LEADING FROM THE CENTER

WHY MODERATES MAKE THE BEST PRESIDENTS

Fans of Millard Fillmore, that noted moderate, won’t find much new in these pages, but those sick to death of extremist...

Moderate does not equal namby-pamby, and extremism is not an American norm; instead, the founders “celebrated modesty, balance, self-denial, and rationality,” none of which seem abundant in politics today.

Against those who hold that America has become bitterly divided between red and blue, Troy (History/McGill Univ.; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady, 2006, etc.) observes that “a rich web of common cultural, political, economic, and social ties” tightly binds the nation. The best presidents, recognizing this network of elective affinities, have governed from a moderate, centrist position and shunned extremes on either side of the aisle. But neither does moderate equal passive: By Troy’s reckoning, the best have exercised “muscular moderation,” as with George Washington’s straight-edged governance over a still tumultuous time and Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal both to play to class loyalties and to accept the notion that capital and labor were necessarily inimical. By that reckoning, Dwight Eisenhower gets solid marks for his detestation of partisan politics and his quaint notion that the president was meant to be a unifier. Some presidents in Troy’s account were set on moderate paths but turned less moderate by events, as with Lyndon Johnson in the face of the Vietnam debacle; some were moderately inclined but so sensitive to public opinion as to be swayed off course, as with Bill Clinton. As for the president who once trumpeted himself as a unifier, Troy joins with a growing majority in finding George W. Bush to be a disaster who “damaged America’s national fabric by failing to lead the country as a whole” and insisted instead that he owed attention only to “everyone who shares our goals.”

Fans of Millard Fillmore, that noted moderate, won’t find much new in these pages, but those sick to death of extremist rhetoric should be assured by the author’s conclusions.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-465-00293-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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