PositiveThe Washington Post... gives a brisk and engaging account of the effort to hold Vice President Spiro Agnew criminally accountable, and it sheds light on the challenges — legal, moral, political — of treating presidents and vice presidents like every other citizen ... Media personalities tend to favor history built on baseless conspiracy theories...In Bag Man, however, Maddow and Yarvitz adopt a more trenchant approach, basing their storytelling on archival research and oral histories that yield fresh details about the ordeal confronting prosecutors investigating Agnew’s abuses of power ... At times, though, the Agnew-as-Trump analogy is overwrought. The authors give Agnew too much credit for innovating a brand of politics that owed as much, if not more, to the era’s grass-roots conservative mobilization, the growing influence of far-right media, and leaders even more influential than Agnew such as Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, George Wallace, Phyllis Schlafly and Newt Gingrich. (Also left unaddressed is whether Agnew might have survived in office had Fox News and Twitter existed to defend him in the early 1970s) ... Some of the writing tends toward the glib ... is also partial to a good-and-evil theme that crowds out nuance and reflects the limits of turning partisan cable television and podcasting into sober-minded historical analysis ... Nonetheless, this fast-paced and well-researched book underscores how the nation’s legal and political systems struggle to hold the most powerful elected leaders responsible for their crimes.
David E Hoffman
PositiveThe Washington Post\"... unsettling ... The Dead Hand argues convincingly that America\'s victory in the Cold War wasn\'t nearly as triumphant as the most self-congratulatory among us have tended to believe ... Hoffman\'s book is a chillingly modern historical tale about a collective failure with lasting consequences ... The Dead Hand at times veers too quickly from stories of spies to politicians and to scientists and varied weapons facilities, and its portrait of Reagan is surprisingly benign.\
RaveThe Washington Post\"Presidents of War is a significant feat of historical synthesis. Beschloss is a deft researcher and a first-rate storyteller, and his book draws from not only other scholarship but also from diaries, memos, tapes and interviews to construct a pointillist canvas that plumbs the hopes, ideals, fears and delusions that prompted some presidents to lead the country into armed conflict. Rather than a paean to presidential courage in the tradition of Stephen Ambrose, Presidents of War is a sober-minded analysis that stresses the ways presidents wielded deception as a weapon ... The idea that presidents have acquired imperial power, especially in war, is a familiar concept. Yet Presidents of War provides a deep history of how chief executives since the early 19th century have waged war under confused circumstances and often with secret motives ... As this fine book demonstrates, the Constitution, for all its virtues, has proved unable to check presidents who become bent on waging war. Most of the wars described here were grounded in deception and, arguably, were unjust wars of choice. Beschloss drives this point home in his disquieting study.\
PositiveThe Washington PostThis deeply researched book is written with verve, and serves as a study in the messy intricacies of nuclear doctrine and the utter incapacity of humans to faithfully control awesome arsenals of unfathomable destructive force ... This \'Reagan-centric\' view of how the Cold War ended is part of a growing trend in scholarship. But it tends to shortchange Mikhail Gorbachev’s arguably more influential role in winding down the Cold War, as well as decades-long developments...in explaining the decline of the Soviet-U.S. standoff. Nonetheless, Ambinder shows Reagan and his team moving deliberately and thoughtfully to ease tensions in the wake of the war scare, contributing to our understanding of Reagan’s role in this milestone. At times, The Brink moves so quickly from scene to scene and involves so many characters, plotlines and acronyms (SIOP, RYAN, NMCC) that the arc of the story can be hard to track; the themes of the book get obscured in the whipsaw-like narration. Ultimately, however, The Brink conveys not just the causes of the 1983 war scare but also how control of nuclear weaponry is inherently a flawed human undertaking.
David J. Barron
RaveThe Washington Post...provides a trenchant counterargument to the idea that wartime presidents are pretty much omnipotent ... With an ambitious sweep and brimming with subtle insights, Waging War is a deep history and a thoughtful inquiry into how the constitutional system of checks and balances has functioned when it comes to waging war and making peace. Barron’s argument — bolstered by a sure grasp of constitutional debates and the ongoing struggles pitting the executive against the legislative and judicial branches — is both surprising and oddly reassuring. Members of Congress in particular would do well to absorb it.