EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE

TWO CENTURIES OF WHITE HOUSE SCANDALS

Quality muckraking by journalist Mitchell (CNN, Parade Magazine, etc.), now a special assistant with the FDA. Mitchell's cleareyed scrutiny of presidential peccadilloes and abuses of power begins with George Washington, who refused a salary for his years with the Continental Army but who also submitted a half-million-dollar expense account for the war years. Thomas Jefferson's much-discussed affair with slave Sally Hemings is mentioned, and so is his protection of President-to-be James Madison, secretly afflicted with epilepsy and nursed through at least one attack by Jefferson. The author shows Andrew Jackson's obsession with female honor to have been not simple chivalry but an obsessive judgmental limitation that extended beyond duels to disrupt the Cabinet and the political process. Mitchell has unearthed a remarkable collection of little-known facts, but more important is his balanced view and his ability to present these leaders in their complexity. He also clarifies the relative scale of corruption, distinguishing between minor graft associated with useful underlings and the enormity of such disasters as Harding's giveaway of natural resources in Teapot Dome, or the loss, under JFK, of the TFX contract by Boeing to General Dynamics—with the apparent connivance of LBJ, a man notoriously vulnerable to bribery. The Reagan Administration in particular comes under criticism, from the theft of Jimmy Carter's debate notes to Michael Deaver's influence-peddling to the Wedtech scandal. Mitchell also makes a provocative connection between arms profiteering, the ascension of CIA influence on national policy, and the subversion of constitutional process in the Iran-contra affair. Telling details, crisp writing, good history. (Twenty-four b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1993

ISBN: 0-7818-0063-3

Page Count: 420

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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