CLBR #322: Michael Beschloss on Presidents and War

Famed Historian Michael Beschloss
Presidents of War


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We continue our 2018 Miami Book Fair series with award-winning Presidential historian Michael Beschloss and his new book “Presidents of War.”

Presidents of War focuses on President Jefferson who avoided war and believed

I think one war enough for the life of one man, and you and I have gone through one which at least may less our impatience to embark on another.

As well as eight of his successors who led us to war – Presidents Madison, Polk, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson.

A marvelous narrative. . . . As Beschloss explains, the greatest wartime presidents successfully leaven military action with moral concerns. . . . Beschloss’s writing is clean and concise, and he admirably draws upon new documents. Some of the more titillating tidbits in the book are in the footnotes. . . . There are fascinating nuggets on virtually every page of Presidents of War. It is a superb and important book, superbly rendered.

Jay Winik, The New York Times Book Review

Conflict and war played an essential role in the accumulation of presidential power, as Michael Beschloss explains in his magisterial book. . . . Presidents of War, 10 years in the making, is on an epic scale.  It looks at leadership from every angle: communication, the critical relationship with Congress, the treatment of civil liberties and the role of the (often formidable) presidential spouse.

—Lionel Barber, Financial Times

Michael Beschloss

Tw: @BeschlossDC

Michael Beschloss is the author of nine books on presidential history, including, most recently, the New York Times bestsellers Presidential Courage and The Conquerors, as well as two volumes on Lyndon Johnson’s White House tapes.  He was also editor of the number-one global bestseller Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. He is the NBC News Presidential Historian and a PBS NewsHour contributor and has received an Emmy and six honorary degrees.

His books include:

  • Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance (1980); started as Beschloss’s senior honors thesis at Williams College
  • Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev and the U-2 Affair (1986)
  • Eisenhower: A Centennial Life (1990)
  • The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (1991)
  • At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (1993); with Strobe Talbott.
  • Taking Charge (1997) and Reaching for Glory (2001), edited transcriptions of Lyndon B. Johnson’s conversations, as captured by his taping system, with historical annotation and commentary. A third Johnson volume is forthcoming.
  • The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945 (2002) was a New York Times bestseller for several months and was Amazon’s bestselling history book of the year.
  • Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989 (2007) was a New York Times bestseller for several months and was a #1 Washington Post bestseller.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy(2011), introduced and annotated by Beschloss, was a #1 New York Times bestseller.