A superb contribution to presidential history.

THE IMPEACHERS

THE TRIAL OF ANDREW JOHNSON AND THE DREAM OF A JUST NATION

The impeachment of a president is a court of last resort—even one who willfully breaks laws while in office. Thus this lucid, timely study of the sole impeachment trial convened until 1998.

Andrew Johnson was an accidental president, brought into office with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He immediately began to alienate allies: He was not keen on the prospect of African-American equality, pretty much ignored Congress, and quietly undid some of the work of Reconstruction. Writes Wineapple (Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877, 2013, etc.), ultimately, “he sought to restore the South as the province of white men and to return to power a planter class that perpetuated racial distrust and violence.” Moreover, he considered Lincoln-variety and more radical Republicans to be his enemies, not the former traitors who had seceded from the Union. For all that, as the author lays out in her carefully constructed narrative, Johnson made powerful enemies indeed. These included Lincoln’s secretary of war, the indispensable politician Edwin Stanton, whom Ulysses S. Grant called “one of the great men of the Republic”; and the expansionist senator Charles Sumner, famed for having been caned on the floor of the Senate after denouncing slavery, who definitively turned on Johnson—whom he called “ignorant, pig-headed, and perverse”—when Johnson allowed the Southern states to bypass the question of whether blacks would be allowed to vote. The last straw was when Johnson refused to sign a civil rights bill with characteristic scorn. As Wineapple writes, “if the winning combination had been demagoguery and orneriness, with a touch of malice, that…no longer worked so well." Johnson was hauled before a court of impeachment but was acquitted after a series of legal arguments that the author renders with verve and skill, no easy feat given the technical nature of some of them—though, as she notes, the central question is one fit for the present moment: “What constituted an impeachable offense?”

A superb contribution to presidential history.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9836-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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