cover image The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis

The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis

George Stephanopoulos, with Lisa Dickey. Grand Central, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-1-538-74076-7

ABC News host Stephanopoulos (All Too Human) takes readers behind the scenes of a legendary White House location in this sprightly history. The Situation Room’s origins date back to the spring of 1961, when Godfrey McHugh, JFK’s Air Force aide, recommended the establishment of a “National Daily Situation Room” that would “serve as a management tool by providing intelligence, communications, briefing, display and monitor facilities.” His recommendation was implemented after the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, which exposed the limits of the president’s access to real-time information; within weeks of the disaster, President Kennedy ordered the creation of a space along the lines of McHugh’s suggestion, and it was constructed in a week, at a cost of $35,000. Stephanopoulos walks readers through its evolution and use during multiple consequential moments in American history, including LBJ’s micromanaging of the Vietnam War and Nixon’s staff’s efforts to avert WWIII in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War while the president was intoxicated and unable to function. Each section emphasizes the admirable commitment to duty of Situation Room staff; even when the White House was considered at risk on 9/11, the personnel assigned there refused orders to leave their posts, and other staff remained to support them, including the White House chef. Presidential history buffs will find much of interest here. (May)