James Mann is a rare bird among Washington foreign-policy journalists: He combines complete mastery of the topic with an elegant writing style that focuses the reader's attention on the story, not his elegance. His new book, "The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power" (Viking, $26.95), follows the mold of his 2004 "The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet," weaving the multiple players and forces of a White House administration into a cohesive narrative.
Mr. Mann portrays Mr. Obama's youngish, slightly outsiderish new foreign policy team as given to hyperbole over their man's transformative role, and perhaps sometimes too eager to shake off Vietnam as a historical guidepost. But partisans would have trouble finding slant or spin here: James Mann has provided an essential text for understanding the fast-moving global events of the past few years and how the United States is playing its new critical role.
James Mann will be speaking in Pittsburgh on July 10 at a World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh luncheon event, noon to 1:45 at The Duquesne Club, Downtown. For details and registration: 412-281-7970 or worldpittsburgh.org.