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AMERICAN KOMPROMAT

HOW THE KGB CULTIVATED DONALD TRUMP, AND RELATED TALES OF SEX, GREED, POWER, AND TREACHERY

A must-read. The gun’s not quite smoking, but the barrel’s plenty hot, and there are Russian shell casings all around.

Is Donald Trump a Russian asset? Yes, according to longtime president-watcher and journalist Unger, who builds on and extends the case he built in House of Trump, House of Putin.

It’s not news that well before becoming president, Trump revealed himself to be “a tyrant who had mesmerized tens of millions of people, and that it didn’t matter to them what he said or did”—or that he has long been suspected of owing a profound debt to Russia and that the place to look for it is in the tax returns he keeps hidden. Unger’s book is valuable primarily because he connects any number of loose ends, even if the result may sound like a conspiracy theory. Point 1: Trump owes Russia big, and while in office, he was ever eager to please. Point 2: Russia began to cultivate him long before the Soviet Union collapsed. Point 3: It all comes down to money. Point 4: There are connections among Opus Dei, the Trump administration, and the “world of decadence and depravity tied to figures like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.” Unger links all of this to what CIA sources call the “Monster Plot,” which posits that Russia placed an asset or agent “at the very top” of the U.S. government to make it collapse. Trump was ideal. As one Russian handler noted, “in terms of his personality…the guy is not a complicated cookie, his most important characteristics being low intellect coupled with hyperinflated vanity. This combination makes him a dream for an experienced recruiter.” The believability of Unger’s case lies less in these points laid bare than in the fact that one can see them in abundant evidence in the actions of Trump and his allies, from leaving Syria to Russia to packing the Supreme Court and Justice Department with right-wing Catholics—nefarious work that will take years to undo even as Trump continues to attempt to bring about “the end of democracy.”

A must-read. The gun’s not quite smoking, but the barrel’s plenty hot, and there are Russian shell casings all around.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18253-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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