Wednesday, January 14, 2009

T R or Takeover

T. R.: The Last Romantic

Author: H W Brands

In his time, there was no more popular national figure than Theodore Roosevelt. It was not just the energy he brought to every political office he held or his unshakable moral convictions that made him so popular, or even his status as a bonafide war hero—the man who led the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. Most important, Theodore Roosevelt was loved by the people because this scion of a privileged New York family loved America and Americans.And yet, according to Bill Brands, if we look at the private Roosevelt without blinders, we see a man whose great public strengths hid enormous personal deficiencies. His highly exaggerated, and often uncompromising ways drove many of his business and personal friends crazy. His historical writings, which Brands quotes from extensively, are nothing if not a portrait of a boy’s endless macho fantasies. He was often so full of himself that his speeches and writings were the frequent subject of fierce satire in their time.Even more revealing, according to Brands, was Roosevelt as son, brother, husband, and father. According to Brands, to understand both the public and private Roosevelt one must understand the impact of his father’s death while he was still a child, denying him the opportunity to come to terms with his own manhood. When his first wife Alice died of complications from childbirth, leaving behind a baby daughter Alice, his response was to run away to shoot Buffalo in the west, leaving the newborn infant to the care of his unmarried sister Bamie. When his second wife Edith was seriously, perhaps fatally ill, he left her to fight in the Spanish-American war. His only concern when hisbrother Elliot, who had been his only friend as a child, became an alcoholic was to hide the news from the public. Determined that his four sons would not dishonor his belief that men, to achieve their manhood, must test themselves in war, he arranged for each to serve, often in the frontlines, during WWI. His youngest son Quentin would die in that cause.Beautifully written, powerfully moved by its subject, TR is nonetheless a biography more appropriate to today’s critical times.

Read also Charlie Trotters Desserts or Way to Make Wine

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy

Author: Charlie Savag

In 1789, the Founding Fathers came up with a system of checks and balances to keep kingly powers out of the hands of American presidents. But in the 1970s and '80s, a faction of Republican loyalists, outraged by the fall of them imperial presidency after Watergate and the Vietnam War, abandoned conservatives' traditional suspicion of concentrated government power. These men hatched a plot that would allow the White House to return to, or even surpass, the virtually unchecked powers that Richard Nixon had briefly tried to wield. Congress would be defanged, and the commander in chief would be able to assert a unilateral dominance both at home and abroad.

Today, this plot is coming to fruition. As Takeover reveals, the Bush-Cheney administration has succeeded in seizing vast powers for the presidency by throwing off many of the restraints placed upon it by Congress, the courts, and the Constitution. Charlie Savage's timely book unveils the secret machinations behind the headlines, explaining the links between warrantless wiretapping and President Bush's Supreme Court nominees, between the unprecedented politicization of the Justice Department and the torture debate, between the White House's use of "signing statements" to assert a right to defy new laws and its efforts to impose greater control over career military JAG lawyers, and between the secrecy surrounding Vice President Cheney's energy task force and the holding of U.S. citizens without trial as "enemy combatants." It tells, for the first time, the full story of a hidden agenda three decades in the making, laying out how a group of true believers undertook to establish monarchical executive powers that, in the words of one conservative critic, "will lie around like a loaded weapon," ready to be picked up by any future president--liberal or conservative.

Brilliantly reported and deftly told, Takeover is a searing investigation into how the constitutional balance of our democracy is in danger of being permanently altered. For anyone who cares about America's past, present, and future, it is essential reading.

The Washington Post - James Bamford

In his illuminating and biting new book, Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage shows how Cheney has emerged as Bush's Richelieu, the most powerful vice president in history.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

…important reading for anyone interested in how the current administration has amped up presidential power while trying to undermine Congress's powers of oversight and the independence of the judiciary. Many aspects of this subject have been examined in newspaper and magazine articles and earlier books, and Mr. Savage leans heavily at times on the work of other reporters as well as his own groundbreaking work for The Globe, owned by The New York Times Company. But this volume is distinguished by his ability to pull together myriad story lines into a succinct, overarching narrative that is energized by his own legal legwork and interviews with key figures like John C. Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general, and Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to the first President Bush.

The New York Times Book Review - Emily Bazelon

Savage, the national legal affairs writer for The Boston Globe…has a real gift for amassing detail so as to reveal the thread that connects separate news stories. Savage is particularly good on the subject for which he won a Pulitzer Prize: presidential signing statements.

Publishers Weekly

Savage, who won a Pulitzer for his Boston Globearticles about the signing statements George W. Bush used to negate legislation limiting presidential authority, gives that issue a key part in this account of the Bush administration's efforts to increase executive power. Covering constitutional issues as well as the political backgrounds of former White House attorneys like Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, this detailed report traces their concerted effort, from the moment Bush took office in 2001, to "[leave] the presidency in better shape than he [Bush] found it." The authorization to use force against Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg. Bush has already gone so far as to declare himself able to negate treaties with other nations at will, Savage reports. He also demonstrates how many of the administration's most controversial acts have their roots in Dick Cheney's experiences in the Nixon and Ford administrations. This incisive analysis of congressional and judicial efforts to check the administration's power grabs adds up to a searing indictment. (Sept. 5)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Table of Contents:
Inside the Bunker     3
The Fall of the Imperial Presidency and the Rise of Dick Cheney: 1789-1976     10
"A Cabal of Zealots": 1977-2000     38
The Agenda     70
"Behind Closed Doors": Secrecy I     85
The Unleashing: Laws and Treaties I     119
"A Hollow Shell": Secrecy II     160
Pushback and Purge: Laws and Treaties II     177
The Torture Ban     209
Power of the Pen: Signing Statements     228
"To Say What the Law Is": The Supreme Court     250
Centralize and Control: The Executive Branch     279
The Politics of Presidential Power     308
Afterword     331
Acknowledgments     351
Notes     353
Index     403

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