Monday, February 27, 2023

The Peaceful Transfer of Power: An Oral History of America's Presidential Transitions (David Marchick, Alexander Tippett, and A.J. Wilson)

The transition of the American presidency from one administration to another has been a peaceful, if not always smooth nor efficient, process where one President and their staff leave the White House and a new administration is set up to take their place. Ronald Reagan called this process nothing less than a miracle given you have just over 70 days between Election Day and January 20th to set up a wholly new administration and be ready to run on Day 1. Over 4000 political appointees are brought in to replace the prior administration’s crew of appointees. It’s a huge task and comes with risk to our nation’s security. 

David Marchick, Alexander Tippett, and A.J. Wilson interviewed several individuals who studied historical presidential transfers of power, as well as current government officials responsible for it, in The Peaceful Transfer of Power: An Oral History of America’s Presidential Transitions. The book provides a historical look at how the transfer of presidential power has evolved over time, how nominated candidates for the White House are now beginning the process of setting up their administration months in advance of Election Day (win or lose), and how the best laid plans for transition of power can be tossed into a dumpster at the whim of a winning candidate’s inner circle.

These interviews share much about the lessons learned with modern presidential transitions, as well as provide important insights about how involved and detailed the process of setting up a new government in a short period of time really is. The Peaceful Transfer of Power reminds readers that the presidency is a serious job and requires the right planning, support, and leadership from the presidential candidate and their inner circle to effectively transition…and even then, it won’t be perfect.


Friday, February 10, 2023

The Forest of Vanishing Stars (Kristin Harmel)

For me, the gold standard for World War II novels in the historical fiction genre are Krisin Hannah's The Nightingale and Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key. By gold standard, I'm talking about books that leave a mark on your soul. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is my first introduction to author Kristin Harmel. It's a worthwhile read but one that doesn't quite match the profundity of the other two books I mentioned.

The story begins with a very young Yona being kidnapped from her German parents by a very old woman. She is raised in the forest and left completely alone when the woman dies. But that changes when she comes across a group of Jews in the forest who are trying to escape the Nazi regime. Yona teaches the group what she knows about living in the forest until her past comes back to haunt her in a big way.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars is well-researched (as the author note describes) and inspired by true events. There are times when it is very moving and suspenseful. The love stories interspersed between the stories of survival take away from the novel a bit for me, but it is still worh reading. I will definitely read more by this author.