Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Book Roundup

For the The Washington Post, Julian Zelizer reviews Randall Woods's Prisoners of Hope: Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Society, and the Limits of Liberalism (Basic Books).
"If Woods overstates Johnson’s power in domestic affairs, he is too generous to LBJ when dealing with Vietnam. He presents the war as another example of how Johnson’s genuine commitment to liberalism — in this case, the belief that the export of liberalism to Southeast Asia was the only true “antidote” to Marxism-Leninism — simply missed the limits of what the U.S. government could accomplish. Yet he plays down how Vietnam was a crass political trade-off Johnson made to protect Great Society liberalism and its supporters from the chronic attacks on Democrats as weak on defense. Obsessed with protecting his coalition, Johnson destroyed his legacy.
None of this detracts from the fact that “Prisoners of Hope” is a sweeping history of LBJ’s domestic record. Readers will come away with a better appreciation of this moment in history when a savvy Texan produced a burst of liberal reform comparable to the New Deal."
Also in The Washington Post, Vikram Amar reviews We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America by Juan Williams (Crown).
"And while I, like many constitutional law professors, revel in the last quarter of the 1700s, one of the most important lessons one might take when reflecting on Williams’s compilation is that his characterization of the Founding Fathers as the “ever-reliable touchstone of Americanness” perhaps ought to be updated to refer to the framers of the Reconstruction-era constitutional revisions."
Douglas Clark discusses his new three-volume study, Gunboat Justice: British and American Law Courts in China and Japan (1842-1943) (Earnshaw Books Limited) with New Books in American Studies.