Mark Schmitt asks,

What sort of guide would most help the nerdy boys and girls of 2009 understand and appreciate American politics? It is likely to be something altogether different from The Almanac of American Politics.

I have, as Matt W was gracious enough to point out, done my share of Congressional history. And the answer to Schmitt’s question is, of course, teh Internets: using the Congressional Biographical Directory, the House history site and the Senate history site, there’s not much you can’t figure out. If you’re minimally competent with a spreadsheet program, you can quickly create entire rosters of who’s in a given Congressional session. Pair that with information like what you get from Keith Poole, and you’re on your way to Congressional nerdtopia. No, don’t thank me.

But lordy, did Barone really write this book?

In 2004, he authored an entire book, Hard and Soft America, in which various books, ideas, policies, and politicians are classified as either “Hard” (good) or “Soft” (bad). The world of Theodore Dreiser’s novels is admirably Hard, John Dewey’s theories of education are Soft. Social Security: Soft. Rudy Giuliani: Hard. Intellectuals: Soft. Most baby boomers: Soft. But George W. Bush: “a consistent advocate of Hardness.” And the ultimate in Hardness: “our amazing victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Why yes, he did. How did I miss that particular effusion? Let us consult our verities: ah yes, “masculinity in crisis.” Heavens.

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