Books: Historic Roles WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR

by David Brinkley Knopf; 286 pages; $18.95

As the New Republic saw it in 1942, Washington was a "combination of Moscow . . . Paris . . . Wichita . . . and Hell." In this rich anecdotal history, David Brinkley spends much of his time in the precincts of purgatory. The veteran commentator was a young reporter when the capital began to mobilize. "Was it conceivable," he wondered, "that the leadership of the Western world in wartime could fall to a city only a few generations out of the mud? A city that still boasted 15,000 privies?"

Indeed it was. As the guns sounded overseas, gallus-snapping Congressmen...

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