cover image The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House

The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House

Chris Whipple. Scribner, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0643-0

Journalist Whipple follows up The Spymasters with a fascinating insider’s account of the first two years of the Biden administration. Drawing on interviews with Biden, chief of staff Ron Klain, and others, Whipple provides a balanced assessment of the administration’s successes and failures as it dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and more. A detailed look at the unprecedented transition process, complicated by Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat, reveals how much the peaceful transfer of power hinged on one largely unknown figure, deputy chief of staff Christopher Liddell, who stayed away from the Oval Office to avoid being asked questions by Trump. Whipple also sheds light on the ongoing debate over who’s responsible for the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, quoting Klain’s rebuke of criticisms leveled by former defense secretary Leon Panetta and others: “I’m waiting for the first person who held a position of power in a previous administration... to say, ‘You know what? Maybe we didn’t do our jobs of making sure the taxpayers got what they paid for.’ ” Distinguished by Whipple’s impressive access and incisive character sketches, this is a valuable first draft of history. (Jan.)