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Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents from Kennedy to Obama
by David Priess

Every president has had a unique and complicated relationship with the intelligence community. While some have been coolly distant, even adversarial, others have found their intelligence agencies to be among the most valuable instruments of policy and power.
Since John F. Kennedy’s presidency, this relationship has been distilled into a personalized daily report: a short summary of what the intelligence apparatus considers the most crucial information for the president to know that day about global threats and opportunities. This top–secret document is known as the President’s Daily Brief, or, within national security circles, simply “the Book.” Presidents have spent anywhere from a few moments (Richard Nixon) to a healthy part of their day (George W. Bush) consumed by its contents; some (Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush) consider it far and away the most important document they saw on a regular basis while commander in chief.

 The details of most PDBs are highly classified, and will remain so for many years. But the process by which the intelligence community develops and presents the Book is a fascinating look into the operation of power at the highest levels. David Priess, a former intelligence officer and daily briefer, has interviewed every living president and vice president as well as more than one hundred others intimately involved with the production and delivery of the president's book of secrets. He offers an unprecedented window into the decision making of every president from Kennedy to Obama, with many character–rich stories revealed here for the first time.

I picked this book up not looking for the juicy details of secrets for the Presidents but to learn about the process.  That is the mechanism of Presidential decision making. There were few if any secrets. There was lots of information  about how choices were made, some wise, some botched  for a myriad of reasons. I delayed reading this book till after this years Presidential campaign began in earnest and then  delayed it even longer. It became a frightening book to say the very least and the reason is quite simple. I imagined this process and the contents it contains on a day by day basis in the hands of the most unqualified and dangerous MAN in American History to be nominated by a major political party for the Presidency of the United States ever………

Then after the electorate chooses Hillary, go ahead and read this most interesting book, in a calm manner, somewhat,though not perfectly  assured, that the fate of our nation rests in reasonably intelligent hands

Monday, October 3, 2016

Victory at Yorktown

The man who did everything but stand on his head (Newt Gingrich) to get Bill Clinton impeached for messing around with a "aide" is now a semi-successful writer of historical fiction. Of course, Newt, the disgraced former Speaker of the House of Representatives, was busy playing the same game as Bubba about the same time. Along with his co- partner William R Forstchen, a college Professor of History, he has written a series of American historical fiction novels. Several years ago I borrowed To Try Men’s Souls and gave it a C+ review. More recently, having read about his “endorsement” of Donald Trump, I decided to check out one of his more recent literary efforts. This on the theory that his literary talent couldn’t possibly have sunk lower than his already rock bottom political judgments as evidenced   by endorsing Donald Trump, the most unqualified Presidential candidate,  ever….   The book was Victory at Yorktown. Being careful that any money exchange would not go from the author to The Man Who Would Be King, I purchased the book for $1 at Goodwill in the cause of teaching employment skills.
Although Victory at Yorktown  is a historical fiction book it is obvious that it mirrors realistic events and characters of the Revolutionary War.  George Washington and his British counterparts are central to the story. It intertwines war, friendship, and heroism to make a very powerful and compelling story.  The authors explain in the prologue why they chose to tell this event as a fictional story instead of nonfiction: “We are historians, but we also love a good story and believe that neglect of good stories has always been the failure of most traditional histories, which turn such exciting adventures and personas into dull and lifeless facts.”  As a retired history teacher, I couldn’t agree more with that premise.

Actually, if you’re looking for a readable primer on the conclusion of the Revolutionary Was it’s rather good. The book seems basically accurate in its depiction of the characters, real and imagined. The authors have obviously made a special effort to humanize the stiff and faultless figure of  Washington.  The desperation of a last throw of the dice chance for victory over British colonialism clearly comes through. Some of the scenes wander off into other venues but don’t seriously hamper the story. All in all,I’d rate Victory at Yorktown a B+.



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@Barrie Summy