What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Ran Washington

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Updated 27 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Ran Washington

Edited by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

In The Man Who Ran Washington, veteran reporters Peter Baker (no relation) and Susan Glasser, a husband-and-wife team, offer an illuminating biographical portrait of James Baker, one that describes the arc of his career and, along the way, tells readers something about how executive power is wielded in the US capital.

“This is a biography any would-be power broker must own: The story of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III, the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

Samatha Power, former US ambassador to the UN, said in a review for The New York Times: “Given Baker’s legendary reserve, one of the most touching parts of the book is its examination of the deep, humorous and also rivalrous friendship he maintained with former US President George H. W. Bush. The relationship, which began on the Houston tennis courts, ended up defining both of their lives.”

Power is the author of The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir.

What We Are Reading Today: Privilege and Punishment by Matthew Clair

Updated 27 November 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Privilege and Punishment by Matthew Clair

The number of Americans arrested, brought to court, and incarcerated has skyrocketed in recent decades. Criminal defendants come from all races and economic walks of life, but they experience punishment in vastly different ways. Privilege and Punishment examines how racial and class inequalities are embedded in the attorney-client relationship, providing a devastating portrait of inequality and injustice within and beyond the criminal courts.

Matthew Clair conducted extensive fieldwork in the Boston court system, attending criminal hearings and interviewing defendants, lawyers, judges, police officers, and probation officers. In this eye-opening book, he uncovers how privilege and inequality play out in criminal court interactions.

When disadvantaged defendants try to learn their legal rights and advocate for themselves, lawyers and judges often silence, coerce, and punish them. Privileged defendants, who are more likely to trust their defense attorneys, delegate authority to their lawyers, defer to judges, and are rewarded for their compliance.

Clair shows how attempts to exercise legal rights often backfire on the poor and on working-class people of color, and how effective legal representation alone is no guarantee of justice.

Superbly written and powerfully argued, Privilege and Punishment draws needed attention to the injustices that are perpetuated by the attorney-client relationship in today’s criminal courts, and describes the reforms needed to correct them.