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Haunting Legacy

by Deborah Kalb Marvin Kalb

The United States had never lost a war--that is, until 1975, when it was forced to flee Saigon in humiliation after losing to what Lyndon Johnson called a "raggedy-ass little fourth-rate country." The legacy of this first defeat has haunted every president since, especially on the decision of whether to put "boots on the ground" and commit troops to war.In Haunting Legacy, the father-daughter journalist team of Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb presents a compelling, accessible, and hugely important history of presidential decisionmaking on one crucial issue: in light of the Vietnam debacle, under what circumstances should the United States go to war? The sobering lesson of Vietnam is that the United States is not invincible--it can lose a war--and thus it must be more discriminating about the use of American power. Every president has faced the ghosts of Vietnam in his own way, though each has been wary of being sucked into another unpopular war. Ford (during the Mayaguez crisis) and both Bushes (Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan) deployed massive force, as if to say, "Vietnam, be damned." On the other hand, Carter, Clinton, and Reagan (to the surprise of many) acted with extreme caution, mindful of the Vietnam experience. Obama has also wrestled with the Vietnam legacy, using doses of American firepower in Libya while still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.The authors spent five years interviewing hundreds of officials from every post war administration and conducting extensive research in presidential libraries and archives, and they've produced insight and information never before published. Equal parts taut history, revealing biography, and cautionary tale, Haunting Legacy is must reading for anyone trying to understand the power of the past to influence war-and-peace decisions of the present, and of the future.

One Scandalous Story

by Marvin Kalb

In 1963 Marvin Kalb observed the Secret Service escorting an attractive woman into a hotel for what was most likely a rendezvous with President Kennedy. Kalb, then a news correspondent for CBS, didn't consider the incident newsworthy. Thirty-five years later, Kalb watched in dismay as the press dove headfirst into the scandal of President Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, disclosing every prurient detail. How and why had the journalistic landscape shifted so dramatically? One Scandalous Story seeks to answer this critical question through the inside story of thirteen days -- January 13-25, 1998 -- that make up a vital chapter in the history of American journalism. In riveting detail, Kalb examines just how the media covered the Lewinsky scandal, offering what he calls an "X-ray of the Washington press corps." Drawing on hundreds of original interviews, Kalb allows us to eavesdrop on the incestuous deals between reporters and sources, the bitter disagreements among editors, the machination of moguls for whom news is Big Business, and above all, the frantic maneuvering to break the story. With fresh insight, he retraces decisions made by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, Internet renegade Matt Drudge, Jackie Judd of ABC, Clinton-basher Lucianne Goldberg, Susan Schmidt of The Washington Post, Jackie Bennett of the Office of the Independent Counsel, and other key players in this scandal that veered from low comedy to high drama. Through the lens of those thirteen turbulent days, Kalb offers us a portrait of the "new news" in all its contradictions. He reveals how intense economic pressures in the news business, the ascendancy of the Internet, the blurring of roles between reporters and commentators, and a surge of dubious sourcing and "copy-cat journalism" have combined to make tabloid-style journalism increasingly mainstream. But are we condemned to a resurgence of "yellow journalism"? Painstakingly documented and sobering in its conclusions, One Scandalous Story issues a clarion call to newsmakers and the American public alike: "Journalism can change for the better -- and must."

The Road to War

by Marvin Kalb

Not since Pearl Harbor has an American president gone to Congress to request a declaration of war. Nevertheless, since then, one president after another, from Truman to Obama, has ordered American troops into wars all over the world. From Korea to Vietnam, Panama to Grenada, Lebanon to Bosnia, Afghanistan to Iraq--why have presidents sidestepped declarations of war? Marvin Kalb, former chief diplomatic correspondent for CBS and NBC News, explores this key question in his thirteenth book about the presidency and U.S. foreign policy.Instead of a declaration of war, presidents have justified their war-making powers by citing "commitments," private and public, made by former presidents. Many of these commitments have been honored, but some betrayed. Surprisingly, given the tight U.S.-Israeli relationship, Israeli leaders feel that at times they have been betrayed by American presidents. Is it time for a negotiated defense treaty between the United States and Israel as a way of substituting for a string of secret presidential commitments?From Israel to Vietnam, presidential commitments have proven to be tricky and dangerous. For example, one president after another committed the United States to the defense of South Vietnam, often without explanation. Over the years, these commitments mushroomed into national policy, leading to a war costing 58,000 American lives. Few in Congress or the media chose to question the war's provenance or legitimacy, until it was too late. No president saw the need for a declaration of war, considering one to be old-fashioned.The word of a president can morph into a national commitment. It can become the functional equivalent of a declaration of war. Therefore, whenever a president "commits"the United States to a policy or course of action with, or increasingly without, congressional approval, watch out--the White House may be setting the nation on a road toward war.

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