A convincing and alarming—and perhaps alarmist—cry that treason is afoot.




Did Donald Trump meet with the Russians before the election? By this account, almost certainly—and “virtually all of Trump’s senior staff and family had numerous contacts with Russia that were nothing short of suspicious.”

It’s a remarkable bit of spinning that has allowed right-leaning media to portray Russia, the longtime rival and even enemy of the United States, as our friend. By intelligence officer and counterterrorism analyst Nance’s (Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe, 2016, etc.) account, the victor in Trump’s electoral win was Vladimir Putin, who “won with the aid of Americans who had turned on their own values.” In this, everyone is implicated, from the putatively liberal media and its obsession with Clinton’s emails to pro-Trump voters who cast their ballots for him despite their candidate’s “slavish devotion to Putin.” It’s a story that isn’t going away, despite what the president might wish. Certainly, Nance writes, the intelligence community is keeping its eye on the prize, and for those in the administration who urge that it’s all just misperception and accident, Nance counters, “coincidence takes a lot of planning.” The author argues that much of that planning originated inside the Kremlin, but much also came from the desk of Steve Bannon, a key actor in forging a vanguard for a new kind of pro-Moscow conservative movement in America. In a narrative dense with “active measures” and “Kompromat,” Nance traces the revival of Russian enmity to Putin’s second term as president, when he turned his KGB training to good use in weakening his American opponents by exploiting their divisions—exactly what those active measures are supposed to do. The author wraps up his case with a provocative declaration that will occasion divisions all on its own: “Trump has definitely convinced me that he transitioned from an unwitting asset of Vladimir Putin to a willing asset working in league with the Russian Federation.”

A convincing and alarming—and perhaps alarmist—cry that treason is afoot.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-48481-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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