EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE by Jack Mitchell

EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE

Two Centuries of White House Scandals
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-7818-0063-3
Page count: 420pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992




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