Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Make Russia Great Again" - Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley is the award-winning writer of "Thank You for Smoking" and one of the nation's most acclaimed political satirists. A former writer for National Review, a publication founded by his father, Buckley shocked everyone by supporting former President Barack Obama in 2008 and is noted for his willingness to approach his satire from the full spectrum of political truths including from his own experiences as chief speechwriter for then Vice President George H.W. Bush in the book "The White House Mess."

"Make Russia Great Again," due to be released in July 2020 by Simon & Schuster, finds Buckley at it again and dealing with the political universe of current President Donald J. Trump and one Herb Nutterman, a longtime loyal employee of the Trump Organization who gets pulled out of retirement by Trump to serve as his seventh chief of staff.

Nutterman, who served Trump in a variety of roles including food and beverage manager at the Trump Magnifica and as the first general manager of the Trump Bloody Run Golf Course, soon finds that being chief of staff is an entirely different beast no matter his familiarity with Trump's often eccentric, volatile, and unpredictable ways. From deflecting rumors about the Vice President's high school involvement in a Satanic cult to full-on immersion in Russian political controversies, Nutterman's world may never be the same.

As one might expect, Nutterman's experiences range from incredibly bizarre to completely unbelievable and everything in-between. In other words, everything here that reads as completely impossible seems more than a little likely given the political world of 2020. Buckley takes jabs with a Trump-like subtlety at a host of political figures, most of whom you'll immediately recognize and many of whom Buckley doesn't even try to disguise.

"Make Russia Great Again" is jarring, disturbing, often laugh out loud funny, incredibly insightful, and filled to the brim with Buckley's trademark intelligence and understanding of what lies on the surface and beneath the surface of the political scene.

If there's a downside to "Make Russia Great Again," it's simply that it's a little hard to enjoy what is essentially a parody when you're still living in that parody. There's an uncomfortable timeliness to everything that unfolds here and you bet your sweet bumpkiss that Buckley knows it.

If you're hoping for a light read that just pokes fun at Trump, it's worth noting that Buckley's far too intelligent for that and "Make Russia Great Again" is far too pointed a satire to aim that low. Buckley aims his satirical arrows at the entire political scene, perhaps mostly focusing on the Trump administration but far from letting everyone else off the hook.

I mean, seriously. Think about it. Our two most likely major candidates for President of the United States both have credible sexual assault allegations against them.

Maybe, just maybe, there's a systemic issue going on. Ya' know?

The character of Nutterman is vividly realized, so incredibly well developed that you can practically visualize him alongside Trump or any of the other key players here. You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You'll curl up in a fetal position.

You'll vote. You'll wonder if your vote matters.

"Make Russia Great Again" may not land all its barbs at quite the same level as some of Buckley's masterworks but, once again, there's a timeliness here that makes this book that much more jarring, devastating, and maybe a little bit more difficult to laugh at along the way.

A political satire for the true connoisseur of American politics, "Make Russia Great Again" proves once again that Buckley is one of America's finest political satirists and he's still got a lot to say.

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