Following the money becomes easier in this thoroughly researched, if dispiriting, work of investigative journalism.

DARK TOWERS

DEUTSCHE BANK, DONALD TRUMP, AND AN EPIC TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION

A deep-reaching look at the inner workings of Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s lender of choice.

At the heart of this aptly titled book is the suicide of a Deutsche executive in 2014 and the subsequent quest of his son to find out the reasons for it. That story, well rendered by New York Times finance editor Enrich (The Spider Network: How a Math Genius and Gang of Scheming Bankers Pulled Off One of the Greatest Scams in History, 2017), takes many twists and turns, but its outlines are familiar: A corporation with a dodgy history (including financing the construction of Nazi death camps) goes straight for a time, guided by people of conscience who are eventually overwhelmed by executives willing to let ethics slide in the quest for profit. The latter category includes a banker who sat onstage at Trump’s inauguration—and without whose legally problematic help, Enrich suggests, Trump would never have attained office. While many financial institutions refused to lend to Trump because of his habit of reneging, Deutsche was “the only mainstream bank consistently willing to do business” with him—and at the time of the presidential election, he owed the bank $350 million. But did he really, or was the bank merely a front for funding from other sources headquartered in Moscow? The author works his way through a spaghetti tangle of leads with all sorts of unsavory connections, including the family of Trump’s son-in-law, members of whom “were moving money to the Russians at the same time that Russia was interfering in the American presidential election.” The implications are more than suggestive. What is inarguable, by Enrich’s account, is that Deutsche suffered through a clash of corporate cultures by which one side strived to comply with such things as financial stress tests while worrying that a newly elected Trump would default, leaving it “the ugly choice between seizing the president’s personal assets or not enforcing the loan terms,” even as the other continued corrupt practices for nearly two decades.

Following the money becomes easier in this thoroughly researched, if dispiriting, work of investigative journalism.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287881-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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