2003: January to DecemberHistory Grapevine Archive
Whether or not the American people have ever got over the Vietnam Syndrome--and their reaction to last week's news on the battlefield suggests they have not--historians have. That is, they have gotten over what Vietnam did to the profession. As Oprah might put it, "they have moved on." The historians' version of the Vietnam Syndrome was an aversion to public debates concerning controversial subjects. After Vietnam split the profession, rending history departments and old friendships alike, many historians beat a hasty retreat to the cloistered catacombs of their university libraries. But now they are back. With what relish have they taken to the ramparts! With what joy have they slashed at bogus analogies! With what enthusiasm have they taken to task politicians ignorant of Iraqi history!
ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR. has referred to the invasion of Iraq as "our day of infamy." ERIC FONER has said that he isn't sure which is "more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." ERIC RAUCHWAY has written off Bush's economic policies as the worst since Benjamin Harrison (whom Rauchway ranks below Hoover!).
Bush is said to like history. He has never said if as a group he likes historians. A few more months of this kind of hot-fire criticism and he surely won't.
BOOKS BUSH LIKES
Though President Bush was a history major at Yale it is his wife. a former librarian, who is believed to be behind the administration's expensive history initiatives like "We the People." (Lynne Cheney is also apparently involved.) But the president has been reading history while he's been making it. According to the White House, the president has been reading The Commanders by MICHAEL BESCHLOSS and Supreme Command by ELIOT A. COHEN. Apparently, President Bush is hoping to repeat the past. Both books deal with leaders who succeeded at war: Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Churchill. But shouldn't he be reading books about people who failed, too?
R.I.P. ... ?
In death as in life some historians can't escape controversy, as CHRISTOPHER HILL'S death in February and HERBERT APTHEKER'S in March demonstrated. After Hill died the Guardian reported he may actually have been a Soviet mole. Anthony Glees, a reader in politics at Brunel University, told the paper that in the course of an investigation of MI5 he had come across evidence that implicated Hill as a spy. He went to Hill for his side. "His first question was, 'you are not going to expose me as a mole, are you?' It was not a threat but a plea." Glees says he promised to keep the evidence a secret until Hill died.
Aptheker got a sanitized obituary in the NYT, which remembered him for his stellar contributions to African-American history.
A few days later RONALD RADOSH reminded readers of DAVID HOROWITZ'S Frontpagemag.com that Aptheker defended Stalin, served as the "chief theoretician" of the Communist Party USA, and claimed that American leaders "have the morals of goats, the learning of gorillas and the ethics of racist, war-inciting enemies of humanity, rotten to the core, parasitic, merciless and doomed." Radosh's article then prompted a vigorous exchange on HNN, which reprinted the piece. JAMES "Lies My Teacher Told Me" LOEWENchided Radosh for overlooking Aptheker's scholarly work, including his documentary history of black Americans. ERIC FONERnoted that Radosh had mistakenly reported "that Aptheker was feted by the Columbia history department at my 'behest.' In fact, that event was arranged by Professor Gary Okihiro. This is obviously a very small point -- I mention it only as an indication of Radosh's cavalier attitude toward facts." Coming to Radosh's defense, David Horowitz then averred that Radosh's mistake was hardly evidence of a "cavalier" attitude toward the facts. As he pointed out, "Foner was the only host at the event mentioned in the news account."
And not even now has the world heard the last from Herbert Aptheker. A revised edition of his celebrated Documentary History of the Negro People will be published soon.
Old soldiers may fade away. Historians don't seem to.
DO LEFT-WING PROFESSORS HATE AMERICA?
Columbia University professor NICHOLAS DE GENOVAhas given the Right a gift of great value. He has confirmed suspicions that Left-wingers hate America. At an antiwar rally De Genova, who teaches history and anthropology, began by denouncing U.S. flags as the "emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today. They are the emblem of the occupying power. The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military." He then called upon American troops to murder their officers and expressed the hope "for a million Mogadishus." As DANIEL PIPES has pointed out 18 U.S. soldiers died in the ambush in Mogadishu; does De Genova want "18 million dead Americans?"
Left-wingers have not driven any planes into buildings. But they have made disparaging comments about American policies. Foner has said that "Our notion of ourselves as a peace-loving republic is flawed. We've used military force against many, many nations, and in very few of those cases were we attacked or threatened with attack." JOSEPH MASSAD, assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, also at Columbia, has said that Arab poverty results from "the racist and barbaric policies" of the United States government.
Does this mean that these professors hate this country? David Horowitz for one thinks it does. Like a modern-day Paul Revere, he has been trying to alert the countryside to the danger: "The war in America's streets is not about 'peace' or 'more time for inspections.' It is about which side should lose the war we are now in." At the top of his list of offenders is Eric Foner. Stay tuned. This is one war which promises to outlast the one in Iraq.
TALK ABOUT USING HISTORY
We take this moment to cut away from the war--the culture war, that is--to consider the latest PR campaign by PETA against cruelty to animals. It's called the "Holocaust on Your Plate." It compares the killing of animals for food to the "slaughter of Jews by the Nazis," as one magazine put it. Crazy? Reprehensible? The chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Museum thinks so. He calls the campaign "utterly shameless and contemptible."
Historians thus far have sat out this controversy. Any one want to take PETA on? Or is this one of those controversies it's better to ignore?
GOOD TIMING AND ALL THAT
Publishers are complaining that the war is distracting readers. According to Mobylives.com, this is an "especially difficult retail climate." But three historians are prospering: MAX BOOT, NIALL FERGUSON, and BERNARD LEWIS. Boot, the author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, has been on a roll since his book appeared last year, and can be found almost every week in either the NYT, the Wall Street Journal or the Weekly Standard--and sometimes all three. Boot champions small wars; it remains to be seen if the Iraq war will qualify. You may not have encountered Ferguson, but with the publication of his new book about the British Empire you surely will. Like Boot, the editors of both the NYT and the Weekly Standard like him. Bernard Lewis has been around the longest, is the best known of the three and probably has the best shot at turning world events to his advantage as an author. The title of his latest book: The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror.
EDWARD SAID has been complaining that Lewis hasn't lived in the Middle East for decades or even come near the region. Could this really be true, we wondered? It's not. MARTIN KRAMER, author of Ivory Towers on Sand, repored recently on his blog that Lewis visits the Arab world every year. Perhaps Said was guilty of what psychologists refer to as projection. According to Kramer, "it's been thirty years since Said left Morningside Heights to spend one of his sabbaticals in an Arab country."
AT THE MOVIES
Good timing isn't everything. Gods and Generals, as you probably know by now, was a bust, though the times seemed perfect for a movie about war, courage and victory. The NYT called it a "megaturkey":
The Web site Rottentomatoes.com, which rates movies based on reviews from dozens of critics and film societies, divides the number of good reviews by the total number of reviews to yield a "Tomatometer" score. A score of 60 percent or higher is "fresh." Everything else is "rotten." That calculus puts "God's and Generals" somewhere between two other world-class lemons: John Travolta's sci-fi-entology disaster "Battlefield Earth" (2000) and the 1997 Kevin Costner fiasco "The Postman."
The Pianist, Roman Polansky's epic about a Jewish musician's story of survival during World War II, has fared better with critics, though it's earned little at the box office. But historian MICHAEL OREN hated it. Others approved of the performances of the main stars; Oren thought they were two-dimensional. Others delighted in the plot, which was based on the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman; Oren said the plot was "sluggish." But what did he really think?
What bothers Oren, the author of a celebrated history of the Six Day War, is that in the movie Szpilman is not only victim but savior. When a Nazi comes upon him in a bombed out hideaway, Szpilman plays Mozart on the piano and reaches the German's heart. The Nazi spares his life:
Music--disembodied, immaculate, ineffable--can redeem them. And that is the job of Szpilman, the Jew who survives by dint of his sheepishness and who turns the other cheek, this secular Semitic Christ who saves sinners with art, which is the modern European equivalent of Christian love.
This is sophisticated analysis of a high order. But historians after all, aren't always right.
CAN THE PENTAGON DO HISTORY RIGHT?
Along the very crowded road to Baghdad, mixed in among the embedded reporters, the soldiers and marines and even--if you can believe it--lawyers brought along to help the military select "legal" targets, is a small group of reservists whose sole function is to record for posterity the war's progress. Their goal: to assemble a record of the conflict through the use of documents, photographs and interviews. Most aren't historians by training. Before they left they therefore spoke with historians to find out what they should look for. According to the Washington Post, one scholar told them about the importance of diaries, citing Civil War scholarship as an example.
Can their work be trusted?
The issue of editorial independence concerned historian Randy Papadopoulos when he was hired by the Navy to research a book about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But as he's gone through the transcripts of interviews done by the Naval Reservists after Sept. 11 (which are not available to the public until he's finished with them), he's been amazed by the reservists' access, which he said is far beyond what any civilian would get. And he said their work will be "utterly invaluable" to history.
CAN GOLDHAGEN DO HISTORY RIGHT?
Remember the storm that broke when DANIEL GOLDHAGEN'S book about the Catholic Church and the Holocaust appeared? It is still going strong, with gusts approaching hurricane proportions. In a recent issue of the Weekly Standard, David G. Dalin, a rabbi and visiting fellow at Princeton who is writing his own book on the subject, opined that the book is so deficient it's a "scandal" that Knopf agreed to publish it. And that was one of the more restrained assessments.
WHAT YOU'VE MISSED IF YOU'VE BEEN ON VACATION THE PAST MONTH
This was a month for quirky news about history and historians. It was like an episode of the now-defunct TV show "Northern Exposure." In Philadelphia 2 museums fought over the ownership of "Old Baldy, the horse upon which General George Meade rode during many of the Civil War's most infamous battles." The British government was discovered to have plagiarized a graduate student's paper concerning the history of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The Chronicle of Higher Education featured a live, online discussion with Thomas W. Laqueur, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, about "the historical stigma regarding onanism." The New York Times published a bizarre article by a former historian at the Army War College which claimed (falsely) that Saddam did not gas his own citizens. A contestant on the hit-TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" won a million dollars when he correctly answered a history trivia question many historians would have flubbed: that the occupation of Sam Wilson (AKA: "Uncle Sam") was "meat inspector." The much-anticipated White House Forum on American History had to be canceled at the last minute when Washington DC was hit by one of the worst winter snow storms ever; several news outlets, relying on press releases, mistakenly reported that the forum took place.
MAYBE WE SHOULD START BY SENDING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BACK TO SCHOOL
"For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street.''--Congressman Howard Coble (R-NC) in the course of a radio interview in which he defended the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, February 6, 2003
"President boosts budget for American history program. While support for
many federal agencies will remain flat, President Bush has proposed a large
increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities in his FY
2004 budget, with nearly all of the new dollars going to the "We the People"
program ... to encourage better understanding of U.S. history."--Story
in "Gadfly," February 4, 2003
"Library of Congress (LC) Launches Ad Campaign: The LC and the Ad Council have launched a new public service advertisement (PSA) campaign to encourage historical literacy."--Bruce Craig, "Washington Update," February 6, 2003
CAN WE SEND HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS BACK TO SCHOOL, TOO?"The impact of the Salem witch trials was so profound that it brought down an entire way of life, marking the end of Puritanism and the beginning of what would eventually become America."--Coda to the CBS made-for-TV movie about the Salem Witch Trials, March 4, 2003.
Do you think the Library of Congress spots will really help?
MOST DEVASTATING INDICTMENT OF THE MONTH
"Niall Ferguson is the Leni Riefenstahl of George Bush's new imperial order. Just as Riefenstahl's photography glorified the violence of fascism and sold it to the middle classes, Ferguson's Channel 4 series and book on the British empire presents the acceptable face of imperial brutality."--Jon E. Wilson, in the Guardian, February 12, 2003
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
"Half-truths. Implausible denials. Secret payoffs. Shredded documents. The elements of the Enron scandal? Nope, the reaction of big-name historians to revelations that they plagiarized parts of their popular histories on the Kennedy family and World War II."--USA Today, February 27, 2002, in an editorial denouncing Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose.
"With the war against terror, and the anxieties provoked by warnings of future attacks on American soil, our generation has been provided with its own historic challenge. While our worries are great, even greater opportunities exist for leaders and citizens alike to win the lasting glory. Let us hope that we, and those who lead us, will, like Lincoln, be inspired by the noble ambition to accomplish reputable deeds worthy of remembrance."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, in an op ed in the NYT February 17, 2003
LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOORSo anything can happen in the movies and anybody can be left on the cutting room floor. But it has to hurt when the movie is Gods and Generals, which is nearly four hours long and yet still not long enough to include the scene in which you make a cameo appearance. But RONALD RADOSH isn't complaining. At least he's in the six-hour long DVD. Look closely. He's sitting at a table in a restaurant just behind the character who plays John Wilkes Booth.
IF PRESIDENTS ARE YOUR THING
Just to help you keep score: DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN'S next book is about Lincoln, ROBERT DALLEK'S is about Kennedy, BESCHLOSS'S is about LBJ, McCULLOUGH'S is about Washington; ELLIS'S is about Washington, DAVID GREENBERG'S is about Nixon, DAVID BRINKLEY'S is about Kerry. Is there anybody out there not writing a book about a president (or would-be president)?
MOST UNFORTUNATE ACRONYM IN U.S. GOVERNMENT
WHERE THE PENTAGON LEARNED ABOUT THE HISTORY OF IRAQ
"Say what you want about ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. One thing's for sure: He's a big thinker. So much so that he's acting as an outside adviser and war historian-cum-strategist to the Pentagon's Iraq team. Just last week we found him in Kuwait huddling with Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks. An insider says Gingrich is 'very good with the big 50,000-foot thing. He's good at the big picture.'" --U.S. News & World Report, February 17, 2003
NOT EXACTLY A TREND
So far only a handful of people who defended Michael Bellesiles have stepped forward publicly to admit that they were hornswaggled. The latest is CHRIS MOONEY, who in a recent blog acknowledged that "Every time the subject of Michael Bellesiles and his book Arming America comes up, I get a bit uncomfortable. Before I knew about the serious problems with Bellesiles's work, I unfortunately treated him as a credible source in two separate articles." One article appeared in Lingua Franca, the other in the American Prospect.
From GARRY WILLS there has been silence. Same with EDMUND MORGAN.
HISTORIANS AGAINST WAR WITH IRAQWe were wondering whatever happened to the anti-war petition that was circulated by historians associated with Radical History Review at the AHA convention in January. So we asked. Here's what we were told. The petition has been signed by 1,780 historians. The organizers have set up a Speaker's Bureau featuring, among others: ELLEN DUBOIS, GEORGE M. FREDRICKSON, JON WIENER, DAVID MONTGOMERY, PETER KIRSTEIN, HOWARD ZINN, H. BRUCE FRANKLIN, NELL IRVIN PAINTER.
Fittingly, the website put together by the anti-war historians includes an archive chronicling the events of the current anti-war movement.
A series of national teach-ins is scheduled for March 27-28.
While historians in Florida are fighting to keep open the state library by circulating a petition that has already attracted 16,000 signers, and historians in Connecticut are trying to stave off budget cuts of nearly 50 percent, a small group of name historians--DAVID McCULLOUGH, THOMAS FLEMING, DON HIGGINBOTHAM et al.--have magically succeeded in winning public support for a planned $100 million American Revolution museum at Valley Forge. In December the state of Pennsylvania made an $8 million down payment
Meanwhile, Mount Vernon has raised $60 million for new projects to highlight GW's career as a swashbuckling young hero adventurer.
CARTOON OF THE MONTH
From the NYT, on the web:
(Click here to see the rest of the cartoon.)
"Mexico Digs at Last for Truth About 1968 Massacre"--Headline in the NYT, February 7, 2003
"It's like the Spanish Inquisition." -- Historian Claudia Sierra Campuzano, whose candid textbook about the massacre was abruptly ordered off the shelves by the Public Education Ministry and then was allowed back, though certain unspecified "revisions" have to be made in the text
DID HE DO A "BELLESILES"?
So what does this remind you of: An author spends years researching guns and
then produces a book that reports a shocking conclusion. When questioned about
his research he provides numerous conflicting answers. When asked to produce
his data he says he can't. Northwestern University law professor JAMES LINDGREN
then pounces on the contradictions and publishes a damning report.
MICHAEL BELLESILES? No. JOHN LOTT. Lott, an economist, is the author of More Guns, Less Crime, which was published in 1998, two years before Bellesiles's Arming America. Among Lott's sweeping conclusions is this one: "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack."
Lindgren, who was one of Bellesiles's most prominent critics, began investigating Lott's claims and asked him to substantiate that 98 percent number. By then a number of questions had already been raised. First Lott had said the number was based on some polls. Then he said it was based on a survey he himself conducted in 1997. But when he was asked to produce the raw data for the survey he admitted he couldn't, saying it had all been destroyed when his computer blew-up. Bellesiles had the great flood. Lott had the great mother-of-all computer meltdowns.
So far there's no final verdict on Lott. It's not been determined for sure
what he did or didn't do. But suspicions grew after he confirmed that he and
family members have posted false reviews of his book on websites under a phony
WHAT HAPPENED IN JANUARY
The most interesting news involving historians happened abroad in the last month. At York University in Canada a lecture by DANIEL PIPES attracted so much attention that officials made people walk through metal detectors before allowing them into the auditorium. Pipes was happy the school beefed up security after 150 protesters showed up, of whom he didn't think much:: "Protesters? These are barbarians who would close down civilized discourse." In Israel historian AHARON BREGMAN disclosed that Nasser's son-in-law gave advance warning of an Egyptian attack on the eve of the Six Day War. In Germany historian JORG FRIEDRICH was assailed for drawing attention to the deaths of innocent civilians in bombing raids of German cities during World War II. He told the media he was only interested in "clearing up the facts." Critics noted however that he used hot-button language, referring to what happened as a "massacre." In Russia historians denounced a new book by Solzhenitsyn which highlights the role Jews played in creating the hellish world of the Soviet Union. In his defense, said Solzhenitsyn: "I have never made general conclusions about a people. I will always differentiate between layers of Jews." (Translation: There are Good Jews and Bad Jews.) In Japan, Zen Buddhists, relying on the work of American historian BRIAN VICTORIA, issued an apology for wartime militarism.
And then there was what happened in Australia.
Australia is where historians are getting used to front-page treatment. Most of the commotion continues to concern KEITH WINDSCHUTTLE'S new book, which claims that whites did not persecute aborigines. The book has kicked off a new mini culture war, complete with pitched battles over charges of plagiarism, fabricated evidence, and racism. (See HISTORY GRAPEVINE: December.) In January there were new headlines when the media uncovered official records showing that an early twentieth-century police commissioner in Queensland "slaughtered hundreds of Aborigines," undermining Windschuttle's thesis, and setting back the cause of conservative revisionists.
For comic relief there was the news that Australian immigration had turned down DAVID IRVING's request for a visa to visit his daughter. According to an official, Irving lacks sufficient character to be admitted.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH: SLOPPY MICHAEL
From Knopf's Jane Garrett, who edited MICHAEL BELLESILES'SArming America: "I still do not believe in any shape or form he fabricated anything. He's just a sloppy researcher."
Just sloppy? Is she serious?
Meanwhile, there was this news, which Bellesiles critics celebrated: "Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt removes cites to Michael A. Bellesiles' works from the Ninth Circuit's Second Amendment ruling."
If you're keeping score: Bellesiles has lost his job, lost his Bancroft Prize, and Knopf has withdrawn his book from circulation. In April the OAH will hold a chat room discussion co-hosted by Bellesiles apologist JON WIENER. This should be interesting.
SECOND BEST QUOTE OF THE MONTH: SANTAYANA GEORGE
Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times: "Mr. Bush and Karl Rove may be disproving Santayana: They have dedicated themselves to learning from the history of the first President Bush, and yet they seem doomed to repeat it anyway."
KUDOS TO HNN READER
The headline in a recent article posted on HNN read: THE FIRST IRAQ WAR, a reference to the Persian Gulf War of 1991. A reader found the headline puzzling. Are we the History News Network, he asked, or the Future News Network? Good point.
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JOURNALISM AND HISTORY
Why did Peter Kann, the CEO of the Dow Jones Company and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, become a journalist? "If you like to write and have a natural curiosity and a short attention span ... then journalism could be right for you," he commented in an interview this past month. "My father was a historian so I would watch him take years to write a book. It seemed impossible to me. I thought, 'If I can get my name on a newspaper article within a couple of hours and then move on to the next one, that would be perfect.'"
THE HISTORIAN BEHIND THE PRESIDENT'S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN
In the course of justifying his attack on affirmative action at the University of Michigan, President Bush backed an alternative approach adopted by the University of Texas in the 1990s. Under the Texas plan, racial diversity is assured by guaranteeing automatic admission to the top 10 percent of students at state high schools. You know this? OK, but did you know that the Texas plan, which has succeeded in maintaining racial balance, was devised by a historian? The historian is David Montejano, who formerly served as director of the Center of Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He's now at Berkeley.
So do students think their history professors are more biased than others? From what is frequently said you might have that impression. But it may not be true. On noindoctrination.org, a new website that keeps track of such complaints, historians rarely make the list. Since the site was established this past fall, some forty-odd complaints have been posted. Historians are named in just six.
AMBROSE AND THE ARMY
Even in death STEPHEN AMBROSE remains controversial. Recently, after World War II veterans of the Troop Carrier Command complained, the Army Historical Foundation apologized for publishing an obituary which overlooked his flaws. Said the editor of the Foundation's newsletter: "There was never any intention for the Army Historical Foundation to appear to be a cheerleader for Ambrose. I apologize for any misunderstanding. My intention was simply to recognize an historian who, while controversial, did much to preserve and promote Army history, from Lewis and Clark through WWII. It was never intended as a tribute, per se. Again, I apologize for any trouble this may have caused. Personally, as an historian, I had never been a big fan of Dr. Ambrose. I felt much of his later work was sloppy." The Foundation is raising funds to build an army museum. The vets object to the negative way Ambrose characterized the men at Normandy who flew with the Troop Carrier Command.
As it has for years, the Nixon Library raises money in part by renting out its facilities for parties. A recent ad campaign:
Orange County's Premiere Wedding Show!
5th Annual Wedding Show
The Nixon Library presents its 5th annual Wedding Show where brides-to-be can find everything they need to make their special day a memorable one.
· · Fashion Shows
· · Make-up Demonstrations
· · Wedding Cake Samples and Catering Information
· · Live Music
· · Premiere Wedding Professionals
· · Door Prizes
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
For information call 714-993-5075 ext. 238 or visit us at www.nixonlibrary.org
Thought of the Day: Maybe universities should take this approach now that funds are tight. Your wedding on the Harvard Quad?
SO CHINA BEAT COLUMBUS?
Hats off to GAVIN MENZIES. Though almost no one with academic credentials believes his story that the Chinese beat Columbus to America, he succeeded in winning an $800,000 advance for his book, he has been given free air time on television to propound his crazy ideas (CNN's "Crossfire" even featured him on a show), and reviewers have praised his work in newspapers like the Daily News. Soon there will be a TV show. "Twenty-seven TV production companies bid on rights for a documentary," the Kansas City Star informed readers.
Depressed? Well, at least you can take solace in the fact that some media outlets
are treating the Menzies phenomenon as a joke: "The Star sought the opinion
of an archaeologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The interview was
brief -- filled with expletives about 'fun' history books and something about
'the Loch Ness monster.' Then the professor hung up, apparently in disgust,
without saying goodbye."
PAYING HOMAGE TO TEDDY ROOSEVELT
We reprint the following just for fun. It's from a recent History Channel newsletter:
TR: AN AMERICAN LION
Every political jungle needs a King!
This is the story of one of America's most beloved presidents-a tale
of adventure, war, politics, crime fighting and family fortunes. Richard
Dreyfuss provides the voice of Roosevelt in this dramatic story of courage,
candor and confrontation of one of the most colorful figures in American
The ad goes on to include a link to a teacher's guide and then, this: "WIN
A ROUGH RIDIN' ADVENTURE. Pre-register for a chance to win a Rough-Ridin'
Outdoor Adventure from A&E Travel. A seven-night Canyon Country tour for
two to six of our national parks."
Second Thought of the Day: If enrollments are down in your history course, maybe you should offer a free trip somewhere to drum up interest. Seems to work.
WHITE HOUSE READING
Evidence continues to mount that in the Bush White House the president lionized the most is ... no, not George Bush's dad. No, not even Ronald Reagan. It is the History Channel's own jungle king: TR. The Christmas after 9-11 the book George W. read was EDMUND MORRIS'S new biography of Teddy. Currently, Karl Rove is said to be reading KATHLEEN DALTON'S new biography of Teddy. If you want to be read in this White House, just write a biography of Teddy Roosevelt.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY has taken another approach to getting read in the Bush White House. He's signed up to write a history of John Kerry's tour in Vietnam. The book will be based on Kerry's war diaries to which Brinkley is being given full access. Yes, the White House is going to be very interested in reading Brinkley's book. Brinkley says he's being given the freedom to write what he sees fit, which makes the Kerry staff "a little nervous." But would Kerry have turned over the diaries if there were something really embarrassing in them? Probably not.
This week the actor/lawyer/writer BEN STEIN is scheduled to appear at the Nixon Library for a benefit. When the announcement was made the library noted that Stein had played Ferris Bueller's high school principal. A short time later came the correction that in fact Stein had played Bueller's history teacher. How could they forget? In the movie Stein bores his class with a droning lecture about the Hawley-Smoot Tariff. Even historians concede it is one of the film's funniest scenes. (As noted on this page previously, Hollywood has been treating historians better in recent films. Last fall Ben Affleck played a historian who saves the world. Then over Christmas Kevin Klein played a history teacher who saves souls.)
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