On The White House Watch
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was not his cup of tea, so to speak. "It was a little bit stuffy
for a transplanted Californian," he explains in his New York-accented
voice. AThey're very preoccupied with tradition. You go to high
table' for dinner. You have to wear your academic gown. You can
bring your mistress but you can't bring your wife C unless a colleague
invites her." Dallek chuckles at his charmingly delivered jest.
has a joke a minute," confirms UCLA history professor Richard Weiss,
who has known Dallek since their graduate school days at Columbia
University. "He's full of wonderful anecdotes and great stories.
But in his work he's very judicious. He's clearly a major 20th-century
took him years of slogging away in archives, of poring over oral
histories and National Security files, but today, at the age of
62, Dallek is in the front ranks of presidential scholars that include
Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough. His 700-page tome, Franklin
D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945, garnered the
prestigious Bancroft Prize in 1980. "It's a tour de force, a standard
work on the subject," says Pulitzer Prize-winning JFK biographer
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., "and one not likely to be superseded for
a very long time."
Dallek is undoubtedly best known for Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson
and His Times, 1908-1960, the first of a two-volume biography of
the 36th president. Researched and written over seven years, the
book was widely praised for its careful scholarship and evenhanded
portrayal of the controversial, larger-than-life politician.
expertise on the American presidency and foreign policy, not to
mention his snappy prose style, has earned him a regular spot in
the Los Angeles Times' "Opinion" section. (ARoss Perot's decision
to run again for president is about as surprising as yesterday's
weather report," he cracked in a recent column.) And his new book,
a pointed study in how the 41 men who occupied the White House either
succeeded or failed, is clearly well-timed to contribute to the
debate on leadership bound to accompany the election.