This generally thoughtful analysis is especially good on Trump’s “coarsening influence on political dialogue.”



A veteran Washington, D.C., reporter assesses Donald Trump’s first year as president.

“The difficulty in writing a book about what actually happened during Trump’s first year is you write in a frenzied state of dread,” says CBS News chief White House correspondent Garrett (The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation, 2005, etc.). “What the @#%*& is next? Is what I’m writing what really matters?” The author examines the Trump phenomenon and takes an early stab at identifying 10 presidential actions likely to have a “lasting impact.” He seeks to be “credible, balanced, and nuanced,” noting both the “unadulterated love” of supporters who believe Trump “says things that need to be said” and the abhorrence of critics who find his “belligerence,” “indifference” to facts, and TV-animated consciousness make him “exhausting to the soul and corrosive to the spirit.” As Garrett writes, “Trump is recklessly authentic—a living, breathing, orangish and hair-sprayed Rorschach test of what early 21st-century America wants and expects from politics and the presidency.” The author devotes a detailed chapter to each important Trump action, including his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the travel ban, his “malicious” criticism of federal law enforcement, and his firing of FBI director James Comey. Other chapters focus on the potential of Trump’s Saudi Arabia visit to “realign” the Middle East, his failure to repeal Obamacare, the “haunting racial overtones” of separations of border-crossing families and remarks on “shithole” countries, his confronting North Korea, the elimination of 879 federal regulations, and tax reform. Billed as a disruptor, Trump is “a reliable, pliable conservative ideologue on about every issue but trade.” Garrett refuses to speculate on collusion: “I still don’t know the bottom line of the Russian story.” Some readers may be taken aback by his belief that media-hungry Trump merely “pretends to hate reporters” and his answer to the query, “is Trump a racist? No one can know but Trump.”

This generally thoughtful analysis is especially good on Trump’s “coarsening influence on political dialogue.”

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-18591-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: All Points/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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