Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.

DONALD TRUMP AND HIS ASSAULT ON TRUTH

THE PRESIDENT'S FALSEHOODS, MISLEADING CLAIMS, AND FLAT-OUT LIES

All politicians lie. But the current occupant of the White House? Yikes….

Kessler, editor of the Washington Post “Fact Checker” column, allows that every recent president is associated with “one big lie”—e.g., not having sex with “that woman,” fudging about overflights over the Soviet Union, dismissing concerns about illness. Donald Trump is transcendent. He is, by Kessler and his colleagues’ account, “the most mendacious president in U.S. history,” the author not of one big and sometimes necessary lie but of thousands of little, useless ones. As of the third anniversary of his inauguration, they reckon, the lie count was 16,241—which means that Trump publicly lied 15 times per day on average, though some days were richer than others, such as November 5, 2018, which rang in 139 false claims. The lies are part of a program of an attack on truth, the authors assert, and given that “Republicans have grown less concerned about presidents being honest than they were a decade ago,” the lies find a willing audience. Parsing those 16,241 lies, the Post staffers calculate that immigration is the single subject most liable to be lied about, “accounting for 15 percent of the total…we fact-checked in the first three years of Trump’s presidency.” But everything else is fair game, too, with concomitant fits of projection—accusing others of lying, for instance—and refusal to accept responsibility for anything except the rare success. Then there are the simple misunderstandings, as when he called his impeachment “illegal and unconstitutional” even though, Kessler and company observe, “it’s literally spelled out in the Constitution.” Most valuable, in this rather depressing catalog of untruths, are the fact checkers’ point-by-point analyses, lie by lie, of the relative falsehoods uttered, measured by “Pinocchios.” They even give Trump credit for those extremely unusual moments when his outbursts are “mostly accurate.”

Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982151-07-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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