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Crosscut Tout: Garry Wills talks about the bomb and security

Garry Wills, one of his generation’s greatest nonfiction writers, will talk Tuesday at Town Hall Seattle about his latest book, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State. In the book, Wills argues that the atomic era’s rise of presidential power has led to a secrecy-obsessed state that is far from the founders’ vision. The historian and journalist regrets the erosion of congressional authority to declare war, replaced by executive decisions.

In a well-written but puzzlingly bland New York Times Sunday Book Review article two weeks ago, the eminent journalist Walter Isaacson reviewed both Wills’ book and Crisis and Command: The History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush, a justification of executive power by former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, who wrote the torture memos. Isaacson, a former head of CNN and editor of Time magazine, suggests that Wills has produced better arguments. But Isaacson concludes, “For better or worse, (Congress) seems to believe that the complex national security issues of our day require less fettered executive power. That is why Wills’s book, though more elegantly argued than Yoo’s, seems to be railing against the tides of ­history.” A Seattle audience will likely be less complacent.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 pm, Town Hall, Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, downstairs, enter on Seneca. Advance tickets ($5) were available as of Friday afternoon; ordering information at www.townhallseattle.org.

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