Of considerable interest to health policymakers and public-safety officials as well as students of epidemic disease.

UNCONTROLLED SPREAD

WHY COVID-19 CRUSHED US AND HOW WE CAN DEFEAT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration assesses the systemic failures underlying the world response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Numerous public entities within the federal government, writes Gottlieb, are charged with preparing for the outbreak of epidemic diseases. Most of their energies were directed toward fighting the flu. “The federal government started off in a weak position, with plans that were ill suited to countering a coronavirus,” writes the author. “This mismatch between the scenarios we drilled for and the reality that we faced left us unprepared. Poor execution turned it into a public health tragedy.” It took time, of course, to recognize fully that Covid-19 spread through a handful of “superspreaders” and mostly indoors in areas that were both crowded and poorly ventilated—the White House during Trump’s frequent self-congratulatory public events, for one. Trump, Gottlieb makes clear, bears plenty of responsibility for the government’s inadequate response, as do lieutenants who politicized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suppressed information, and followed Trump’s lead in rejecting mask-wearing and other safety measures. “The president could have found a middle ground on masks,” Gottlieb writes. “His message could have been: We don’t need mandates….However, we’re going to act responsibly and wear masks.” The author argues that even under different leadership, the response would likely have been little better, at least in part because there is not enough coordination among agencies. He urges that preparation for pandemics be considered a part of national security, with the Pentagon fully involved and with a system that works its way around informed consent “to address a public health emergency” so that data is quickly shared. Moreover, he argues that testing procedures be standardized, as they are not now, with a full inventory of equipment in both public and private hands. These and other measures are urgently needed: If Covid-19 was the worst pandemic in recent history, “it won’t be the last.”

Of considerable interest to health policymakers and public-safety officials as well as students of epidemic disease.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-308001-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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