A solid case for restructuring a neglected and neglectful agency whose job is too important to admit laxity.

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ZERO FAIL

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SECRET SERVICE

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Leonnig paints a damning portrait of a federal agency in crisis.

The Secret Service was born after the failure of a bodyguard to protect Abraham Lincoln from an assassin’s bullet. The agency’s mission should be simple, but it has become mired in morale problems, malfeasance, and poor leadership. It has regularly “been ranked as the most hated place to work in the federal government,” a fiefdom of clashing bosses who demand personal loyalty, in exchange for which they’re willing to look the other way on certain matters. In a seamy example, while on duty in Cartagena, agents solicited prostitutes, some of whom were revealed to have cartel connections. The agency is necessary, as Leonnig easily demonstrates by citing statistics surrounding threats to Barack Obama, which earned him protection a full year ahead of his formal eligibility as a candidate. Yet, as the author writes, the Secret Service is shot through with unacknowledged racism—e.g., a noose hanging in a room used by a Black instructor was attributed to “one bad apple, not to the existence of a larger problem.” Moreover, it is thoroughly politicized; MAGA hats were regularly seen on agents’ desks during the Trump years, and some cheered on the Jan. 6 insurrectionaries. Leonnig charges that, against regulations, one agent became involved with Tiffany Trump. Meanwhile, the president himself “sometimes acted as if he were the head of personnel decisions at the Service,” trying to have the leader of his wife’s protective detail removed because he “was bothered by the chunky heels she wore on the job.” In a supreme irony, he complained of overweight agents as well. While the presidential detail has since been purged, and the agency is not paying exorbitant rent to enrich the occupant of the White House, “the Service remains spread dangerously thin” and, it seems, scarcely able to perform its mission.

A solid case for restructuring a neglected and neglectful agency whose job is too important to admit laxity.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-58901-0

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2021

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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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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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