The Bundys, brilliant, privileged, well connected--epitomes of the Eastern establishment--attracted much of the blame for Vietnam. After the debacle, they conceded little to critics, as Bird remembers his infuriation with a 1972 McGeorge Bundy performance at Bird's college, in which Bundy coolly deflected all attacks. This biography doesn't mitigate Bird's anger, yet it fairly explores the Bundys' background, early careers, and views of the turbulent situation in Vietnam in the early 1960s. By then ex-Harvard dean McGeorge was the national security advisor, and his lanky older brother Bill was an assistant secretary of state. After critiquing McGeorge's performance in the Cuban missile crisis, Bird exhumes his and Bill's memos rationalizing U.S. support of Saigon. The brothers knew that success was remote, though Bill was more willing to countenance withdrawal, according to a 1964 memo that was shot down by hawks. Following the disaster, both repaired to establishment institutions (Mac ran the Ford Foundation; Bill, Foreign Affairs magazine), where they partially restored their liberal credentials. Ably researched and fluidly synthesized, this biography will have no challenger for a long time. -- Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
Kai Bird is the new Executive Director for CUNY Graduate Center's Leon Levy Biography Center
Crown books (Random House) has signed Kai Bird to write a biography of President Jimmy Carter's White House years.