For folks who give books at Christmas to political junkie friends and relatives, here are my 2022 gift book picks.
“One Damn Thing After Another” by William P. Barr. Americans were fortunate Bill Barr agreed to serve a second stint as U.S. attorney general. The memoir of this brilliant lawyer describes how he was not afraid to stand up to President Trump and how he kept the Justice Department from being politicized. Barr bluntly told Trump after the 2020 election there was no evidence of fraud. He pointed out to the angry president that he “had underperformed among certain Republican and independent voters in some key suburban areas in the swing states…[and] ran behind Republican candidates below him on the ballot…. It seemed this shortage could explain the outcome.”
“The Divider: Trump in the White House” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. This book on the Trump administration is top drawer. This meticulously researched work vividly describes Trump’s management by tantrum. The authors reveal that, Trump, who is not dumb, was dangerously uninformed. Trump “did not know that Puerto Rico was part of the United States…. [He] did not understand the basics of America’s vast nuclear arsenal, did not grasp the concept of constitutional separations of powers, did not understand how courts work…. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln had been a member of the Republican Party. ‘He knew nothing about most things,’ observed one top aide.”
“The New Yorkers” by Sam Roberts. The author is one of the Big Apple’s most revered reporters. He served as city editor at The Daily News, and since 1983 he has been at The New York Times writing on urban affairs. His latest work describes the lives of 31 unique New Yorkers who helped make and define the city. The personages profiled include John Jay, president of the Continental Congress; New York’s first archbishop, John Hughes; the noted political boss Charles Murphy, as well as mobsters, actors, and civil rights activists.
“Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon and the Election of 1960” by Irwin F. Gellman. This is the distinguished historian’s third volume on the life of Richard Nixon. It is a well-balanced, very readable, history of the famous battle for the White House. Gellman utilizes previously unexamined archival material, FBI records et cetera. The author makes clear that in his work, “Kennedy will not come out as a saint; his campaign was far more corrupt and ruthless than has been presented. Nixon will not come out as the villain or the foil; he ran a far cleaner operation than has been described. While the extremes of white and black occasionally surface, this narrative is mainly colored in shades of gray.”
“Democratic Justice: Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court and the Making of the Liberal Establishment” by Brad Snyder. This is an extraordinary biography of a Jewish immigrant from Vienna who arrived in America in 1894 at age 11 and went on to become a renowned Harvard law professor, an adviser to presidents, and an associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. As a brilliant young lawyer Frankfurter befriended Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, Louis Brandeis, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. As a law professor he secured for his top students (i.e., Dean Acheson) clerkships with Supreme Court justices and later top jobs in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Frankfurter, who served on the Supreme Court bench from 1939 until 1962, was not your typical knee-jerk liberal jurist. A proponent of judicial restraint, he believed that “the American people should seek political and socio-economic change not from the Supreme Court but from the democratic political process…. [He] was extremely skeptical about judicial vetoes of state and federal legislation….” “Democratic Justice” is a big book—the narrative encompasses 710 pages—but it is a worthy read.
“Come On Man: The Truth About Joe Biden’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Presidency” by Joe Concha. A longtime media and political columnist for “The Hill,” Contra makes the case that Biden “has been a guy who usually padded his resume, boosted his hard scrabble credibility … and will say or do anything that is politically expedient.” And thanks to accommodating journalists, Biden has gotten away with his mishaps and lies. Protecting Biden from scrutiny, Contra describes how the mainstream media has given little coverage to the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the crime surge in American cities, 2 million immigrants crossing our border, inflation hitting 40-year highs, 400 people a day dying from COVID-19, the opioid overdose crisis, and “his unsteady grip of the truth or reality.”
Happy reading in 2023!