COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT

A MEMOIR

Washington's most eminent lawyer, adviser, and confidant of Presidents offers a brilliant, entertaining, and generous (736- page) memoir of life at the pinnacle of power. Clifford began life as an attorney in Missouri, becoming during WW II the naval aide to President Truman. Quickly, he assumed a dominant role in the Truman White House and became Truman's principal adviser on domestic and foreign policy. Here, his admiration for Truman is obvious, and his many anecdotes about his plain-spoken chief are delightful. Moreover, Clifford became primary architect of many of Truman's most splendid accomplishmentshis triumphs over the steel and coal unions, the National Security Act, the desegregation of the Armed Forces, and Truman's magnificent 1948 electoral victory of Dewey. Soon after that victory, Clifford retired to become a private lawyer in Washington. He remained influential with many prominent people in government, however, and his narrative of Washington in the Fifties is fascinating. A self-proclaimed ``liberal activist,'' he later had a powerful impact on the policies of the Kennedy Administration. Similarly, he became personally involved with the formation of policy in the Johnson Administration. Despite early opposition to the Vietnam War, Clifford publicly supported the President's policies, eventually becoming LBJ's secretary of defense. His excruciating narrative of the Vietnam tragedy fills the reader with regret that LBJ did not follow Clifford's wise counsel. Finally, Clifford briefly reviews the achievements and shortcomings of Presidents in the post-Johnson era. His analysis of Richard Nixon's downfall and of the very dissimilar imperfections of Jimmy Carter's leadership are particularly illuminating. A splendidly writtenwith the help of Holbrooke, a managing director at Lehman Brothershighly engrossing narrative of postwar Washington, told by one of the last of America's Wise Men. (Sixteen pages of b&w photosnot seen.) (Book-of-the-Month Club Dual Selection for August)

Pub Date: May 31, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-56995-4

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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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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