MADHOUSE

THE PRIVATE TURMOIL OF WORKING FOR THE PRESIDENT

Serving the president of the United States may seem like a dream job. But as senior Time correspondent Birnbaum persuasively shows in these portraits of six anguished aides and their short careers in the Clinton White House, it's really a nightmare. Disparate in many ways, these Clinton supporters—Howard Paster (at 48, by far the oldest), Jeff Eller, Paul Begala, Dee Dee Myers, Gene Sperling, and Bruce Reed—had one thing in common: They all arrived in Washington full of conviction that government mattered and that their work would make a difference. Within weeks after Clinton's inauguration, however, an array of mini-scandals and artificial crises conceived and driven by opposition politicians and the media had paralyzed the White House. Paster, a lobbyist responsible for building a working relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill, found that he had an impossible task; the two houses of Congress rarely spoke with a unified voice on anything. Blamed by congressmen for White House gaffes, and by the president's staff for failing to develop a harmonious relationship with Congress, worn down by the relentless stress and the endless hours away from his family, Paster quit after little more than a year. Media affairs director Eller, responsible for a key Clinton administration health care initiative, found himself bogged down in ``Travelgate.'' Despite the administration's rhetoric about diversity, press secretary Myers found that her gender shut her out of the ``white boys' club,'' as she termed it. Stymied by an unruly Republican-controlled Congress, policy advisers Sperling and Reed found it impossible to successfully promote any programs. Even political illusionist Begala was frustrated by scandals and Clinton's lingering image problems, overwhelmed by the workload, and ultimately blamed for the Democratic electoral disaster that resulted in the loss of both houses of Congress. Birnbaum deftly sketches the challenges of being a presidential aide and limns the disturbing boundaries of modern presidential power. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 6, 1996

ISBN: 0-8129-2325-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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