KPFA Special Broadcast, for February 24, 2010 - 1:00pm
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Garry Wills speaks in Berkeley (Feb. 10, 2010) about his latest book, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State. The demands of nuclear weapons policy have poisoned the American polity, according to this unfocused jeremiad. Historian Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) argues that the project of deploying and defending against nuclear weapons transformed America into a national security state mired in permanent semi-emergency, with swollen military forces, unaccountable spy agencies, a Byzantine apparatus of state secrecy, and an empire of overseas bases. Worse, he writes, the aura of bomb power that presidents gleaned from their prerogative to initiate nuclear holocaust made the presidency into an American monarch[y] that sneers at constitutional restraints. Wills's is a provocative and at times insightful analysis of how presidential status and mystique hypertrophied alongside the military-industrial complex.
He has written many acclaimed and bestselling works, including Lincoln at Gettysburg, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, What Jesus Meant, and Head and Heart. His books have received many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. A professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University, Wills is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and other publications.