An astonishing roster, documenting history as it is being made and democracy as it is being unmade.

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THE LIST

A WEEK-BY-WEEK RECKONING OF TRUMP’S FIRST YEAR

A Homeric catalog, in numbered lists, of all the wrongs the current occupant of the White House has done unto the republic.

“Not a single A-list celebrity is willing to perform at Trump’s inauguration (at which he tweeted his anger).” So enumerates former Wall Street executive and now nonprofit CEO Siskind. Acting on a suggestion from writer Sarah Kendzior, who provides the foreword, Siskind began writing down “the specific things they never would have believed, things that they never would have done, before the regime came into power,” on the theory that the death of democracy comes with thousands of incremental cuts. Thousands of cuts indeed figure on “The List,” an exacting catalog of kleptocratic maneuvers, exercises in alternative fact, and the shock and awe of executive orders meant to undo everything the preceding administration accomplished. Some of that catalog is a running constant: Meetings on the part of Trumpian officials with various Russian entities figure from the very start, and, as Siskind presciently writes in her “overwhelming” 18-point list of Week 2 alone, “Russian propaganda was the source of much of the ‘fake news’ during the campaign.” The list also includes things in the larger culture, such as the fact that by Week 12, George Orwell’s 1984 was riding the Amazon bestseller list, and by Week 15, emboldened neofascists were vandalizing Jewish cemeteries. Some of Siskind’s reckoning reads as if from ancient history: the firing of former FBI director James Comey, for instance. But much of it remains fresh. By Week 10 and its head-exploding 41 items, Paul Manafort is under suspicion of campaign-finance crimes, while as early as Week 2, daughter Ivanka is insisting on a role as an emissary to heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, even as West Wing denizen Kellyanne Conway is busily violating the Hatch Act from the comfort of the Oval Office couch.

An astonishing roster, documenting history as it is being made and democracy as it is being unmade.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63557-271-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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