I am an avid eclectic reader.
Robert Gates has a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet History. He served as the head of the CIA , been a member of the National Security Council under eight different white house administration, was a Air Force officer in the Strategic Air Command. He knew the pentagon better than most Defense Secretaries. “Duty” is a typical of the memoir genre, declaring that this is how the writer saw it, warts and all, including his own. Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings based in part on notes that he and his Aids made at the time and a review of some of the official reports. I thought he did a fairly good job of writing about the positive as well as the negative remarks about different people. The media seems to want to pick out only the negative comments. For example, Gates did make numerous negative remarks about Joe Biden but also said he and Biden were in agreement about the use of the military in Libya and that he likes Biden. Gates had only glowing remarks about Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton. What came across clearly in the book was his fury with having to deal with a dysfunctional congress, his frustrations in dealing with the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and the feelings of lack of understating of protocol, respect and distrust by white house staff who had never served in the military. Gates writes that Obama was very thoughtful and analytical, wanted to hear all points of view but then made up his own mind. The author also said that he admired Obama for making some very difficult decision as President. He writes about his concern about the welfare of the troops and how he felt his concern was interfering with his ability to do his job. A good deal of the book deals with battles over the budget and his fight with the Pentagon to get rid of programs, equipment that they no longer need only to have the congress reinstate them because the program had direct effect on their State. Over all it is an interesting look into the workings of our government. George Newbern did an excellent job narrating the book.
An interesting story of the life of David Petraeus showing how he learned from one assignment and applied the knowledge gained to the next. A good over view of the wars in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The book also allow an insight into the sacrifice a high ranking officer wife and family must make. Petraeus's wife was the daughter of a famous General so she knew what was expected of her. The book tried to give a favorable view of the war in Afghanistan but I was left with a feeling we should have approached this problem differently, we expected to much from a tribal culture. Paula Broadwell is a person one should keep an eye out for she may become a leader herself. James Lurie did a good job narrating the story. This is a good book to understand the making of a famous General and to get more in-depth insight into current affairs.
Marcia Coyle is the national law Journal’s long time Chief Washington correspondent. She is an attorney and brings 25 years of reporting on the high court to her book. The great strength of Coyle’s book is the depth and balance of her reporting. She interviewed several justices on background and one Antonin Scalia on the record. She also interviewed the lawyers and litigants on both sides of the four highest profiled cases, of enormous consequence of 5-4 decisions, of the Roberts court from 2007 to 2009. By allowing all the participants to speak in their own voices, she gives us a nuanced sense of how conservative and libertarian lawyers strategically litigate the cases and transformed the law. Coyle supplies useful and colorful context about the litigants, lawyers, politics and legal precedent. She is especially good on the maneuvering of various special interest groups to identify and guide particular cases through the legal system, all with a hopeful eye toward eventual Supreme Court review. Coyle covers in detail a number of key cases these are:
1. Heller—the right to bear arms-2nd amendment case.
2. Louisville & Seattle school boards racial diversity plans—affirmative action in public schools
3. Citizens United- where free speech and campaign finance law collide
4. The Affordable Health care Act
The book is an excellent account of the Roberts-led court, about the varied background and clashing philosophies of the justices, the careful crafting of arguments to secure five votes, the courts continually shifting center of gravity and the peculiar burden that rest with the Chief Justice. Roberts is a conservative, what he is after eight tumultuous years, is the center of gravity on a court whose members range from hard-right to hard –left. Coyle points out the paramount roles played by perhaps the courts two least known justices. With the 2005 retirement of Sandra day O’Connor, Justice Anthony Kennedy became the swing vote, and her replacement Samuel Alito moved the court dramatically to the right. The republican’s have appointed all the Chief Justice since 1953 when the last democrat Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky died, he was appointed by President Harry Truman. What I liked best about the book was that Coyle lets the facts and the Justices own words speak for themselves. What I have learned from this book and several other books about the Supreme Court is how important the court is to our daily lives and how important it is to apply great care in the selection of the justices. I highly recommend this book. Bernadette Dunne did an excellent job narrating the book.