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Book Title: The Powers That Be|
The author of the book: David Halberstam
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 785 KB
ISBN 13: 9780252069413
Edition: University of Illinois Press
Date of issue: October 19th 2000
Read full description of the books:This week, I finished two books that both merit extremely high praise. One is Andrew Bacevich's most recent study of America's ineptitude at trying to subdue the Greater Middle East, and the second is this book by David Halberstam.
Halberstam's premature death from a car accident in 2007 marked a great loss for American journalism, and thus, I would argue, for America itself. Why did it not cause a greater uproar than it did? Nevertheless, he left behind a monumental library of books analyzing his most famous topic, Vietnam (The Best and the Brightest on the short list of books one must read, perhaps must read twice, to qualify as literate on the subject), baseball (several on wildly successful clubs during different eras of sport), the car industry (The Reckoning), the Korean War (The Coldest Winter)--which solidified for me a dislike of Douglas MacArthur I never expect to overcome.
But in this work, The Powers That Be, Halberstam centers his laser on his own profession: the media. He covers the major newspapers--the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times--the major television empires (CBS especially, charting its ascendancy out of Edward R. Murrow's timeless reportage from London during the Blitz)--and magazines, particularly Time and Life. His technique replicates the template that serves him so well across so many varied subject areas: to very minutely anatomize a handful of personalities. To understand the machine through the machinist. And I have always found Halberstam's instincts unparalleled. In The Best and the Brightest, he was able to divine the depths of men as murky as McNamara and Rusk, Bundy and Westmoreland, and most insightfully, the tortured President Johnson, in a way that served to illuminate motive and the ambush of intentions by reality. In The Powers That Be, he does this again and much more, culminating in his masterful examination of the Watergate crisis and Richard Nixon caught in the beartrap of his own paranoia and unease. Despite having read much about Watergate, and about Nixon, I can attest to feeling myself newly informed. It was a devastating portrait on one level, but ultimately heartening, because ultimately, as Halberstam so cleanly reveals, the system did in fact work and corruption and naked ambition were arrested. But this national tragedy incurred costs that remain with us today, at a time of similarly painful political dysfunction. I wish he were here to diagnose the players, to predict the outcomes.
I cannot recommend this book too highly. It's a tremendous foray into the basic assumption that the First Amendment's provision to protect the freedom of the press, in all its manifestations, is an implicitly healthy one and abandoned only with supreme disregard for the wellsprings of freedom.
Read information about the authorDavid Halberstam (April 10, 1934–April 23, 2007) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author known for his early work on the Vietnam War and his later sports journalism.
Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 and started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, writing for The Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, he covered the beginnings of the American Civil Rights Movement.
In the mid 1960s, Halberstam covered the Vietnam War for The New York Times. While there, he gathered material for his book The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy Era. In 1963, he received a George Polk Award for his reporting at the New York Times. At the age of 30, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the war. He is interviewed in the 1968 documentary film on the Vietnam War entitled In the Year of the Pig.
Halberstam put an enormous effort into his book about Kennedy's foreign policy decisions about the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest. Synthesizing material from dozens of books and many dozens of interviews, Halberstam focused on the odd paradox that those who crafted the U.S. war effort in Vietnam were some of the most intelligent, well-connected and self-confident men in America—"the best and the brightest"—and yet those same men were unable to imagine and promote any but a bloody and disastrous course in the Vietnam War.
Thousands of readers began The Best and the Brightest feeling that the U.S. must pursue the war in Vietnam until "victory" was achieved, but became convinced by Halberstam's book that the U.S. could not win and therefore should withdraw from Vietnam.
After publication of The Best and the Brightest in 1972, Halberstam plunged right into another "big" book and in 1979 published an informative book about some of the major media outlets in America. The Powers That Be gave compelling profiles of men like William Paley of CBS, Henry Luce of Time magazine, Phil Graham of The Washington Post—and many others.
Later in his career, Halberstam turned to the subjects of sports, publishing The Breaks of the Game, an inside look at the Bill Walton and the 1978 Portland Trailblazers basketball team; an ambitious book on Michael Jordan in 1999 called Playing for Keeps; and on the pennant race battle between the Yankees and Red Sox called Summer of '49.
After publishing two books in the 1960s, Halberstam published three books in the 1970s, four books in the 1980s, and six books in the 1990s. He published four books in the 2000s and was on a pace to publish six or more books in that decade before his death. In the wake of 9/11, Halberstam wrote perhaps the most sensitive and insightful book about that tragedy, detailing Engine 40, Ladder 35, in the tome, Firehouse.
In 1980, an escaped convict from New York, Bernard C. Welch, Jr., murdered Halberstam's brother, Michael J. Halberstam, a Washington, D.C. cardiologist. Halberstam refused to comment publicly about this incident.
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