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THE CLOTHES HAVE NO EMPEROR: A Chronicle of the American 80s by Paul Slansky (Fireside: $12.95, illustrated)

November 12, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

A caustically funny, profoundly depressing account of Reagan-era misstatements, errors, lies, scandals and deceptions--leavened with the most egregious examples of contemporary film, television and rock music. Paul Slansky presents a vituperative portrait of government by facade: He argues (and offers substantial documentation) that behind a veneer of "old-fashioned values," corruption on a scale unprecedented in U. S. history was allowed to flourish under the ersatz leadership of a befuddled old actor who possessed only the sketchiest grasp of the facts and frequently confused reality with scenes from old movies. Perhaps the most damning aspect of Slansky's jeremiad is the lugubrious fact that the news media and the American people blithely accepted this fantasy regime. "The Clothes Have No Emperor" leads the reader to conclude that Cicero's famous condemnation of political malfeasance, "O tempore, o mores," was delivred 2,000 years too soon.

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