A top-notch historian brings together recondite research with felicitous prose. An excellent choice for students of...

THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT

FROM TEDDY ROOSEVELT TO BILL CLINTON

An acclaimed historian examines the American presidency from 1901 to 2001.

Even though he was uninspiring, William McKinley, assassinated in 1901, was the “creator of the 20th-century presidency,” writes Leuchtenburg (Emeritus, History/Univ. of North Carolina; Herbert Hoover, 2006, etc.), who chronicles the entire presidential gallery across the 20th century. So what made McKinley so modern? Not only was he the first to ride in an automobile, appear in motion pictures, and use the telephone, but he set up a table for reporters to brief them daily and pursued a more imperial executive style in deploying American troops on his own authority. This greatly increased power of the presidency was new, as the country at that point was expanding hugely in terms of industry and population. With the accession of Theodore Roosevelt, the office became the famous “bully pulpit” of a muscular, progressive leader, not afraid to take on big business—e.g., J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Company, trustbusted by the Supreme Court in 1904. Woodrow Wilson, with his “stern demeanor and his kinetic energy,” was both revered for his idealism and vilified for the scarring of the World War I years. After the “Wilsonian usurpation,” writes Leuchtenburg, Congress was “in no mood to indulge a strong executive.” The country was content with Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover yet welcomed the activism during the Great Depression of Franklin Roosevelt, a transformative president when he had to become commander in chief of the armed forces, then engaged in “a global struggle against fascism.” What the author conveys so marvelously is the sense of how such seemingly ordinary Americans—e.g., Harry Truman, “a man so transparently unqualified”; Dwight Eisenhower, son of a storekeeper in Abilene, Kansas; the polarizing, paranoid Richard Nixon; good-natured Gerald Ford; peanut farmer Jimmy Carter—could bring majesty to the office.

A top-notch historian brings together recondite research with felicitous prose. An excellent choice for students of 20th-century American history.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-517616-2

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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