Helpful propaganda, for those who need it. Otherwise, there’s little new here, and nothing that hasn’t been said better, and...



An unsatisfying jeremiad on the evils of the Bush administration, Pax Americana, and other avatars of the Star-Spangled Imperium.

Even those who agree with former New Yorker staff writer and Vanity Fair foreign correspondent Allman that George W. Bush has “done more than Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein to endanger America” are likely to be worn out by the time his first chapter draws to an end. Allman counters the “willful, prideful ignorance” that, he holds, surrounds the administration with a flood of ad hominem invective that, in the aggregate, makes the rhetorical excesses of Al Franken and Michael Moore seem tame: Colin Powell is reduced to near–house servant status, Condoleeza Rice characterized as “a third-rate, irredeemably conventional intellect,” Bush as a “dry drunk” who “taps into a powerful American syndrome of self-indulgent chauvinistic behavior.” Occasionally Allman hits a mark, as when he observes that vice president and so-called War Party stalwart Dick Cheney “has never carried so much as a slingshot in his nation’s defense,” a truth on the way to becoming a truism; and he does a nice job of likening the ascendancy of Dubya via judicial fiat to the similar promotion of Rutherford B. Hayes, whose actions and inactions in office deformed American politics for generations. Still, one has to wonder at the author’s journalistic seriousness when he utters sententious pronouncements such as, “The problem with Bush is not his IQ, but his emotional intelligence,” and when he presumes to instruct conservatives in what they believe. Many moderate-tending readers will agree with Allman that the present adventure in Iraq is a shameful diversion from the real war on terror and will share his indignation at recalling Dubya’s response to American inspectors’ failure to turn up weapons of mass destruction even after Saddam Hussein’s capture: “What difference does it make?” But these closely reasoned moments are few, and the rest is finger-pointing and -waving.

Helpful propaganda, for those who need it. Otherwise, there’s little new here, and nothing that hasn’t been said better, and less shrilly.

Pub Date: May 3, 2004

ISBN: 1-56025-562-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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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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