There’s not much hard news in Brock’s account of “the last battle of the Clinton Wars,” but it’s a useful casebook on how...

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KILLING THE MESSENGER

THE RIGHT-WING PLOT TO DERAIL HILLARY AND HIJACK YOUR GOVERNMENT

That “vast right-wing conspiracy” Hillary Clinton warned about all those years ago? It’s real. And then some.

So writes Brock (The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy, 2004, etc.), who was notoriously part of it, the author of the “bit nutty and a bit slutty” slur campaign against Anita Hill. Since then, as he recounted in his 2002 memoir Blinded by the Right, he had a road-to-Damascus (or D.C.) moment and founded the Democratic PAC American Bridge, which has a favorite daughter in Clinton. In his role as activist and media critic and watchdog—he also founded Media Matters—Brock here charts the evolution of a well-funded (courtesy of the Koch brothers and their ilk) right-wing information/misinformation/disinformation machine that saw its first real coup in the swift boating of John Kerry. He argues that the Dems did it all wrong by refusing to dignify that whisper-and-shout campaign with a response; just so, without naming too many names, he wishes that they’d smack some of the Benghazi/Hillary hater crowd down with a few well-pointed barbs: “Hillary’s email practices didn’t break any rules—but Jeb Bush’s did.” Granted that Brock’s is a thoroughly partisan approach, a student of the modern media could do worse than read along with him and wonder whether the New York Times really doesn’t have it in for Clinton, who, as first lady, senator, secretary of state, and now presidential candidate, can’t seem to catch a break with the Gray Lady. Blame some of it on Howell Raines and some on Bill Safire—though it has to be said that the Clintons have a habit of drawing negative attention in any event, a matter that Brock shrugs off. Closing with suitable fire and brimstone, the author hints that he’s got something really juicy in the wings to shake up the race, so stay tuned.

There’s not much hard news in Brock’s account of “the last battle of the Clinton Wars,” but it’s a useful casebook on how big-money politics and political operators work.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-3376-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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