I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History

I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History


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In 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War, centrist Congressman Melvin Laird (R-WI) agreed to serve as Richard Nixon s secretary of defense. It was not, Laird knew, a move likely to endear him to the American public but as he later said, Nixon couldn t find anybody else who wanted the damn job. For the next four years, Laird deftly navigated the morass of the war he had inherited. Lampooned as a missile head, but decisive in crafting an exit strategy, he doggedly pursued his program of Vietnamization, initiating the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel and gradually ceding combat responsibilities to South Vietnam. In fighting to bring the troops home faster, pressing for more humane treatment of POWs, and helping to end the draft, Laird employed a powerful blend of disarming Midwestern candor and Washington savvy, as he sought a high moral road bent on Nixon s oft-stated (and politically instrumental) goal of peace with honor.
The first book ever to focus on Laird s legacy, this authorized biography reveals his central and often unrecognized role in managing the crisis of national identity sparked by the Vietnam War and the challenges, ethical and political, that confronted him along the way. Drawing on exclusive interviews with Laird, Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford, and numerous others, author Dale Van Atta offers a sympathetic portrait of a man striving for open government in an atmosphere fraught with secrecy. Van Atta illuminates the inner workings of high politics: Laird s behind-the-scenes sparring with Kissinger over policy, his decisions to ignore Nixon s wilder directives, his formative impact on arms control and health care, his key role in the selection of Ford for vice president, his frustration with the country s abandonment of Vietnamization, and, in later years, his unheeded warning to Donald Rumsfeld that it s a helluva lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one. Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780299226404
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date: 02/08/2008
Series: Wisconsin Film Studies
Edition description: 1
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.26(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Walter Mirisch is the producer, in whole or in part, of more than one hundred films. Among his company’s honors are three Oscars for best picture—The Apartment (1960), West Side Story (1961), and In theHeat of the Night (1967). Mirisch has also received two honorary Academy Awards, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1977) and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (1983); and has been honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1977) presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures (1995) presented by the Producers Guild of America. He has been decorated by the Republic of France with its Order of Arts and Letters, has received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a recipient of the UCLA Medal, that university’s highest award. Mirisch served three terms as president of the Producers Guild of America and four terms as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Read an Excerpt

“Legendary producer, visionary filmmaker, courageous seeker of truth, especially in troubling times.”—Sidney Poitier, from the foreword

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