In an evenhanded and well-tempered book, stuffed with a sterling cast of interviewees adding their voices to his, Brokaw...



Veteran newscaster Brokaw (A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland, 2002, etc.) turns in proof positive of the theory of relativity: Arlo Guthrie and Dick Cheney inhabited the 1960s at the same time.

Guthrie and Officer Obie—aka William J. Obanheim, longtime Stockbridge, Mass., chief of police made famous in the folk singer’s epic 1967 protest song, “Alice’s Restaurant”—became friends in the end: Guthrie noted, “He was a wonderful, wonderful human being.” It is doubtful that Arlo will warm up quite so well to Karl Rove, another child of the ’60s who insists that his intervention in the matter of Terry Schiavo was advocacy for the disabled. Rove spent the time far from the rigors of Vietnam; so did Cheney, who spent the time drinking up a storm and concluded, his own radical freak flag flying, “Close elections don’t mean you trim your sails in terms of your agenda.” Brokaw is respectful—after all, you never burn a source—but twits Cheney for his preference for the retrograde ’50s, when DUIs were cool and “homosexuality and race were easy targets for bigots.” The author confesses that his own service in the ’60s wasn’t exactly idyllic, as he garnered fat paychecks as a newsman in Los Angeles while his brothers did time in uniform (he tried, but flat feet kept him out). He gives space to some of those who enjoyed similarly soft circumstances, such as Warren Beatty, who took a break from the ’68 Democratic Convention by partying at the Playboy Mansion. Brokaw is more inclined to hang with more serious players, such as Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, who says of Vietnam, “That war . . . tore the heart out of our country.” Capably painting the contours of the time and its many issues, Brokaw even admits a little fondness for Richard Nixon while getting close to what a well-placed source (whom he doesn’t identify until 400 pages into the book) calls “the code”—the real message of the ’60s.

In an evenhanded and well-tempered book, stuffed with a sterling cast of interviewees adding their voices to his, Brokaw does a nice job of trying to crack the code.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6457-1

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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