Two Disturbing Books. An Impressive Movie. Plaintive New Music.
There are questions that the Mueller report couldn’t—or wouldn’t—answer. What actually happened to instigate the Russia investigation? Did President Trump’s meddling incriminate him? There’s no mystery to what Trump thinks. He claims that the Deep State, a cabal of career bureaucrats—among them, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, previously little known figures within the FBI whom he has obsessively and publically reviled—is concerned only with protecting its own power and undermining the democratic process. Conversely, James Comey has defended the FBI as incorruptible apolitical public servants who work tirelessly to uphold the rule of law. For the first time, bestselling author James B. Stewart sifts these conflicting accounts to present a clear-eyed view of what exactly happened inside the FBI in the lead-up to the 2016 election, drawing on scores of interviews with key FBI, Department of Justice, and White House officials and voluminous transcripts, notes, and internal reports. In full detail, this is the dramatic saga of the FBI’s simultaneous investigations of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—the first time in American history the FBI has been thrust into the middle of both parties’ campaigns for the presidency. Stewart shows what exactly was set in motion when Trump fired Comey, triggering the appointment of Robert Mueller as an independent special counsel and causing the FBI to open a formal investigation into the president himself. And how this unprecedented event joined in ongoing combat two vital institutions of American democracy: the presidency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At stake in this epic battle is the rule of law itself, the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. There is no room for compromise, but plenty for collateral damage. The reputations of both sides have already been harmed, perhaps irrevocably, and at great cost to American democracy. Deep State goes beyond the limits of the legally constrained Mueller report, showing how the president’s obsession with the idea of a conspiracy against him is still upending lives and sending shockwaves through both the FBI and the Department of Justice. In this world-historical struggle—Trump versus intelligence agencies—Stewart shows us in rare style what’s real and what matters now. And for the looming 2020 election.
Julian E. Zelizer – Burning Down The House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall Of A Speaker, And The Rise Of The New Republican Party
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, President Obama observed that Trump “is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” In Burning Down The House, historian Julian Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path toward an era of bitterly partisan and ruthless politics, an era that was ignited by Newt Gingrich and his allies. In 1989, Gingrich brought down Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright and catapulted himself into the national spotlight. Perhaps more than any other politician, Gingrich introduced the rhetoric and tactics that have shaped Congress and the Republican Party for the last three decades. Elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich quickly became one of the most powerful figures in America not through innovative ideas or charisma, but through a calculated campaign of attacks against political opponents, casting himself as a savior in a fight of good versus evil. Taking office in the post-Watergate era, he weaponized the good government reforms newly introduced to fight corruption, wielding the rules in ways that shocked the legislators who had created them. His crusade against Democrats culminated in the plot to destroy the political career of Speaker Wright. While some of Gingrich’s fellow Republicans were disturbed by the viciousness of his attacks, party leaders enjoyed his successes so much that they did little collectively to stand in his way. Democrats, for their part, were alarmed, but did not want to sink to his level and took no effective actions to stop him. It didn’t seem to matter that Gingrich’s moral conservatism was hypocritical or that his methods were brazen, his accusations of corruption permanently tarnished his opponents. This brand of warfare worked, not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power, and what Gingrich planted, his fellow Republicans reaped. He led them to their first majority in Congress in decades, and his legacy extends far beyond his tenure in office. From the Contract with America to the rise of the Tea Party and the Trump presidential campaign, his fingerprints can be seen throughout some of the most divisive episodes in contemporary American politics. Burning Down The House presents the alarming narrative of how Gingrich and his allies created a new normal in Washington.
Disclosure, a new independent movie from Australia asks the question, what would you do if your child came to you and began telling you a story about something that happened to them, that is one of your worst nightmares as a parent? And what would be the consequences of your actions? This is director, Michael Bentham’s debut full-length film, set in the lush tropical landscape of Victoria. The story is a dark psychodrama, yet Bentham shooting in 4K captures startlingly colorful scenes with unobtrusive camerawork and exceptional acting. Norman B was so impressed with Disclosure, he wants you to know all about it. In this edition of Life Elsewhere, you’ll hear his review.
To round out the show, new music from Jess Williamson featuring Hand Habits with the lovely and plaintive, Pictures Of Flowers. Written by Jess and performed by Jess Williamson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Meg Duffy (electric guitar), and Jarvis Taveniere (bass, drums, mellotron) remotely from their homes during quarantine. In her bio, the Texas-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter is described as making “…deeply felt songs that orbit around her powerful voice, a voice that’s strong and vulnerable, big room flawless, quietly ecstatic, and next-to-you intimate.” We agree.