Former special counsel to Bill Clinton examines 2016 election

  • Kirkus Reviews
12:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 Insight and Books
“The Unmaking of the President 2016” by Lanny J. Davis

Lanny J. Davis, former special counsel to former President Bill Clinton, takes on the 2016 election and James Comey’s effect on the outcome in “The Unmaking of the President 2016.”

According to Davis (“Close-Up: Twelve Months at Yale,” 2017), the negative effect is indisputable, and he has the data, compiled both before and well after the election, to back up his claims. While he occasionally tumbles into legal jargon, he provides compelling criticism of the FBI, The New York Times, and others. The seed was sown on March 3, 2015, when the Times published a story about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account at the State Department. Davis shows how there was a precedent and that the account was legal and never hacked. It was eventually proven that none of the 55,000 emails were marked as classified; they were also never “missing.” The legislation requiring submission of records within 60 days of leaving office was amended after Clinton left the State Department, and 50,000 pages were submitted within one month of the change. The author next follows the statements and letters of Comey. The tumult over the March story died down until the Times published another story in late July claiming that two officials within the intelligence community recommended a “criminal referral” concerning Clinton’s handling of the emails; that story was based on a leak. The officials released a joint public statement contradicting the Times story, and the FBI quietly opened a criminal investigation. Comey’s statements about the investigation(s) were, in the words of a former prosecutor who worked for him, “an unprecedented public announcement by a non-prosecutor that there would be no prosecution.” Indeed, he violated several long-standing Department of Justice practices of never confirming or denying existence of an investigation and to do nothing in the 60 days prior to a presidential election. The author’s epilogue, “It’s Time for an Impeachment and Twenty-Fifth Amendment Investigation,” is surprisingly calming.

Lapsed Trump supporters might well open their minds to this attorney’s scholarly, entirely convincing proof of the damage done.

“How to Stop Time” by Matt Haig

Time and the human condition

In Matt Haig’s new novel “How to Stop Time,” a man of extraordinarily long life deals with a painfully ordinary question: What is it we live for?

Tom Hazard, though he has gone by many names, has an unusual condition that makes him age exceptionally slowly — he’s more than 400 years old in 2017 but looks a mere 40-something. Tragic events taught him early that his seeming agelessness is a lightning rod for witch hunters and the dangerously suspicious in all eras. For protection, he belongs to the Albatross Society, a secret organization led by Hendrich, an ancient, charismatic man who’s highly protective of his members and aggressive about locating and admitting other “albas” into the group. After assisting Hendrich in one such quest, Tom starts a new life in London; he’s haunted by memories of his previous life there in the early 1600s, when he had to leave his wife and young child to ensure their safety. He’s losing hope that Hendrich will help him find his daughter, who he’s learned shares his condition. He muddles through his days until he meets a French teacher who claims she recognizes his face. Unraveling that mystery will lead Tom to re-examine his deeply etched pessimism. Meanwhile, readers are treated to memories of his past, including encounters with Shakespeare, Capt. Cook, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Tom sometimes wallows overmuch about the changelessness of the human condition, and one might be forgiven for wondering why so much time has not done more to heal his oldest wounds. But Haig skillfully enlivens Tom’s history with spare, well-chosen detail, making much of the book transporting.

This is an engaging story framed by a brooding meditation on time and meaning.

(Haig will speak and sign copies of his book starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)