Book review: Rage, by Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward is a legend, yet I had never read one of his books. His famous breakout, All the President’s Men, came out when I was too young to be reading political heavyweights (I was not yet in middle school). He’s written many books since then but I admit I was not paying more than cursory attention to politics until things got weird in the Tea Party era. Anyway, I did not know what to expect.

Woodward is very organized, cogent and always clear in his recounting, but he is in this case not a natural story teller: in Rage, he does not spin a strong narrative. He is sparing with conjecture and weaves little of his own experiences or opinions in his reporting. He leaves a lot to the reader, which is appropriate for a reporter.  He does not resort to partisanship or gonzo self-involvement in order to deliver a gripping, integrated tale as Hunter Thompson* would.

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REPOST: Hitler, Ascent by Volker Ullrich vs. America Today

I bought this book in part to help me understand how close to authoritarianism we (in the U.S.) are lurching under Trump. Yes I understand the effrontery some find in comparing anyone to Hitler. This is not denying or belittling the Holocaust, it is examining how a republic failed and the key role a single personality played. Such understanding is critical to preventing fascist takeover of a republic.

It is a long entry, as it’s a long book: 758 pages of content with a stunning 187 pages of notes. I only read some of the notes, mea culpa.

So, why undertake such a behemoth? I always wondered, when reading about Hitler in general history texts, what they meant by “he seized power”—how did he do that, exactly? Well, Ullrich tells us how: legally, by playing on the fears of an electorate beset by crisis after crisis, and promising stability and order.  We also hear the now-familiar tale of the ‘conventional’ politicians who thought they could surround and ‘control’ Hitler. It reminds one of Reince Priebus, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Jon Bolton, Dan Coats, James Mattis, Jeff Sessions and others. Trump steamrolled them all, and in Ascent, we see how Hitler did the same to his ‘handlers.’

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