Two new books out by Mike Nelson

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Although it lasted only a single term, the presidency of George H. W. Bush was an unusually eventful one, encompassing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf War, and contentious confirmation hearings over Clarence Thomas and John Tower. Bush has said that to understand the history of his presidency, while "the documentary record is vital," interviews with members of his administration “add the human side that those papers can never capture."

This book draws on interviews with senior White House and Cabinet officials conducted under the auspices of the Bush Oral History Project (a cooperative effort of the University of Virginia′s Miller Center and the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation) to provide a multidimensional portrait of the first President Bush and his administration. Typically, interviews explored officials’ memories of their service with President Bush and their careers prior to joining the administration. Interviewees also offered political and leadership lessons they had gleaned as eyewitnesses to and shapers of history.

The contributors to 41—all seasoned observers of American politics, foreign policy, and government institutions—examine how George H. W. Bush organized and staffed his administration, operated on the international stage, followed his own brand of Republican conservatism, handled legislative affairs, and made judicial appointments. A scrupulously objective analysis of oral history, primary documents, and previous studies, 41 deepens the historical record of the forty-first president and offers fresh insights into the rise of the “new world order” and its challenges.

Contributors: Henry J. Abraham, University of Virginia; Jeffrey A. Engel, Southern Methodist University; Hugh Heclo, George Mason University; Sidney M. Milkis, University of Virginia; Michael Nelson, Rhodes College and University of Virginia; Barbara A. Perry, University of Virginia; Russell L. Riley, University of Virginia; Barbara Sinclair, University of California, Los Angeles; Bartholomew Sparrow, University of Texas at Austin; Robert A. Strong, Washington and Lee University; Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia.


To look at the partisan polarization that paralyzes Washington today is to see what first took shape with the presidential election of 1968. This book explains why. Urban riots and the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the politics of outrage and race—all pointed to a reordering of party coalitions, of groups and regions, a hardening and widening of an ideological divide—and to the historical importance of the 1968 election as a watershed event.

Resilient America captures this extraordinary time in all its drama—the personalities, the politics, the parties, the events and the circumstances, from the shadow of 1964 through the primaries to the general election that pitted Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey, with George Wallace and Eugene McCarthy as the interlopers. Where most accounts of this pivotal year—and the decade that followed—emphasize the coming apart of the nation, this book focuses on the fact that because of measures taken after the election the country actually held together. An esteemed scholar of the American presidency, Michael Nelson turns our attention to how, in spite of increasing (and increasingly vehement) differences, the parties of the time managed to make divided government work. Conventional political processes—peaceful demonstrations, congressional legislation, executive initiatives, Supreme Court decisions, party reforms, and presidential politics—were flexible enough to absorb most of the dissent that tore America deeply in 1968 and might otherwise have torn it apart. This fraught time, as Nelson’s work clearly demonstrates, produced unity as well as results well worth noting in our current predicament.

Michael Nelson is the Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College and a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia′s Miller Center. He is the author or editor of many books, including Governing at Home: The White House and Domestic Policymaking, How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation, and The Presidency and the Political System.