Of interest to observers of the unfolding constitutional crisis as well as of Russia’s place in the international order.



A former U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation offers a gimlet-eyed view of the new Cold War.

In 2014, when he announced that he was leaving his post as the Obama administration’s ambassador, McFaul (Political Science/Stanford Univ.; Advancing Democracy Abroad, 2009, etc.) writes that “a prominent pro-Kremlin nationalist told me he was glad to see me go.” The reason: McFaul, unlike many politically appointed diplomats, actually knew something about the country, so much so, as a Stanford Kremlinologist, that Putin was said to have feared him. The author returns the favor. As he makes clear, Putin is no friend of the U.S., and in the most recent iterations of the Cold War, especially the proxy struggle to support or undermine, respectively, an independent Ukraine, he has become ever more anti-American while at the same time progressively “weakening checks on his power.” In some sense, it did not help that Obama backed off from the old U.S. mission, nominal or not, of spreading democracy. Putin certainly had no problem with spreading autocracy, even as Obama “did not support the use of coercive power to pressure dictatorships into democratizing.” But McFaul’s post-mortem on the Obama-Putin relationship is of less immediate interest than his view of the current morass. As he notes, Donald Trump enjoys far greater popularity in polls in Russia than at home, and although Putin may not have directly made Trump president—“American voters did that”—Trump has proven to be a highly useful tool for the Russian autocrat’s ends. He has validated Putin’s claim that the Western media are slanted and untrustworthy, refused to impose congressionally mandated sanctions, and, in his obsession with the “deep state,” has played straight into Putin’s conspiracy theories. Even if, as McFaul writes, “the American backlash against Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election has begun,” it may come too little and too late.

Of interest to observers of the unfolding constitutional crisis as well as of Russia’s place in the international order.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-71624-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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