... [a] wildly entertaining and informative investigation ... Spiro Agnew was crooked long before he arrived in Washington, and the history of his efforts to cover-up his wrongdoings make a fascinating tale. Maddow and Yarvitz are wonderful storytellers and capably engage the reader by expanding on her podcast with even more details and expert analysis of Agnew's numerous criminalities. Most notably, they convey the scandal’s lasting impact on American politics and the media. Bag Man is a thoroughly consuming reexamination of one of the most shameful scandals of American political history.
... breezy ... Like the hosts of a reality show, Maddow and Yarvitz step from behind a 47-year-old curtain to inform the former prosecutors what they’ve learned ... while Bag Man the book is considerably more detailed than the podcast, it necessarily lacks a soundtrack for such spontaneous exclamations, and the sordid immediacy of hearing those White House tapes — gems like Nixon talking to Agnew about Beall and asking: 'Is he a good boy? Why the hell did we appoint him?' ... Maddow and Yarvitz don’t hold back. To read Bag Man is to be reminded how lucky the nation was to be rid of him.
... gives a brisk and engaging account of the effort to hold Vice President Spiro Agnew criminally accountable, and it sheds light on the challenges — legal, moral, political — of treating presidents and vice presidents like every other citizen ... Media personalities tend to favor history built on baseless conspiracy theories...In Bag Man, however, Maddow and Yarvitz adopt a more trenchant approach, basing their storytelling on archival research and oral histories that yield fresh details about the ordeal confronting prosecutors investigating Agnew’s abuses of power ... At times, though, the Agnew-as-Trump analogy is overwrought. The authors give Agnew too much credit for innovating a brand of politics that owed as much, if not more, to the era’s grass-roots conservative mobilization, the growing influence of far-right media, and leaders even more influential than Agnew such as Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, George Wallace, Phyllis Schlafly and Newt Gingrich. (Also left unaddressed is whether Agnew might have survived in office had Fox News and Twitter existed to defend him in the early 1970s) ... Some of the writing tends toward the glib ... is also partial to a good-and-evil theme that crowds out nuance and reflects the limits of turning partisan cable television and podcasting into sober-minded historical analysis ... Nonetheless, this fast-paced and well-researched book underscores how the nation’s legal and political systems struggle to hold the most powerful elected leaders responsible for their crimes.
The authors comprehensively cover this story while also providing background information on the three prosecutors who placed their careers in jeopardy when they decided to investigate the second most powerful man in the country ... Fans of Maddow’s work, especially the related podcast, will thoroughly enjoy this historical allegory. Readers will see the parallel to Agnew’s story and current events.
... fascinating ... a timely, well-written, riveting account of the scandal that brought down a vice president, but that was ultimately all but forgotten in the shadows of all that happened soon after.
... rollicking ... [a] colorful retelling ... Maddow and Yarvitz convincingly argue that President Richard Nixon and future president George H.W. Bush (then serving as Republican National Committee chairman) obstructed justice by trying to quash a Department of Justice investigation into Agnew’s dealings ... Maddow’s fans will enjoy this entertaining and well-researched recap of Agnew’s comeuppance and its barely-veiled yearning for prosecutors to haul Trump into court.
... the text is certainly relevant. However, as with many podcast-to-book translations, the narrative doesn’t quite engage on the same level. This by-the-numbers dip into the murky waters of American political corruption does serve as a welcome reminder that, unlike today, in the case of Agnew, political crimes were actually punished (and in a nonpartisan fashion) ... Despite the sensationalist subtitle and hip, often lively tone, the narrative fails to make Agnew’s story any more riveting than a long-form magazine article—or podcast. The authors clearly did their due diligence when it comes to research, but while they make some effort to present Agnew’s attack-dog political tactics as the precedent for Trump’s tirades against anyone who opposes him, this connection is not emphasized enough. It’s also commendable that Maddow and Yarvitz spotlight the long-unsung prosecutorial team that took down Agnew, but the description and pacing of the trial scenes make that section feel anticlimactic ... A well-meaning but disappointingly dull slice of an otherwise dramatic era in American political history.