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Bomb Power

The Modern Presidency and the National Security State
Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins

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In Bomb Power, Garry Wills 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 - in ways still felt today.

A masterful reckoning from one of America's preeminent historians, Bomb Power draws a direct line from the Manhattan Project to the usurpations of George W. Bush.

The invention of the atomic bomb was a triumph of official secrecy and military discipline - the project was covertly funded at the behest of the president and, despite its massive scale, never discovered by Congress or the press. This concealment was perhaps to be expected in wartime, but Wills persuasively argues that the Manhattan Project then became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era. The wartime emergency put in place during World War II extended into the Cold War and finally the war on terror, leaving us in a state of continuous war alert for 68 years and counting. The bomb forever changed the institution of the presidency since only the president controls "the button" and, by extension, the fate of the world.

Wills underscores how radical a break this was from the division of powers established by our founding fathers and how it, in turn, has enfeebled Congress and the courts. The bomb also placed new emphasis on the president's military role, creating a cult around the commander in chief. The tendency of modern presidents to flaunt military airs, Wills points out, is entirely a postbomb phenomenon. Wills recounts how, following World War II, presidential power increased decade by decade until reaching its stunning apogee.

©2010 Garry Willis (P)2010 Tantor

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  • Sageeve Prabhakaran
  • 13-12-10

Excellent book.

This book provides us some insight into how the invention of atomic bomb has influenced the nature of the US presidency. I have gone through the audio book a few times and it is really good. Great work from Gary Wills.

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  • stpal001
  • 16-05-14

Origins of the national security state

Would you consider the audio edition of Bomb Power to be better than the print version?

I have no way of knowing since I have not seen the print version.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Bomb Power?

Irrelevant question given the subject matter.

Any additional comments?

The new forced review format does not allow for a meaningful review. As a political science tome, this was an outstanding read.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Lyle Wincentsen
  • 12-05-11

Don't waste a credit on this one

If you like lame conspiracy theories, read this. If you're looking for the most basic facts to support the author's vague implications, or anything resembling arguments backed up by evidence, sorry. I didn't get very far into this one before I had to turn it off. The narrator does a good job of making everything sound ominous, though, so kudos to him for his dramatic intonation.

1 person found this helpful