In This Review

The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms
The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms
By Kai Bird
Simon & Schuster, 1998, 480 pp

McGeorge ("Mac") Bundy attained fame as a Harvard dean, a White House aide, a foundation president, and a writer. His brother Bill ascended a more shadowy road from the intelligence community to the Defense and State Departments before he too became a writer and an editor of this journal. Both found much anguish in their encounters with Vietnam. Their stories are each important enough to merit a biography, and their father Harvey was no slouch either. Bird has written a solid narrative tracing their careers, a better book than his earlier biography of John McCloy. The first 250 pages, covering the years up to 1963, are good on the people but weak or tendentious when it comes to the policies, such as Berlin and Cuba. But Bird shifts to a higher gear when he turns to Vietnam, and the succeeding chapters are first-rate. Readable, fair, and aided by Bill Bundy's own manuscript on the war, Bird powerfully shows how the brothers struggled to craft a "vital center" but built one that could not hold.