An incisive, frightening picture of a toxic environment in which “the presidency…needs a champion.”

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UNMAKING THE PRESIDENCY

DONALD TRUMP'S WAR ON THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL OFFICE

Two Lawfare editors and senior fellows at the Brookings Institution trace the crumbling integrity of the U.S. presidency.

As former National Security Agency attorney Hennessey and Wittes (Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary, 2019, etc.) show, early on in Donald Trump’s presidency, the initial hopes that the office would tame his baser instincts quickly evaporated. The authors quote legal scholar Jack Goldsmith’s assessment of the man: “so ill-informed…so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, so brazen in his abusive attacks.” From the beginning, Trump proposed making the office a vehicle for his own self-expression, sublimating proper management functions, good faith execution of law, ethical conduct, truthfulness, and service. The authors effectively tap a wealth of material, including administration leaks, comments from ex-staffers, and Trump’s own words. They argue convincingly that Trump’s fracturing of the executive branch necessitates control mechanisms that continue to erode. Trump’s mendacity is a key feature of his incompetence, and the culture of lying that he has fostered has produced more leaks than usual. In the past, leaks have often served to bolster government credibility by reducing the incidence of lying; now, however, they lead to more lies and extensive coverups. As staff and Cabinet members quit or are fired, the control mechanisms have all but disappeared. If the presidency is beginning to look like an autocracy, it is because Trump has assumed the power to protect the guilty while cultivating impunity for and from friends. As the authors consistently demonstrate, his view of justice is to reward friends and punish enemies. Though the authors acknowledge that tensions in Korea have lessened and the current economic and trade policy hasn’t led to economic ruin (yet), their opinion of the president is clear. “If a first step is rejecting and repudiating Trump himself and facilitating his actual exit from office,” they write, “the second key step is fortifying the presidency’s institutional protections using well-designed laws.”

An incisive, frightening picture of a toxic environment in which “the presidency…needs a champion.”

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-17536-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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