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Mar 16, 2007 2:00 pm

History & Perceptions

I went on CNN the other day to talk about second-term presidencies, a topic I have written about previously on HNN. I didn't think I was being pro-Bush. But afterwards a viewer complained that it sure seemed I was.

What led to the misimpression was my contention that virtually all second-term presidents run into serious trouble. To the viewer this understandably made Bush's current difficulties seem less a reflection on his own inadequacies than some more general symptom of institutional weakness. If the presidency is prone to second-term blues then Bush's low poll numbers are hardly a measure of his adminstration's record. Hence, concluded the viewer, I had been shilling for Bush.

Is there a way to tell the story of second-term presidencies without appearing to excuse Bush's many mistakes? Sure. You can come right out and say that he's mainly having difficulties because the chickens are coming home to roost. All the bad mistakes he made in the first term are now facing him in his second.

But there's a risk in being so straight forward. Supporters of Bush will conclude you are shilling for the Bush hating crowd.

I see no way to solve this problem. Somebody is always going to be peeved at the way one employs history to shed light on current events. But it's important to remember when we go on TV and write op eds that we will always face charges of bias. It's inescapable.

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Nonpartisan - 3/16/2007

from this assumption that, because historians have studied academic material for years and are now "experts," that makes them "impartial." The idea is pure poppycock, in my opinion -- why shouldn't having MORE information result in one's having a MORE clearly defined opinion?

So long as a historian presents information with his or her personal opinions clearly delineated from the rest of the material, that academic is in the clear as far as I'm concerned.