Content: This campaign biography of Illinois senator Barack Obama intertwines the personal and political in a package that shows why he is a formidable presidential candidate, despite his inexperience.
Gist: Obama sets up straw men and straw arguments and offers thin liberal policy gruel, yet those who read this well-written book will understand why he draws enthusiastic crowds. He seems likable and he writes comfortably about subjects such as the intersection of faith and politics. But his triangulations would all lead to more government.
Content: Lawyer and Supreme Court reporter Greenburg explains why Republican dominance of the presidency over the past 40 years hasn't resulted in a more conservative Supreme Court.
Gist: The Supreme Court is a personality-driven institution. In this well-written account Greenburg details the nominations, confirmations, and inner workings, based on interviews and Justice Blackmun's notes. Those who appreciate biblical irony ("he who digs a pit will fall into it") will enjoy her discussion of recent Democratic filibusters that ended up elevating Samuel Alito.
Content: Gabriel believes the West is complacent about the threat posed by radical Islam. She learned while growing up Christian in Lebanon that Islamofascists are serious-and if we want to survive we better take them seriously.
Gist: Political correctness makes it hard to understand "the enemy reality: murder and death of 'infidels' by any means for the glory of Allah." She speaks with the passion of a survivor who has seen death and destruction firsthand-and doesn't want America to suffer the same future as Lebanon.
Content: Oren, a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, tells the fascinating story of America's 230-year-long encounter with Muslims and Israel.
Gist: Filled with thoughtful predictions-U.S. Grant visited the impoverished Holy Land in 1878 and recognized that improved agricultural methods could make it "feed all that portion of the Mediterranean"-and spritely descriptions: "Alternatively foppish and unkempt, garrulous and tight-lipped, [Thomas Jefferson] claimed to be a man of the people while cloistered in his splendorous Monticello estate."
One of the most revealing portraits in Greenburg's Supreme Conflict is of Clarence Thomas. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Thomas is not an intellectual lightweight who merely follows Antonin Scalia's lead. In the early days it was more common for Scalia to change his mind and agree with Thomas than the other way around.
Greenburg portrays Thomas as inoculated against popular opinion and fond of the Litany of Humility, which includes these petitions: "O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus . . . From the desire of being extolled . . . From the desire of being honored . . . From the desire of being praised . . . From the desire of being preferred to others . . . From the desire of being consulted . . . From the desire of being approved . . . From the fear of being humiliated . . . From the fear of being despised . . . From the fear of suffering rebukes . . . From the fear of being calumniated . . . From the fear of being forgotten . . . From the fear of being ridiculed . . . From the fear of being wronged . . . From the fear of being suspected . . ."