Though sometimes a slog, a welcome contribution to the history of modern right-wing politics at its extremes.

A CONSPIRATORIAL LIFE

ROBERT WELCH, THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY AND THE REVOLUTION OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM

The GOP may be Donald Trump’s party—but at heart, this book argues, it’s really the party of a revanchist John Birch Society.

“We live in the age of Robert Welch—whether or not we know who he is, what he did, or why he matters.” So writes Miller in a sometimes-ponderous but nevertheless meritorious life of Welch, a candy magnate whose conspiracy theorizing foreshadowed today’s QAnon. Welch was an early champion of the isolationist “America First” movement, whose slogan Trump appropriated, and he fomented ideas that ranged from charging that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist agent to asserting that Sputnik was a hoax and the Vietnam War was run by the Kremlin to advance one-world government. As Miller documents, Welch was a brilliant young man who memorized thousands of volumes of poetry, literature, and history. Still, he descended into what historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” of interpreting government. By the end of his life, Welch believed that it wasn’t the communists after all but instead the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission that controlled the planet. Despite such bizarre views, the John Birch Society was successful in the age of Joseph McCarthy and even more so in the 1970s, when public trust in government plummeted, in part thanks to Richard Nixon, who espoused some of Welch’s doctrines. Although, as Miller documents to sometimes tedious length, the John Birch Society fell apart thanks to infighting and insolvency, its worldview is alive and well in QAnon, the “truther” and “birther” movements, and the mainstream GOP, the last of which likely embraced it out of sheer cynicism. After all, Miller writes, “Welch was an eccentric, a conspiracy theorist who said zany things, but he had sincerity.” Sincerity is scarcely something one would apply to the current run of right-wing politicians, from Trump on down, who seem to throw out conspiracy theories willy-nilly to see what sticks.

Though sometimes a slog, a welcome contribution to the history of modern right-wing politics at its extremes.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-226-44886-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more