John R. MacArthur rss

Robert Moses in 1952

The sadist who wrecked New York, and the last of the great biographers

4 July 2015
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Robert Caro

The Bodley Head, pp.1246, £35, ISBN: 9781847923646

It is something of a mystery why the Bodley Head has decided to publish Robert Caro’s The Power Broker in Britain more than 40 years after the initial appearance in… Read more


The dark comedy of the Senate torture report

21 February 2015

Like many journalists, I’m a bit of a know-it-all — when information is touted as ‘new’, especially in government reports, it sometimes brings out in me the opposite of sincere… Read more

Clinton Bush

Clinton vs Bush — again

26 April 2014

America is much less threatened by right-wing extremists than by the oligarchic rule of the two major political parties. The mainstream right, however, is wedded to the absurd notion that… Read more

President Theodore Roosevelt Photo: Getty

Why is Doris Kearns Goodwin raking up old muck?

14 December 2013
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism Doris Kearns Goodwin

Penguin, pp.928, £20, ISBN: 9780670921003

Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Era are well-worn subjects for both professional and amateur historians, so it’s pertinent to ask why Doris Kearns Goodwin devoted so many words —and her… Read more


Don’t believe the hype: the French still live better than Americans

4 May 2013

In recent months I’ve read at least ten articles about French malaise — all of it apparently due to some mysterious Gallic trait that makes the world’s luckiest people unable… Read more

Salman Rushdie

The friends Rushdie forgot

29 September 2012

One hundred pages into his absorbing new memoir, written entirely in the third person, Salman Rushdie declares that ‘Friendship had always been of great importance to him,’ since so much… Read more


His finest years

16 June 2012
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Volume 4, The Passage of Power Robert A. Caro

Bodley Head, pp.712, 35, ISBN: 9781847922175

Just after 8.50 on Tuesday morning, 26 November 1963, Lyndon Baines Johnson sat down behind the desk in the Oval Office for the first time as President, four days after… Read more


Groupthink and doubletalk

23 October 2010
Obama's Wars: The Inside Story Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster, pp.464, 20

Soon after his historic victory over John McCain, Barack Obama was ushered into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) located deep inside the Federal building in Chicago to receive his… Read more

King and his killer

7 July 2010
Hellhound on his Trail Hampton Sides

Allen Lane, pp.459, 25

In the late days of the Bush administration, it was fashionable among liberals to call George W. Bush the ‘worst’ president since the founding of the republic and to suggest… Read more


Under false colours

5 May 2010
The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama David Remnick

Picador, pp.621, 20

‘With time,’ writes David Remnick, ‘political campaigns tend to be viewed through the triumphalist prism of the winner.’ Never more so, perhaps, than in Remnick’s idolatrous new biography of Barack… Read more