Walter Isaacson

Form and Fortune

Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 627 pp., $35) I. In 2010, Der Spiegel published a glowing profile of Steve Jobs, then at the helm of Apple. Jobs’s products are venerated in Germany, especially by young bohemian types. Recently, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg presented an exhibition of Apple’s products, with the grandiloquent subtitle “On Electro-Design that Makes History”—a good indication of the country’s infatuation with the company.

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Strategist and Scourge

George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.

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[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner]  “He is book smart.” “She has people smarts.” “He isn’t intellectually intelligent.” “She has no emotional intelligence." These phrases are all familiar because, as observers of other people, most of us do our best to define brain type as well as brain power. Particular varieties of intelligence are easy to recognize and difficult to precisely explain.

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Rahm Emanuel to The New York Times, 11/10/2009: "Let's be honest. The goal isn’t to see whether I can pass this [health care reform] through the executive board of the Brookings Institution. I’m passing it through the United States Congress with people who represent constituents.” Dear Rahm, It may surprise you to learn that many of us here at Brookings like politics as much as you do, and some of us even know something about it. But we don’t understand it exactly the way you do. Yes, politics is the art of the possible. But leadership is the art of expanding the possible.

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Board to Death

To the frustration of many a cabinet secretary, the Obama administration is a little behind on its appointments. At this point—with only five weeks to go before the Senate breaks for recess—a little over half of the 514 positions that need filling have been filled. Some jobs are really important: The nominee for the Office of Legal Counsel has been held up for months. Obama’s choice for a USAID director came down just today. U.S. attorney nominations have slowed to a crawl. Other jobs?

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HIS EXCELLENCYGEORGE WASHINGTON By Joseph J. Ellis (Alfred A. Knopf, 320 pp., $26.95) GILBERT STUARD(Metropolitan Museum of Art) Everyone keeps wondering why over the past decade or so there have been so many books on the Founders, that remarkable generation of men who led the American Revolution and framed the Constitution. Joseph J. Ellis is surely one of the explanations: he has been a one-man historical machine.

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