Given the current reliance on foreign capital and immigrant labor, Rauchway’s book is right on time and right on target.

BLESSED AMONG NATIONS

HOW THE WORLD MADE AMERICA

Laying the groundwork for American empire was an international enterprise—so why doesn’t the world want to be American?

“The earth’s people have more often envied than imitated America,” writes Rauchway (History/UC Davis; Murdering McKinley, 2003), preferring parliamentarianism and welfare statism to republicanism and laissez-faire. To find out why, Rauchway examines America’s rise to empire, which occupied the years between 1865 and 1917. During that time, he writes, America received both financial and human capital from abroad; the working class was predominantly immigrant, as was the army that tamed the western frontier, while huge flows of European cash into the post–Civil War economy made an industrial super-revolution possible, leading to a manifold increase in the nation’s wealth. Yet Americans refused to do the things that newly wealthy countries do—namely, invest in public infrastructure and build social-welfare institutions and mechanisms. Rauchway observes that just before WWI, America’s army was smaller than Ethiopia’s, while “relative to the size of its economy it had a smaller government than the Netherlands”; he reckons that at least some of the refusal to build a welfare state had precisely to do with the fact that the working class “appeared visibly to consist of people from other countries,” leading native-born Americans to look the other way when issues of, say, occupational safety and labor exploitation arose. Our laissez-faire ways seemed particularly problematic when it came time to raise an army to fight overseas, leading to the creation of particularly inept bureaucracies, for “routine competence simply did not lie within the experience of Americans who had relied for years on an incidentally benevolent world to take care of them.” And when it came time to protect the world economy with American initiatives after the armistice, Americans failed to come through, yielding worldwide depression—good reason to avoid imitating the American way of life.

Given the current reliance on foreign capital and immigrant labor, Rauchway’s book is right on time and right on target.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8090-5580-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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