In the Corridors of Power by ProQuest


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									winter                                                                           Books
                                                   In the
                                                  of Power
                                                      By Jacob Heilbrunn

           EW DECISIONS of an incoming President are more            served under Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Rea-
            fateful than the Cabinet he selects. George W. Bush’s    gan, and both Bushes, the author was a veteran Washington
            Presidency was crippled from the outset by his pick-     hand, as familiar with the world of think tanks as he was with
            ing Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary, much        government. Mild-mannered and affable, he was a conserv-
            as John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were ill-       ative in the best sense of the word—the opposite, that is, of an
served by Robert S. McNamara in that post. Barack Obama’s            ideological zealot. He approached foreign policy in a spirit of
choices, including naming Hillary Rodham Clinton secretary           detached inquiry. His absorbing and informative book should
of state and retaining Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon, have         be required reading for both students of foreign policy and gov-
evoked visions of a new “team of rivals” he will have to master      ernment officials.
or else witness the descent of his Administration into squab-            As Rodman recounts, he first became interested in the sub-
bling factions. Every President makes his selections partly on       ject in the early 1960s at Harvard, where he studied with Henry
the basis of perceived merit and partly to placate various con-      Kissinger and imbibed the principles of realpolitik. He went on
stituencies, among them big business, women’s organizations          to work for Kissinger at the National Security Council (NSC)
and ethnic groups. The nominees themselves are now subject-          and helped draft his memoirs. One of the most valuable parts
ed to unprecedented scrutiny; they are required to divulge the       of Rodman’s discussion is his analysis of the NSC’s develop-
most intimate details about their personal and financial lives to    ment. Truman, who had approved its creation, realized some
a team of vetters who try to shield the incoming President from      sort of organization was necessary to coordinate the various
any potentially embarrassing findings. But these intrusive in-       agencies that had arisen during and immediately after World
quiries have not deterred many office-seekers. The chance to         War II. Rodman observes that it did not really become an inde-
work in the corridors of power and influence the President           pendent power center until McGeorge Bundy was appointed
seems to have lost little of its allure, perhaps because the new     Kennedy’s national security adviser. Kennedy was determined
Obama Administration is predicated on the notion of sweeping         to avoid what he perceived as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s mistake:
change rather than continuity with the past.                         becoming a captive of the bureaucracy. To seize the initiative,
    Two new books, Peter W. Rodman’s Presidential Command:           Rodman reports, Kennedy hired a group later dubbed “action
Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from             intellectuals” to ensure that bold policies were rammed past
Richard Nixon to George W. Bush (Knopf, 368 pp., $26.95),            the ossified bureaucrats.
and Gordon M. Goldstein’s Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge                  Rodman also points out that under Bundy’s erstwhile pro-
Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam (Times/Holt, 300 pp.,           tégé, Kissinger, the NSC reached the apogee of its strength.
$25.00), offer a sharp picture of the extent to which advisers       Like Kennedy, Kissinger and Nixon wanted to outflank 
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