Nominations for the least-accurate political memoir ever writtenHistorians in the News
Has Karl Rove played fast and loose with historical fact in his new memoir"Courage and Consequence"? History will decide. But recollections invariably differ -- perhaps never more so than in political memoirs. And Rove's isn't the first to spark debate over what is the true tide in the affairs of men. In that spirit, we asked a variety of people to name the least accurate political memoirs ever written....
JAMES K. GALBRAITH, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of"The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too."
That would be Richard Nixon. On this matter, I have to defer to a higher authority, specifically my father [John Kenneth Galbraith], who reviewed Nixon's memoir for the New York Review of Books on June 29, 1978."A central theme of this book," he wrote, is that"Mr. Nixon never did anything wrong unless someone else had done something like it first. And all evil disappears if it has a precedent."
Runner up is L. Paul Bremer's"My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope," which was reviewed by my brother Peter in the NYRB. Peter wrote, in an email:"Nothing in his description of the country and its people suggests he was actually there."
Second runner-up: Robert Rubin's"In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington." Book World's review, which I wrote, held that, as philosophy, it compared poorly to the motto of the"great Austin ice cream parlor known as Amy's: 'Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.'" At National Airport a few days later, I was introduced by accident to Karl Rove. His eyes narrowed."The James K. Galbraith?" he asked. I nodded."The only man," he said,"ever to get a mention of Amy's Ice Cream into The Washington Post."
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, professor of history at Rice University and author, most recently, of"The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America."
My candidate would be James Buchanan's wildly disingenuous"Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion" (1866). Buchanan had the gall to shirk all responsibility for the Civil War. He blamed everybody but himself for the dissolution of the Union. A pathetic memoir aimed at trying to exonerate himself from serial wrongheadedness and flatfooted policy initiatives. What Buchanan wrote was revisionist blather.
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