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Crisis perspectives

Alan Wallace
| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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A term that connotes heightened urgency and vast importance regarding whatever it's applied to, “crisis” probably is overused — but then again, its plain meaning suggests something that's unwise to ignore. Here are new and upcoming titles worthy of attention that deal with contemporary crises of various sorts from different perspectives.

“Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” by Lanny J. Davis (Threshold Editions, available March 5) — The author, a well-known Democrat attorney, commands respect across the political spectrum. Special counsel to Democrat President Bill Clinton, he was among Republican President George W. Bush's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board appointees. And cosponsors of his upcoming D.C., Philadelphia and New York City book-launch events include Ted Olson and David Boies, the opposing Bush v. Gore counsels who joined forces to litigate against California's Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban; fiscal-conservative icon Grover Norquist; and Republican Tom Ridge and Democrat Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governors. In the book, Davis distills mistakes, triumphs and lessons learned while advising Clinton, Martha Stewart, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, Whole Foods and other clients into rules for surviving scandals and salvaging reputations. Noting that silence and denial don't play well in the court of public opinion, he urges those in such straits to get ahead of the media by telling their stories themselves — and in full.

“The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis” by Ben S. Bernanke (Princeton University Press) — Readers who are not fans of the Fed chairman and his Keynesian, fiat-money policies should find as much of interest here are those who are; it's the sort of primary-source book that investors will scrutinize, politicians will seize on, pundits will plunder and generations of scholars will analyze. Based on a series of lectures he gave as part of a George Washington University course last year, the book puts Bernanke on record, in detail, about the Fed's handling of the nation's worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. He also reviews the Fed's century-long history, including the tenures of prior chairmen Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan. Further raising his unusually high public profile and that of the Fed, this book brings what Bernanke said in the classroom to a vastly larger audience; now, it's up to readers of varying political and economic persuasions to make what they will of his behind-the-scenes account.

“Gun Guys: A Road Trip” by Dan Baum (Knopf, available March 5) — Arriving at a post-Newtown moment when talk of a national gun-violence crisis seems louder than ever, this book aims to shed light on Americans' fascination with firearms. Its author, a former New Yorker staff writer, may be uniquely well-suited to understand that fascination and explain it to both Americans who share it and those who don't: He's both a “lifelong gun guy” with a concealed-carry license and a Jewish Democrat who grew up in suburban New Jersey, according to the publisher. He recounts what he learned from visiting gun events and owners across the country, including gun shows and stores, shooting ranges, desert machine-gun gatherings, Texas feral-hog hunts, a Detroit armed-robbery victim advocating armed self-defense and a Chicago killer. It's a fresh approach to firearms issues, bringing everyday Americans' real-world outlooks to prominence in a debate normally dominated by politicians, activists and special interests, and as such, should interest readers, whatever their own stances.

“Obama's Four Horsemen: The Disasters Unleashed by Obama's Reelection” by David Harsanyi (Regnery, available March 4) — If the biblical apocalypse to which this book's title and content allude doesn't bring the thought of crisis to mind, what does? The author, a nationally syndicated Human Events columnist and editor, is pessimistic indeed about America during President Obama's second term.

The “four horsemen” and his rationale for each are debt, which will demolish Americans' standard of living; dependency, pushed by bureaucrats to ruinous extremes that corrupt the citizen-government relationship; surrender, seen in this administration's deference to foreign dictators and apologetic approach to U.S. values, achievements and allies; and death, in the form of taxpayer-subsidized abortion. But it's not all gloom and doom, despite the book's warnings of impending domestic and global upheaval; Harsanyi does cover “what we need to do if we are to have any hope of rising again,” according to the publisher, and Jonah Goldberg says he's “such a happy warrior he's like Genghis Khan on Prozac.”

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or

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