The Best and the Brightest

The Best and the Brightest

Paperback - 1993
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David Halberstam's masterpiece, the defining history of the making of the Vietnam tragedy, with a new Foreword by Senator John McCain.

"A rich, entertaining, and profound reading experience."-- The New York Times

Using portraits of America' s flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country's recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose? As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded. It is an American classic.

Praise for The Best and the Brightest

"The most comprehensive saga of how America became involved in Vietnam. . . . It is also the Iliad of the American empire and the Odyssey of this nation's search for its idealistic soul. The Best and the Brightest is almost like watching an Alfred Hitchcock thriller." -- The Boston Globe

"Deeply moving . . . We cannot help but feel the compelling power of this narrative. . . . Dramatic and tragic, a chain of events overwhelming in their force, a distant war embodying illusions and myths, terror and violence, confusions and courage, blindness, pride, and arrogance." -- Los Angeles Times

"A fascinating tale of folly and self-deception . . . [An] absorbing, detailed, and devastatingly caustic tale of Washington in the days of the Caesars." -- The Washington Post Book World

"Seductively readable . . . It is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking that is fully matched by Halberstam's performance. . . . This is in all ways an admirable and necessary book." -- Newsweek

"A story every American should read." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 1993.
Edition: 20th anniversary ed., 1st Ballantine Books ed.
ISBN: 9780449908709
Characteristics: xx, 688 p. ; 24 cm.


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" To Lyndon Johnson, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was like a gnat to be squashed on his way to the convention, a tiny irritant in a time of great joy, but it would be a symbol of other forces which would have dire consequences." " In front of visiting dignitaries he was wont to put up his feet on Jack Valenti's lap and use it as a footstool...His close aide Walter Jenkins in particular lived in terror of Johnson, who had borne down on him so often and so hard that there was little left. Once when an exhausted Jenkins was about to take a brief nap, he told Bill Moyers to guard the office for thirty minutes. Moyers, who like his boss, was an excellent mimic, got in the doorway a few minutes later and did a magnificent imitation of Johnson catching Jenkins napping. Jenkins turned first from total panic to total anger: ' Don't you ever do that again....Don't you ever do that again...Don't you ever.....' " " Once Lana turner was promoting a movie in Washington; aides had arranged for her photo to be taken with a group of senators, including Johnson. The schedule for the day was duly shown him, including the appointment with Miss Turner. He looked at it for a moment and then asked, ' Who the hell is Lana Turner?' " " McNamara telling Arthur Goldberg midway through the escalation, when Goldberg raised a negative point to him, that it was certainly a good point but would he please not raise it with the President, it would only upset him." " Doubts about a policy might seem like doubts about him: were you doubting him, were you disloyal?" " Kennedy did not view dissent as a personal challenge."

Nov 03, 2017

I read this book shortly after it came out, probably around 1975. I remember that it was long and jumped from point to point annoyingly, but was still readable, and that it contrasted the reputation for high intellect of Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Maxwell Taylor, and other officials with their actual floundering and self-delusion.
--- The focus, as I recall, was the harm they brought on the US, not the 2,000,000 Indochinese deaths we caused for nothing. (Old US bombs are still killing -- 62,000 since war's end.)
--- I recall the War itself and the kill-tallies reported on the nightly news. Soldiers were pressed to kill as many "Gooks" (Vietnamese) as they could every day. Every Gook killed was assumed to be VC (Communist) because they killed him. Farmers were mowed down from helicopters; they would always run, proving they were VC. Villages were burned to the ground by our forces. By wiping out the whole population of certain areas, we were sure to get the VC hiding among them.
--- The pretext for the War was the faked Gulf of Tonkin incident.
--- Much more has since been written. See my comment to audiobook entry for Nick Turse, KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES.

Oct 26, 2017

There is a reason he won the Pulitzer. This book is a must read for anyone wishing to understand Vietnam.
I’d suggest its also a great read for our current situation and to understand the role of the press in a free society.

Jul 21, 2014

This is one of those misinformational books told to us from the POV that the politicians were in control, not simply the lackeys fulfilling their paymasters' directives. It is telling that John McCain writes the foreward, given that McCain only gained admittance to the Naval Academy because of his father and grandfather [both admirals] and that McCain bombed his own aircraft carrier, crashed a bunch of planes while PUI, and lasted but a few hours in combat before being shot down and captured. Also, his daddy was LBJ's coverup specialist when Israel attacked the USS Liberty and killed many US Navy seamen. [When reading this keep in mind: declassified memos from the State Department in the late 1990s verified that JFK ordered the withdrawl of all US military advisors from Vietnam to begin in late November of 1963, advisors originally dispatched there by President Eisenhower, and that it was LBJ who dramatically incrteased the military there and throughout Southeast Asia. When reading this, be sure to also read Donald Gibson's book, Battling Wall Street: the Kennedy presidency.]

Nov 14, 2010

Psychological and personal profiles of the men involved in developing/ maintaining the policies that led to our involvement in Vietnam.

Nov 10, 2010

November 2010 :

A fascinating documentation of the early Kennedy/Johnson years and the players involved in the deepening American involvement in Vietnam up until 1968.

Dec 03, 2009

Arguably the best book written about the Vietnam war.


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