Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

by Garry Wills


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A groundbreaking examination of how the atomic bomb profoundly altered the nature of American democracy.

Look out for a new book from Garry Wills, What the Qur'an Meant, coming fall 2017.

In Bomb Power, bestselling author Garry Wills presents a blistering critique of excessive executive power and official secrecy, drawing a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush. He reveals how the atomic bomb transformed our nation down to its deepest constitutional roots-by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state-leaving us in a state of continuous war alert for nearly seven decades. Bold and incisive, Bomb Power casts the history of the postwar period in a new light and sounds an alarm about the continued threat to our Constitution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143118688
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 798,793
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Garry Wills is a historian and the author of the New York Times bestsellers What Jesus MeantPapal SinWhy I Am a Catholic, and Why Priests?, among others. A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications, Wills is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Date of Birth:

May 22, 1934

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, GA


St. Louis University, B.A., 1957; Xavier University, M.A., 1958; Yale University, Ph.D., 1961

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Persuasive...elegantly argued."
-Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review

"A powerful-and sobering-account of the step-by-step creation of government structures, unaccountable to Congress or the people, to conduct 'permanent war in peace.'"
-The Boston Globe

"Bomb Power is pungent, confident, fluid, steeped in learning."
-Vanity Fair

"Written in Wills' characteristically accessible style, Bomb Power is a well-argued denunciation of our constitutional gatekeepers that is as sad and fascinating as an account of the decline of the Roman republic. ... [Wills's] credentials as a historian are impeccable. His breadth of knowledge is awe inspiring, but he never goes over the reader's head: He is a scholar with the heart of a journalist."
-The Miami Herald

"Deeply thought-provoking... A prolific author of astonishing range, Wills...offers a forceful indictment of the 43rd president, and even more of his vice president, Dick Cheney."
-The San Francisco Chronicle

-The Los Angeles Times

"As usual with Wills, provocatively argued and elegantly written."

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Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JPotestivo More than 1 year ago
Concise, well researched and hard-hitting, Wills' "Bomb Power" is an engaging read from start to finish. Though the book takes aim at an oft-written about time and subject - the post-war presidency and the nuclear age - it manages to find an (to my knowledge) original thesis; the executive secrecy which gave birth to the atom bomb, and the grant of sole custody of its product and that product's heirs to the president, launched an Article II power grab that culminated in the disastrous George W. Bush presidency. Wills takes no prisoners from the post-war presidential roster roasting Kennedy and Reagan alike. While the construction flirts with redundancy in the books final chapters, it's well worth it. Writing for the February 2010 issue of Harpers, editor Roger Hodge wishes Wills didn't let up on the young Obama presidency as he seems to do, but I got the impression that he is willing to simply add chapters as the information comes in. For Wills the dye was cast at Los Alamos and its up to the other two branches of our government to reclaim the powers ceded to the executive over the past 60-years. The president, be he actor, farmer, statesman or professor, in Wills' account seems capable of acting, but incapable of acting differently.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
True words. Garry Wills is probably the most under-appreciated historian working today. His previous books are intense, provocative and intellectually bulletproof; this latest one is no exception. His thesis in "Bomb Power" is that the advent of the nuclear age irrevocably changed the nature of executive power in America, tilting it towards an imperial presidency, a state of perpetual war, and a corrosive dependence on secrecy. That David Hoffman can win a Pulitzer ("The Dead Hand") while Garry Wills' exposé on nuclear politics drifts by virtually unnoticed is a testimony to the power of confirmation bias with respect to the former and to the unwelcome nature of truth with respect to the latter (or vice versa, depending on how ideologically blinkered a reader might be).To be fair, "Bomb Power" isn't a work of investigative journalism. There are no new revelations here (at least not for those familiar with the various legacies of deceit that trail our federal government like slug slime). What Wills has done is to give a clear and unifying context within which to view old scandals and betrayals; i.e., as part of a pattern of erosion in which Congress's constitutional role is continually being subverted and diminished.
dbeveridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating account of the rise of the imperial presidency and the security state as a function of the development of the atomic bomb. A warning to all who feel that a change in administrations means a change in the balance of power.
Brian Jones More than 1 year ago
As it should be. More about executive power than the bomb but good read nonetheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago