Jun 5, 2010

Book Review: The Buck Stops Here - The 28 Toughest Presidential Decisions and How They Changed History

Thomas J. Craughwell and Edward Kiester, Jr.

Fairwinds Press, 2010

288 pages

Though I am not a historian who spends much time on the oft-derided Great Man theory, I am sensible enough to recognize that powerful individuals can sometimes exert a significant effect on the course of history through their actions. The authors of The Buck Stops Here - The 28 Toughest Presidential Decisions and How They Changed History waded through American political, military, and diplomatic history in their pursuit of those moments when individual presidents made decisions with profound consequences.

A number of the profiled decisions are no-brainers for a list like this, such as Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Yet other decisions selected by the authors were quite unexpected, such as Theodore Roosevelt's dinner invitation to Booker T. Washington in 1901 and Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to create the Interstate Highway System.

The authors of The Buck Stops Here selected 28 presidential decisions that proved to be particularly influential in the unfolding of U.S. history, and each decision merits a separate chapter in the book. This highly readable text contains a wealth of relevant images and scanned primary source documents, placing this text somewhere between mere popular history and the more rigorous material found in academic texts. While I disagreed with some analyses and the choices of presidential decisions (for example, no mention of George W. Bush and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars or Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act), the book was both thoughtful and entertaining, and a wide spectrum of readers will find The Buck Stops Here to be an excellent read.


Brian Schwartz said...

I always thought that Truman made the two bravest decisions of the 20th century -- the dropping of the atomic bombs and the firing of Gen. MacArthur.

One would forever change international relations. The other would affirm the strength of civilian oversight of the American military -- an important facet of American Republic.

unmitigated me said...

I'd have thought Dubya would have made it for the outrageous power-grab he and the White House counsel made while he was in office, expanding the powers of the POTUS to almost dictatorial levels.