A thoroughly revealing account of a spectacularly inept presidential campaign that politics junkies will eat up.



Wall Street Journal senior White House reporter Bender turns in an engaging fly-on-the-wall account of the losing Trump 2020 campaign.

“I’m the president, and I’m going to stay the president.” So said the former president, who, throughout this circumstantial narrative, wanders hallways late at night, bewildered that it didn’t work out that way. Trump, of course, is famously unreflective—though also a fan of magical thinking, as when he asserted that Covid-19 was simply “going to go away.” Paranoid and superstitious, Trump tried in vain to reconstruct the 2020 campaign so that it went exactly like 2016, but he failed at every turn. “Trump had made derisive nicknames his hallmark but couldn’t find the handle in 2020,” Bender writes, to give just one example. “He tried at least ten different times to rename the former vice president. ‘Sleepy Joe’ was one of the first and most common, but that didn’t sound like a villain so much as someone who needed to go to bed at 9:00 p.m.” Bender’s account would be a comedy of errors if Trump weren’t so spectacularly unfunny. As Trump flubbed at every turn, his support team was even more incompetent, from a clueless Ivanka to a raging Don Jr. to a panoply of advisers whose chief interest seemed to be to soak the campaign for every cent they could. Ranging from the halls of power to the “Front Row Joes” who dutifully showed up for every Trump rally, Bender delivers a nuanced, sharp account whose leitmotif is puzzlement: Trump’s that he lost, Mitch McConnell’s that Trump wouldn’t let it go (he tried to get Bill Barr to convince Trump to back off his claims of election fraud), and Mike Pompeo’s that, as he put it late in the day, “the crazies have taken over.”

A thoroughly revealing account of a spectacularly inept presidential campaign that politics junkies will eat up.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3480-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.


Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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