PositiveThe New York Times Book Review[Kissinger] has surely enjoyed success — secretary of state, winner of the National Book Award and the Nobel Peace Prize — yet always in chorus with charges of sin ... Barry Gewen tackles the contradictions, and offers absolution in...a timely and acute defense of the great realist’s actions, values and beliefs ... Gewen’s book is a thoughtful rumination on human behavior, philosophy and international relations, not a womb-to-tomb biography ... What Gewen focuses on, and excels at, is the story of how the rise of gangster dictators left an irradicable impression on the Jewish intellectuals who escaped Nazi Germany before World War II ... Often, Gewen is persuasive — and often persuasively reasonable. He endorses Kissinger’s realism, but he is not an absolutist ... Kissinger and his kindred spirits may be right to alert us to the shortcomings of faith, hope and democracy. But for all of the merits that Gewen identifies in Kissinger, realism, too, is no guarantee against delusion.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksHis new book suffers, inevitably, from its competition. There are three terrific biographies of Robert Kennedy, by Arthur Schlesinger (which won the National Book Award), Evan Thomas, and, last year, by Larry Tye. All were prodigious feats of research and writing, based on years in the stacks and hundreds of interviews. Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit is not in their weight class. At a bit more than 340 pages, the Matthews take on RFK reminds one of an entry in The American President Series, in which historians, journalists, and the odd politician have been enlisted to write brief biographies of the chief executives, with the avowed aim of being 'compact enough for the busy reader, lucid enough for the scholar' ... But Matthews knows his stuff, and his man. He keeps the personal to a minimum and the spotlight on Kennedy, whose remarkable odyssey proved that the hopes of the era were realistic, and its dreams perhaps achievable if, tragically, never realized.
Jean Edward Smith
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of BooksSmith did not have access to his subject, nor to internal documents from the Bush White House, and he appears to have conducted relatively little primary research. A practiced reader of contemporary political nonfiction will find few new facts or anecdotes in these pages, which rely heavily on the works of topnotch journalists ... What Smith is selling here are perspective and his powers of analysis — in short, credentialed wisdom ... Bush is not a true biography; it’s a book about the Bush presidency. Smith does not profess to know what makes his subject tick...The readers of Bush will find few answers about George W. Bush’s motives and motivations. In its pages, he is very much a caricature.