At once scholarly, imaginative, and great fun.



From William McKinley to Barack Obama, a prizewinning historian looks at the tortured marriage of public relations and the modern presidency.

Woodrow Wilson loathed all the “ ‘campaign mummery’ of shaking hands and sweet-talking supporters.” Adlai Stevenson called merchandising candidates for high office “the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.” Both can blame Theodore Roosevelt for transforming the presidency and for recognizing the power of “the bully pulpit” to shape and mobilize public opinion. Since Roosevelt, all aspirants to and occupants of the Oval Office have taken elaborate pains to construct and nourish their public images, carefully crafting their own versions of events and presenting them to voters as “truth-telling” or “transparency.” Opponents reliably label their efforts as mere publicity, advertising, ballyhoo, news management, propaganda, or, in today’s fashionable locution, “spin.” Greenberg (History/Rutgers Univ.; Calvin Coolidge, 2006, etc.) cruises chronologically through more than 100 years of spin, packing his narrative with minibios and sharp commentary on the journalists, pundits, and intellectuals who’ve closely observed the spin machine through the years. He chronicles the succession of speechwriters, press secretaries, pollsters, admen, consultants, TV gurus, and campaign managers, each of whom gave the machine a distinctive whirl. And, of course, he assesses the presidents, gold-standard spinners like FDR, JFK, and Reagan, chief executives who were surprisingly good at it—Coolidge, Truman—some who were surprisingly bad—Harding, Wilson—and some, like Hoover, Johnson, and Carter, whose presidencies began well and then spun out of control. As Greenberg chronicles the evolution of spin, noting the technological innovations that have caused the machine to revolve ever faster, piling up colorful, informative stories about the notable spinmasters, charting the dizzying effect of the constant campaign and the supercharged executive on the voters, readers will wonder whether to cry at the implications for our republic or to simply laugh at the spectacle of it all.

At once scholarly, imaginative, and great fun.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-06706-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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


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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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