Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

I came across this presentation while watching MHZ networks on Sunday. Unfortunately I cannot embed it here but here is a link to this program from The Carnegie Council.

Or you can down load it here.

Here is part of the transcript.

Today he is here to talk about an entirely different subject, which is how the atomic bomb transformed our nation. In Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, Professor Wills weaves a fascinating narrative. It is a story that grows out of the Manhattan Project and the secrecy surrounding it. As told by the skillful historian, it is very compelling, and in many ways it is a continuum of some of Professor Wills’ earlier work, in that it gives perspective on the enduring story that is America by finding deeper meaning in original text. In this case it is the U.S. Constitution.

It is Professor Wills’ thesis that acquisition of the bomb gave the president vast power—not only to use the bomb, but it also became the model for the covert activity and overt authority of the government we now have. And this, writes our speaker, upsets the balance of powers as set forth in the Constitution by giving the president more authority than originally intended by the Founding Fathers. He argues that, whatever the justification for its manufacture and use, the bomb was built unconstitutionally and the precedent which this set endures to the present day.

In the last few years, increasing battles against centralized power have erupted from many quarters. George W. Bush left the White House unpopular because of what many saw as his abuse of power. And although Barack Obama has promised change, the momentum of an expanded executive bureaucracy is not easily reversed.

The powers given to the president since World War II, followed by the needs of the Cold War and the war on terror, all make a vast and intricate structure that may not be easy to dismantle.

Professor Garry Wills gives a good view how the presidential powers have expanded since WWII.


2 thoughts on “Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State

  1. The President has too much power.

    That is beyond dispute. As far as MP, well they still have shoot to kill trespasser orders at Area 51, the Freedom of Information Act yields documents with all but five or six words blotted out…

    People are not being arraigned, people are held for years without being charged…

  2. We undoubtedly have issues with the use of power. From the oval office on down our public officials are routinely stepping over the line.

    We have no effective means in law to remedy this. Every congress and every administration after another has sought to increase their power over citizens. What we have is a deeply flawed relationship which has harmed the country. I don’t see this coming to an end. Not peacefully anyway.

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