This blogger is a champion of John Adams, our second president. When I came upon a new title referencing his great grandson, Henry Adams, it piqued my interest. The book is THE LAST AMERICAN ARISTOCRAT, The BRILLIANT LIFE and IMPROBABLE EDUCATION of
Henry Adams by historian Davis S. Brown. As it turns out, Henry Adams is a “famous” Adams in his own right, in addition to being the grandson of President John Quincy Adams.
Raised in the elite environment of Boston’s Gilded age, the late 19th century, ADAMS was of course thought of as a third Adams in the White House. That was not to be but the book is a wonderful study of the transition of Boston’s political power and national influence from Beacon Hill to Washington D.C.
Henry Adams, ordained not to be among the politically chosen becomes the observer, even the muckraker and attains worldwide recognition as an author and columnist. His memoir TheEducation of Henry ADAMS becomes and remains a literary classic. Henry Adams in his life and writings, “Became a transitional figure, one bridging the chasm between ‘colonial’ and ‘modern’” America. Brown’s book is also a deep dive into Adam’s personal life, the highs and lows and how it was to be the Adams who had to be satisfied by building a home on Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, which was as close as this Adams would come to the White House.
A fascinating figure in American history, Henry Adams influenced the dialogue during the country’s transition through industrialization, becoming a world power and witnessing the explosion of scientific invention. Without political portfolio with the exception of the Adams name he socialized with and influenced such legendary figures as Secretary of State John Hay, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and Teddy Roosevelt. He was the “outsider” very much on the inside.
The theme that clearly dominates Bob Woodward’s latest book RAGEis the enormity of Donald Trump’s ego. In each of Woodward’s seventeen interviews for the book, Trump repeatedly urges Woodward to treat him fairly but always adds, “Even if you don’t, that’s OK too.” Here is Trump, even after Woodward took him to the woodshed in his previous book FEAR, flattering himself by having the famous Woodward, write yet another tome about him. It seems to this reader that Trump cares little about what he is saying or how he is interpreted, but simply relying on the old ego building political adage, “Just spell my name right.”
I did not purchase RAGE upon its release as I often do with Woodward’s books, therefore the content was pretty much common knowledge by the time my number came up on the wait list at the library. However, Woodward’s reporting and his contextual clarity leaves no room for any relief from his previous Trump title, FEAR. The title was prescient.
Says Woodward, “When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.” In my view, this closing observation in RAGE is more than kind.
Readers of gordonsgoodreads know of the esteem in which I hold Robert Caro. He had this so say of Woodward and RAGE. “He is one of the great reporters of our time. Bob Woodward has been reporting like that for 45 years. He never—no matter how famous and legendary he has become; he has never stopped looking for facts.”
RAGE clearly documents that in every issue surrounding his presidency, Donald Trump has no interest in “facts.”
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, A Life, by Jane Sherron De Hart is an in-depth scholarly biography and an academic journey for the reader. The book, completed a year before the justice’s death, is an intimate look at the life of RBG that quickly transforms into a study of the workings of the Supreme Court, its personalities, and of course the major cases with which RBG was intimately involved. In many ways the book is a study of cultural change in America during RBG’s tenure on the court.
My takeaway is that SCOTUS is anything but impartial and that all important decisions are influenced to varying degrees by the personal heritage and deeply held views of individual justices. The term “strict constructionist” is often used to rationalize deep personal beliefs, while “loose interpretation,” can work toward a more liberal view of the law. “Social movements in dialogue with public opinion forge new understandings of the Constitution’s meaning even as contestation continues.”
Yes, all the famous cases are here in detail. Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore, Brown v. Board of Education, Lilly Ledbetter, Plessy, VMI, Violence Against Women’s Act, Partial Birth Abortion, Voting Rights Act, Citizens United and more and more and more. A total of 554 pages and hundreds of defining notes, and with De Hart’s brilliant research every single word counts. I left these pages and cases convinced that SCOTUS is and always has been a political body. It is a human organization and does not reside in a rarified atmosphere set apart from the ever-changing values of society. Of course, you may not agree, but what a delightful discussion for your book club.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, A life, is a wonderful personal insight into a remarkable woman and a brilliant study of exactly how the Supreme Court deliberates and decides.