... a meticulous deep dive into all things Trump and Kushner. A veteran investigative reporter with WNYC radio, NPR’s New York affiliate, Bernstein brings a keen eye for financial flimflam and the tectonics that buffet American politics ... the book is laden with original reporting and primary sources ... At times, Bernstein’s sentiments color her indictment ... Bernstein also does justice to Trump’s investments, his brushes with the law and the near-prosecution of his children by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. On that score, American Oligarchs picks up where Bernstein’s earlier reporting left off.
... ambitious ... Bernstein at her narrative best [is] reportorial, pointed and unsparing, while reinforcing her theme that the Trumps and the Kushners are ruthless, cold, power hungry and endlessly ambitious ... But it is also true that Bernstein has picked a most difficult topic to probe for new insights. So much has been written already about the Trumps and the Kushners — and not just in the four-plus years since Donald Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower spewing vitriol and hate — that to add new material to that grotesque canon is an exceptionally challenging task for any reporter, even one as diligent as Bernstein. While American Oligarchs is a rich and highly readable compendium, one does not finish it and think, 'I’ve just been bedazzled and infuriated anew.' Rather, the experience of consuming this book is more along the lines of reading an encyclopedia of many of the hateful things we already know, or think we know, about these two families ... I, for one, would have loved a far more detailed and anecdote-filled treatment of the Christie-Kushner feud, among others, than the one Bernstein provides.
There are now dozens, perhaps scores, of Trump-inspired and Trump-infused books on the market. Most are screeds, tales of scandal and infidelity, with tax evasion and crudity mixed in. They comprise a modern genre. American Oligarchs occupies this space, to be sure, but Bernstein’s account is written with more grace than its cousins, and more care — sometimes even caution ... Early in Bernstein’s tale we encounter the modern origins of the Kushners, their Polish shtetl roots and the slaughter of many of them at the hands of the Nazis. It is an affecting, poignant story, told well and without the facile irony — struggling family in merciless mid-century war turns into crooked family in late-century New Jersey —that a less accomplished writer might employ ... Bernstein displays deep understanding of these two families, and how the progeny had social status the parents lacked but coveted ... The irony of books like this one — and books defending the president, even the one by his own son — is that they reinforce views rather than reshape them. Then again, that is what contemporary media, and contemporary conversation, do every day. In the end, American Oligarchs is the American conversation in hardcover.