S. Thompson for it to feel accurate -- Thompson's authenticity was what made him such an original, and the emulation of it feels a bit pale.

That said, it's an informative, insightful book, and Taibbi certainly does the old man proud with his truthmongering, if not with the originality of his prose.
Politics is even uglier than we think. At least according to Taibbi, who shadowed candidates in the 2004 presidential campaign.

One hilarious episode occurs when Taibbi goes undercover at a branch of the Florida GOP. Taibbi quickly rises through the ranks, being exposed to the unashamed homophopia, jingoism and subtle racism of the GOP rank and file.

Though Taibbi's biases are pretty obvious, he doesn't hold anything back. Lieberman and Kerry make especially rich targets.

A simultaneously hilarious
Feb 25, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: election clock-watchers
Recommended to Alex by: Julie Adams
Written during the 2004 campaign season, Spanking the Donkey illuminated the hazy corner of my mind that is frustrated with politics and can't explain why. Taibbi does a great job of exploring the reasons why the problems that politics and politicians attempt to solve are not the what intelligent people feel in their gut is actually wrong with America. He also wears a gorilla suit to a campaign staffers and candidates "mixer" and trips acid at a major debate. The Hunter S. Thompson comparisons a ...more
Dash Garabetovitch Kassakhov
Aug 21, 2007 Dash Garabetovitch Kassakhov rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in politics and its decline in our society.
Taibbi is a great voice for a modern generation of politically aware Americans who are frustrated with the crap that passes for journalism nowadays.

Although he wears some of his views on his sleeve and is very candid about his support of such far-left candidates as Kucinich, he is nevertheless honest about his criticism of the weak and insipid journalistic practices of the major news publishers.

Great book... you will not want to put it down! I laughed out loud on more than one occasion.

Jun 13, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Sure it's about the 2004 election cycle but this book lays out some global wisdom, detailing why NO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE who actually manages to be nominated by his party is worth a shit. Read it now and get a jump start on your depression for 2008! I hope this doesn't sound too dour - if it helps, there's a scene in which Taibbi eats a bunch of shrooms, puts on a viking costume and tries to cover a campaign event. A little something for everyone really.
I gave up on this book this weekend. I made it about 1/3 of the way through and found I was growing increasingly less interested in finishing it each time I cracked the spine. It could be political fatigue, or it could be increasing frustration with the author's self-importance. In any event, my "to read" pile is growing too fast for me to waste my time on books that don't excite me. (Does this ability to give up on books signal maturity or apathy?)
Mar 05, 2008 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this isn't quite the second coming of the good doctor Thompson in Matt Taibbi's Spanking the Donkey, we can at least be reassured that there's another political junkie out there who can give us unbiased reporting on the corruption of the system -- as well as the minor victories along the way. Most of the time, Taibbi seethes with anger, and his reporting is well informed for all the vitriol. Will certainly keep reading this guy's stuff.
Ronzo V
Dec 21, 2007 Ronzo V rated it really liked it
This book beats reading "serious" political coverage by "real" news outlets. The book is ostensibly about the 03/04 presidential campaign trail, but there's less on the candidates than there on the press corp and how they swallow PR campaign bullshit. One section of the book details a competition created by the author, where he pairs up reporters in a single-elimination tourney in which the reporter who writes worse advances. hilarious.
Jeffrey Dinsmore
Nov 30, 2007 Jeffrey Dinsmore rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: political junkies, Hunter S. Thompson fans
Matt Taibbi is the best and funniest political writer working today. This book is a collection of work that had previously been published in The Nation, NY Press, and Rolling Stone, and it is consistently hilarious and insightful. There are a few fiction stories that are not all that great, but all of the reporting, particularly the campaign reporting, is laugh-out-loud funny and spot on.
Jan 22, 2010 Peacegal rated it it was amazing
The trouble with reading this book in public was that I would frequently burst into uncontrollable laughter. When I got to Taibbi's interview with a former Drug Czar while under the influence (and wearing a Viking helmet), I had the misfortune of being on a treadmill at the gym. I got some weird looks, but I also will bet that no one's ever laughed that much on a gym treadmill.
Aug 21, 2007 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Politicos
Shelves: political
Definitely amusing. Also definitely written by a "guy" if that's something you're sensitive to, as I am. But, I thought he had some good insights on the political process and definitely has a creative style. Worth reading if you're into scratching your head and laughing out loud in dismay and disgust at American politics.
Apr 03, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
Taibbi rants and raves his way through this book, knocking down anyone in his path. He has the best chance at the Hunter S. Thompson crown. Anyone frustrated with politics, media and the whole circus would enjoy this book. Particularly if you lean further to the left.
Mar 17, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
Started out strong...very informative, witty, somewhat frightening look at election politics and the people who cover them...last (9th) chapter was agonizing and way too long in my estimation. Would have given it at least 4 stars if not for the final 85 pages.
Jul 07, 2008 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The chapter Bush Like Me is worth a five-star rating, but the rest of the book is a bit hit-and-miss, the misses coming primarily from Taibbi's fictional pieces, which strive to provide some cutting, pointed humor but mostly fail to provide the funny.
Aug 04, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book because of its irreverent view of politics in America... but it did make me feel sad and disenchanted about our society and American Politics. But, given how things are going these days, maybe that's not such a bad point of view.
James M.
Sep 29, 2012 James M. rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book full of essays and columns from Taibbi that trashes the 2004 Democratic candidates (except Kucinich), the current president, AND the media. Every fan of American politics must read this....
Nov 20, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: political junkies
Recommended to Rachel by: Bill Maher
this was entertaining....but when Matt drops acid and then goes to cover a story, and no one even notices, I couldn't help but think of all the hard working journalists out there that don't get book deals.
Jun 11, 2007 Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: political types.
An unsparing look at the 2004 presidential campaign, Taibbi turns a depressing and insulting farce (the election) into an hilarious and very troubling examination of our campaign-season political discourse.
Nov 12, 2008 Mandi rated it did not like it
I could not do this. Maybe it's because I was done with politics in the middle of the election, or maybe I am just not politically savvy enough to begin with. I don't know. It just was not for me.
Mar 19, 2008 Nathan rated it really liked it
Journalist has nervous breakdown, channels H.L. Mencken, drops acid, dons Viking suit, interviews Sen. John Kerry's campaign communications director, and writes about it.
Greg Sidor
Dec 29, 2009 Greg Sidor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great political writing from a skilled writer. Taibbi's coverage of the 2004 election reveals a lot about America in the '00s, and how we ended up here.
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