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Political Writer Matt Bai Presents 'The Argument'

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Book Tour is a new Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Matt Bai's new book, The Argument, chronicles what he calls "the first real political movement of the Internet age" — the one that catapulted former Vermont governor Howard Dean to national prominence in 2004.

Bai says he caught a glimpse of the nascent movement while traveling through the soybean fields of Iowa with Dean in 2003. "Dean," Bai writes, "had tapped into a well of resentment that Democrats back in Washington, and those of us who covered them, simply didn't understand."

Bai is currently covering the 2008 presidential race for The New York Times Magazine, where he is a national political correspondent. He began his journalism career at the city desk of the Boston Globe before spending five years as a national correspondent for Newsweek. His Web site notes that he "did a disastrous ... stint at Rolling Stone, which included no articles and a lot of weirdness" before moving on to the Times in 2002. Two of his Times stories were featured in back-to-back editions of The Best American Political Writing in 2005 and 2006.

The Argument portrays "oddly heroic characters" — from bloggers to a secretive group of billionaires — "who rose in a very short time to tremendous heights of power in Democratic politics." These new "progressives," fed up with "Clintonian centrism, an election they believed was stolen, and ... their party's own capitulation on the war in Iraq," didn't just aspire to win, Bai says, but to craft a compelling answer to the question that still lingers: What do you do with that victory?

This discussion of The Argument took place in September 2007 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Linda Kulman
Linda Kulman, the editor of NPR.org’s weekly feature Book Tour, is an avid reader, veteran journalist and writer living in Washington, D.C. She worked as a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report for a decade, where she reported for every section of the magazine. Most recently, she covered religion and consumer culture. Kulman’s book reviews have appeared in The Washington Post and on NPR.org. She has collaborated on four non-fiction books, working with a variety of notable figures. Early on in her career, she worked for several years as a fact checker at The New Yorker. Kulman also earned a degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
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