A brilliant preface, one might guess, to further legal actions against the disgraced former president for his crimes.

UNTHINKABLE

TRAUMA, TRUTH, AND THE TRIALS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

The constitutional lawyer and U.S. Representative considers the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the lawless administration that fomented them.

“How did we end up here, with fascists trashing our Capitol Building and killing people?” asks Raskin, who led the House’s second impeachment proceedings against the former president. His narrative has three strands. The first is personal looking out on the political, recounting the experiences of his father, one of John Kennedy’s “best and brightest,” who left government in opposition to the nuclear arms race. More effective, and saddening, is the second: the suicide of his son, beset by anxiety and depression, who was buried on Jan. 5. The following day brought “strategic violence by extremist elements outside the Capitol…fusing with manipulative tactics inside the Capitol to coerce Vice President Pence and Congress to overthrow the electoral votes in the states and force us into a contingent election.” Raskin makes two related things eminently clear. First, he and other House leaders were prepared for the Republicans’ coercive ploy, albeit surprised that Pence, “despite lots of genuflecting to the disseminators of the Big Lie,” did the right thing. What they were not prepared for, he writes, was an armed mob storming the Capitol and pursuing elected officials through its corridors. For this, Raskin assigns a measure of self-blame, since Alexander Hamilton warned of just such a possibility in the first of the Federalist Papers, and the former president had recruited “thousands of the…‘very fine’ people he had seen marching on the fascist side of the street in 2017 in Charlottesville” to stage his insurrection. Raskin’s detailed account of the second impeachment proceedings goes on at great but not burdensome length, joining Adam Schiff’s Midnight in Washington as a close study in how such matters work.

A brilliant preface, one might guess, to further legal actions against the disgraced former president for his crimes.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-063-20978-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2022

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

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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

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An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”

THE CONTAGION NEXT TIME

The Covid-19 pandemic is not a one-off catastrophe. An epidemiologist presents a cogent argument for a fundamental refocusing of resources on “the foundational forces that shape health.”

In this passionate and instructive book, Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, writes that Covid emerged because we have long neglected basic preventative measures. “We invest vast amounts of money in healthcare,” he writes, “but comparatively little in health.” Readers looking to learn how governments (mainly the U.S.) mishandled the pandemic have a flood of books to choose from, but Galea has bigger issues to raise. Better medical care will not stop the next epidemic, he warns. We must structure a world “that is resilient to contagions.” He begins by describing the current state of world health, where progress has been spectacular. Global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900. Malnutrition, poverty, and child mortality have dropped. However, as the author stresses repeatedly, medical progress contributed far less to the current situation than better food, clean water, hygiene, education, and prosperity. That’s the good news. More problematic is that money is a powerful determinant of health; those who have it live longer. Galea begins the bad news by pointing out the misleading statistic that Covid-19 kills less than 1% of those infected; that applies to young people in good health. For those over 60, it kills 6%, for diabetics, over 7%, and those with heart disease, over 10%. It also kills more Blacks than Whites, more poor than middle-class people, and more people without health insurance. The author is clearly not just interested in Covid. He attacks racism, sexism, and poverty in equal measure, making a plea for compassion toward stigmatized conditions such as obesity and addiction. He consistently urges the U.S. government, which has spared no expense and effort to defeat the pandemic, to do the same for social injustice.

An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-757642-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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