History Buzz December 9, 2011: George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role


History Buzz


HISTORY BOOK NEWS — Sesquicentennial Update: Civil War at 150

George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role

Source: Catholic News Agency, 12-9-11

Religion had a “pervasive” role in American life at the time of the United States’ Civil War, one historian says, explaining his “fascinating” discoveries about the roles Catholics played.

“One of the things that surprised me was that there were certain dominant ideas, regardless of particular religious affiliation. Ideas about providence, ideas about sin, ideas about judgment. Those were common themes that crossed religious traditions,” George C. Rable, a history professor at the University of Alabama, told CNA on Dec. 7.

“Religion was absolutely pervasive when Americans tried to explain the causes, and the course, and the consequences of the Civil War.”

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.

The conflict remains a central event in American history. It preserved the union of the states and emancipated the slaves, both actions which Christians saw at the time as providential.

Differences about slavery and whether it was a divinely inspired institution helped divide the Protestant churches before and during the war. Some contemporary Catholic observers saw these divisions as a religious fault.

Prof. Rable, author of the 2010 book “God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War” (Univ. of North Carolina Press, $35), read many northern Catholic newspapers from the period for his research.

“One argument that they make is that essentially Protestantism caused the war. You might say that that is a peculiar idea, but their point was that Protestants are inherently divisive and schismatic. Had the nation been entirely Catholic, they said, the nation would never have divided.”…READ MORE


History Buzz December 7, 2011: Douglas Brinkley: In online age, print books need support, historian says


History Buzz



Douglas Brinkley: In online age, print books need support, historian says

Source: St. Louis Beacon, 12-7-11

Historian Douglas Brinkley somewhat sheepishly acknowledged Monday that he had broken one of his own rules – he shopped at an independent bookstore but didn’t buy. What he found would probably become online purchases.

The prolific author and professor at Rice University told a gathering at Washington University celebrating books by faculty members that he was browsing in the University City Loop and came across Subterranean Books.


Photo from Rice University

Douglas Brinkley

As a big book buyer, Brinkley said, he normally would have purchased additions to his collection, but because he was traveling, he just made note of volumes he would likely buy online when he returned home – and probably at a cheaper price.

But, he added, that savings is a steep price to pay in exchange for threatening small, independent book sellers with extinction – particularly when such stores often help local authors by showcasing their works.

“If you can afford it,” Brinkley said, “keep spending money at independent bookstores.”

He added that large online booksellers aren’t the only things threatening the publishing industry today. Because of the ubiquitous nature of information to be found on the Internet, publishers have had to slash their staffs, leading to what Brinkley called “slapdash publishing,” both in terms of subject matter and in terms of the quality of their finished product.

Authors have to quadruple-check everything, he added, because editors who used to be their backstop have seen their jobs cut, even at university presses. For academic books, he said, professors should reach out and help each other.

“We are selling more books now than ever before,” Brinkley said, “but the quality of publishing is in ghastly decline. As an author, we deserve some of the blame for that, but publishing houses are downsizing so badly, there’s no one else to look at this. There’s no backstop. There’s nobody in New York or Cambridge who will really be there to monitor your mistakes.

“Once they edit it, it’s off to the races.”….READ MORE

History Buzz December 6, 2011: Randy Roberts: American Historian Tackles Football, Patriotism and Current Events


History Buzz



Randy Roberts: American Historian Tackles Football, Patriotism and Current Events

Source: Purdue University, 12-6-11


Sixty years ago football provided the nation an escape from a world war, but today, football, and other popular American sports, are often the source of conflict.

“Sports, especially American football, has become a world in itself,” says Randy Roberts, distinguished professor of history at Purdue University and author of the new book “A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation.” “At one time sports were mainly talked about in the sports section of a newspaper. Today it’s frequently on the front page as well as business and crime sections, and it defines the universities and the cities the teams represent. To understand the status of these games today, it’s important to look at history such as college football during World War II.”

In “A Team for America,” which was published Tuesday (Nov. 29) by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Roberts looks at the 1944 undefeated Army football team and its rival Navy, and the relationship between a violent game and a deadly war that had many personal ties between the players and the troops. He spent nearly a decade interviewing surviving players and coaches.

“Football was truly the last chance for these boys to be boys before they were called on to be men,” Roberts says. “The war was never far from their thoughts. They studied how to lead troops during classes and attended camps to train for war. Football was truly a different game before World War II, and it’s continued to change since then.”…READ MORE

Glenn C. Altschuler Reviews Steven Gillon’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ : A look at FDR, Pearl Harbor and a transformed presidency

Glenn C. Altschuler Reviews Steven Gillon’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ : A look at FDR, Pearl Harbor and a transformed presidency
Source: The OregonianThe Oregonia, 11-26-11

Steven M. Gillon
Basic Books
$25.99, 248 pages

For millions of Americans, Dec. 7, 1941, is a date that lives in infamy. They remember Japan’s surprise attack against the Pacific Fleet based in Hawaii as a pivotal moment that swept the United States into World War II and sealed the fate of the Axis powers.

In “Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War,” Steven M. Gillon, resident historian for The History Channel and history professor at the University of Oklahoma, provides a concise and informative account of Franklin Roosevelt’s initial response to the crisis. Against a backdrop of “chaos and confusion,” with no polls to guide him and little time for reflection, Gillon argues, the president exhibited extraordinary qualities of leadership, orchestrating a response that would reassure and inspire an anxious nation.

“Pearl Harbor” does not break new ground or depart from conventional wisdom. Along with virtually every professional historian, Gillon sees no evidence that Roosevelt knew the attack was coming and used it to push the United States into war. The president and his staff, he writes, may have “gravely misjudged Japan’s intentions and capability, but they were not guilty of deliberate deception.”

Gillon agrees, however, that Roosevelt did restrict the flow of information to the press. Concerned that detailed damage assessments might embolden the Japanese and demoralize Americans, he ordered that briefings come only from the White House, and did not update casualty figures. These practices, Gillon claims, perhaps naively, would not be acceptable today.

There is no doubt, however, that, for good and ill, the attack on Pearl Harbor transformed — and enlarged — the presidency. In one of many executive orders, Gillon reminds us, Roosevelt authorized the forced evacuation of more than 100,000 Japanese residents on the West Coast, many of them American citizens.

History Buzz September 15, 2011: Michael Beschloss: Jacqueline Kennedy Recordings Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With President John F. Kennedy Transcript Excerpts


History Buzz



Jacqueline Kennedy

HISTORY INTERVIEWS: Recordings of Jacqueline Kennedy Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With JFK — Transcript & Excerpts

Source: PBS Newshour, 9-15-11


The new book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never before heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964. Ray Suarez discusses the rare and intimate glimpse with presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who edited and annotated the book.

RAY SUAREZ: And to a rare and intimate glimpse into history.

The new book “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never-before-heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964, shortly after her husband’s assassination.

The tapes were released by daughter Caroline Kennedy in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.

Presidential historian and regular NewsHour guest Michael Beschloss edited and annotated the book, and he joins us now.

And, Michael, it was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life with JFK, life in the White House, and the life and times of the Kennedy administration.

What do you know now? What’s the most important thing you know now that you didn’t know before?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Well, the biggest thing, if we had talked a year ago, before I read this thing, I would have said Jacqueline Kennedy was a major figure obviously in JFK’s life and Kennedy’s Washington, did a lot for historic preservation, restored the White House, substituted the taste, perhaps, of Dwight Eisenhower, who had people like Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians play in the White House, for people like Pablo Casals.

But I wouldn’t have said that she was a major political figure in Kennedy administration. Now I would. One example of this is the number of times in this book where she runs down, say, someone like Dean Rusk, the secretary of state, says, “Jack, you should fire him.” And he says, “Well, maybe you’re right, but I can’t do it until 1964.”

She goes to Pakistan and there’s an ambassador of the United States she meets there, comes back, writes a letter at her husband’s behest that he sends on to the secretary of state. She had a lot more to do particularly with the personnel of this administration than think I would have thought.

RAY SUAREZ: We are taken into the back, private areas of the White House during some of the most tense times in the 1960s, for instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Jacqueline Kennedy tells historian and Kennedy insider Arthur Schlesinger about what those tense days were like for her and the family.

Let’s listen.


JACQUELINE KENNEDY, former first lady: But I said: “Please, don’t send me away to Camp David, you know, me and the children. Please don’t send me anywhere. If anything happens, we’re all going to say right here with you.”

And, you know — and I said, “Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House,” which I had seen, I said, “Please, then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, you know, but I just want to be with you and I want to die with you. And the children do, too, than live without you.”

RAY SUAREZ: It’s a reminder that this wasn’t kidding around. The world felt like it was right on the precipice. When the first lady says to the president, “I and the children want to die with you,” it was striking.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And be out on the lawn, not in a bomb shelter.

And the other thing is, it tells something about their marriage. In my experience studying presidents, the president doesn’t have a great marriage with the first lady and there’s a big political crisis, the president usually doesn’t want to spend very much time with his wife, would rather be around cronies or something.

John Kennedy’s first instinct when he knows about the Cuban Missile Crisis — it is in the book — he calls up Jackie, who is in Virginia. There’s something funny in his voice, she says. He says, “Please bring the children right now back to the White House,” even though they were taking naps.

And the next 13 days, they spent very much together, went strolling out on the lawn together. He had a very — she had a very large part in his life, obviously, but particularly at this moment he looked to her for security.

RAY SUAREZ: Two things shone out again and again, how much she admired Kennedy’s personality, his intellect, the way he related to people on the campaign trail and at times how unsure of her own value to him she really was. Take a listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I was always a liability to him until we got to the White House. And he never asked me to change or said anything about it. Everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.

And then because I was off and having these babies, I wasn’t able to campaign, be around him as much as I could have. And he’d get so upset for me when something like that came out. And, sometimes, I would say, “Oh, Jack, I wish — I’m so sorry for you that I’m just such a dud.”

RAY SUAREZ: Sure, she was a little unsure campaigning at the beginning, but she was anything but a liability, right?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: As it turned out.

But the Kennedy operatives in 1960 thought that she would be, that people would be put off, that she would seem too effete. Some of them wished that she would be more like Pat Nixon. One once said, we will run Mrs. Kennedy through subliminally, worried about her politically.

The biggest surprise to both of them is, she becomes first lady and she’s the most enormous celebrity in the country. Everyone wants to wear their hair like Jackie, the women do, and do their houses and imitate her in other ways. And the poignant thing is that, when they went to Texas at the end of the Kennedy presidency, he had pleaded with her to go with him because she was such a political asset.

RAY SUAREZ: The interesting thing about the times is that right behind her is Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: The model political wife of the time.

RAY SUAREZ: Waiting out just a little ways down the road are Lady Bird Johnson in her way, but also Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter. She seems on the edge of those two worlds, a helpmeet, a supporter, but also someone who is educated, quite sophisticated in her own right, and worried very much about how the burdens of the presidency were affecting her husband when she couldn’t help him.

Listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: And he cared so much. He didn’t care about his 100 days, but all those poor men who you would send off with all their hopes high and promises that we would back them. And there they were, shot down like dogs or going to die in jail.

And Bobby came over to see me and said, “Please stay very close to Jack. I mean, just be around all afternoon.” If I was going to take children out — in other words, don’t leave anywhere, just to sort of comfort him.

RAY SUAREZ: The Bay of Pigs had been a disaster for the very young Kennedy administration, and she was watching it weigh on her husband.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, just three months in.

And he came in with very grandiose expectations, and, suddenly, three months later, he’s accused of being an incompetent, can’t get this done, the invasion of Cuba. He weeps with her in a bedroom in the weekend house they had in Virginia.

And, also, you look at Kennedy’s medical records. His doctors felt that he had gone into a depression. So she felt very much part of her job throughout this presidency was buoying him up when he needed it, and he often did.

RAY SUAREZ: Also, she was incredibly young, raising young children, and pregnant several times during that both campaign and early White House phase, but, at the same time, a woman energized by the life that she was living emerges from the texts of the Schlesinger interviews.

By 1964, when this interview was done, she seems to be pretty much at peace with her role in White House. Take a listen:

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I always thought there was one thing merciful about the White House, which made up for the goldfish bowl and the Secret Service and all that, was that it was kind of — you were hermetically sealed or there was something protective against the outside world, I mean, as far as your private life went.

And I decided that was the best thing to do. Everyone should be trying to help Jack in whatever way they could. And that was the way I could do it the best, by making it always a climate of affection and comfort and detente when he came home.

RAY SUAREZ: Interesting that she was able to create privacy, when so many other first ladies more keenly feel that intrusion.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, that’s right.

And she didn’t want to go to the White House. She got very morose when he won, oddly enough, because she thought that life would wreck her family. And she was a woman of hugely strong will. And she basically said: I’m not going to be Mamie Eisenhower, campaigning and going to all these political and other kinds of banquets. My job is to support my husband, to raise my children well.

And she also took on for herself this huge project of restoring the White House, which she rightly felt when she encountered it looked like sort of a bad convention hotel which was full of B. Altman reproductions. She had to raise the money for it, huge project, so, all of that done at the same time. This was a woman who was very young, 31 when she became first lady, but of enormous accomplishment and talent.

RAY SUAREZ: A lot of the coverage over the last week has gone to her sharp and sometimes even a little snarky observations on the…


RAY SUAREZ: Yes, the great and the good of her age. But that just shows that she was paying attention, doesn’t it?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: She was paying very close attention.

And if you looked at the oral history, if there was one, of a first lady that was more traditional, perhaps a Mamie Eisenhower, I doubt if she would have had independent opinions about a secretary of state or an ambassador, and fulfilled that role for her husband.

RAY SUAREZ: So what do we see in Jackie, a sort of hybrid?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think a hybrid, and I think you’re right in saying that she was a transitional figure.

She knew that she had to function in a period where people didn’t want to see her attending Cabinet meetings, which she had no interest in doing and didn’t. But, at the same time, she knew that that generation of woman could not any longer be content to be a Mamie Eisenhower or one of the earlier first ladies, who basically poured tea.

RAY SUAREZ: Michael Beschloss, thanks for joining us.


History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy & ABC’s In Her Own Words


History Buzz



Jacqueline Kennedy


Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

“My mother willingly recalled the span of her married life and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality.” — Caroline Kennedy wrote


“Suddenly, everything that’d been a liability before — your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn’t just adore to campaign, and you didn’t bake bread with flour up to your arms — you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

“Renewals of love after brief separations”… “He loved having those children tumbling around him”… He never asked me to change”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “tricky” and a “phony”; “I said, ‘Oh, but Jack, that’s so terrible. I mean that man is a, you know, such a phony.’… He would never judge anyone in any sort of way. He never said anything against Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it. And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

France’s Charles de Gaulle: “egomaniac” and a “spiteful man” “He was so full of spite … I loathe the French, they’re really not very nice, they’re all for themselves.”

Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India: “prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

Sukarno, the former Indonesian president: a lecher, he left “a bad taste in your mouth.”

André Malraux, the French novelist: “The most fascinating man I’ve ever talked to.”

Colombian president, Alberto Lleras Camargo: “Nordic in his sadness.”

Mr. Kennedy on Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Charlatan is an unfair word,” but “he did an awful lot for effect.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Really, he kept us [as a nation] standing still.”

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower: “There was venom or something there.”

Pat Nixon: Kennedy said she worried that the public wanted her to get a “frizzy perm and be like Pat Nixon.”

Lady Bird Johnson: “trained hunting dog.”

On Lyndon Johnson as President: “Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?’ And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968”

On Lyndon B. Johnson, as a Vice President: “[He had] an enormous ego … [He] just didn’t do anything.”

On Johnson, after he took office as President: “People will think I’m bitter, but I just want it to be put in context the kind of president Jack was and Lyndon is.”

On her husband becoming President in 1961: “Once he was in control … all the best things would happen.”

On the Bay of Pigs invasion: “He started to cry … just with me. Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept. And, it was so sad. He cared so much … all those poor men.”

On the Cuban Missile Crisis in Octpber 1962 to JFK: “From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping…. If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. “[I told John] please don’t send me away to Camp David … Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen…. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you….
That was the time I was closest to him, I never left the house or saw the children. I stayed by his side.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver: “She wanted to be a cabinet wife.”

On Joseph Jr. as President: “He would have been so unimaginative, compared to Jack.”

On Democratic governor of Texas, John Connally: “Jack was so sweet. He sort of rubbed my back … and said, ‘You mustn’t say that, you mustn’t say that.’ If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you’ll act as if you hated him.”

White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen had a “big inferiority complex” and was “the last person you would invite at night.”…
“You know, Jack forgave so quickly, but I never forgave Ted Sorensen.” (On Sorenson encouraging the perception that he had ghostwritten her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage.’)

On being asked if Mr. Kennedy was religious: “Oh, yes. Well, I mean, he never missed church one Sunday that we were married or all that, but you could see partly — I often used to think whether it was superstition or not — I mean, he wasn’t quite sure, but if it was that way, he wanted to have that on his side.
It was just like a little childish mannerism, I suppose like brushing your teeth or something. But I thought that was so sweet. It used to amuse me so, standing there.”

“I think he probably did it … rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there.” — Jackie said JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.

“All these twisted poor little women whose lives hadn’t worked out … [They had] this queer thing for power…. resented getting their power through men
I get all my opinions from my husband, which is true. How could I have any political opinions? His were going to be the best…. Women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it.”

Schlesinger asks young John if he knows what happened to his father.
“He’s gone to heaven,” the boy replies.
Schlesinger asks what he remembers.
“I don’t remember ANY-thing,” John says playfully.

Jacqueline Kennedy recalled a 1962 White House conversation between Kennedy and historian David Donald about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency:
“‘Do you think’ – it’s the one thing that was on his mind — ‘would Lincoln have been as great a President if he’d lived?’ And Donald, really by going round and round, had agreed with him that Lincoln, you know, it was better — was better for Lincoln that he died when he did.”


“I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. And it really – the value of it is it is immediate, it is honest. I think that was very brave of her to do that and to be honest. But it’s got limitations. It’s just – it’s a primary source document. It’s like a diary or something like that, it’s really a snapshot.

This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest and she had always told us that she was going to put it away for 50 years.

There are flashes throughout where I hear her and there are parts to me where it sounds like it was a very long time ago, just the way she speaks and the things she said.

It was funny because my daughters listened to it too and they were just absolutely horrified… ‘Did she really think that?’ And of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize.” — Caroline Kennedy on ABC’s Good Morning America

  • Caroline Kennedy on Jacqueline Kennedy’s ‘Brave’ Tapes: My Daughters Were ‘Absolutely Horrified’ at Some OpinionsABC News, 9-14-11
  • In Tapes, Candid Talk by Young Kennedy Widow: The seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband’s presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994. The transcript and recording, obtained by The New York Times, offer an extraordinary immersion in the thoughts and feelings of one of the most enigmatic figures of the second half of the 20th century — the woman who, as much as anyone, helped shape a heroic narrative of the Kennedy years. Though the interviews seem unlikely to redraw the contours of Mr. Kennedy or his presidency, they are packed with intimate observations and insights of the sort that historians treasure…. – NYT, 9-12-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, Historic Conversations on Life with JFK: Hundreds of books have been written about the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Countless documentaries have been made, thousands of testimonials and oral histories given.
    But for almost 50 years, one voice was silent: Jacqueline Kennedy’s.
    Now, in an ABC News exclusive, Diane Sawyer will anchor a two-hour 20/20 special in September in which America will hear Jacqueline Kennedy’s conversations for the first time, put in context by historians and by the woman who knew her best: her own daughter…. – ABC News, 5-25-11
  • ABC News Kennedy Special Most Watched Program at 10pm: ABC News Special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” averaged 8.4 million Total Viewers and a 2.1 rating/5 share among Adults 25-54 and 1.5 rating/4 share among Adults 18-49 for its two-hour broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research. … – ABC News, 9-14-11
  • Did NBC spoil ratings for ABC’s Jackie Kennedy special?: Seventeen years after her death, Jacqueline Kennedy remains a big draw, especially with newly released recordings that find her dishing dirt on everyone from President Lyndon Johnson to Indian leader Indira Ghandi. But a rival network may have spoiled the big party ABC planned for the event.
    ABC’s two-hour special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” delivered 8.4 million total viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen. Host Diane Sawyer picked her way through hours of tapes the former first lady made with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in early 1964, just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. In the recordings, Jacqueline Kennedy glowingly recounts life with her husband but bashes leaders such as LBJ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles de Gaulle…. – LAT, 9-14-11
  • Jackie Kennedy Book Shoots to No. 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, debuted at #1 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists today, its first official release day. Early leaks of the book, which contains the transcript and CDs of the audio recordings of 8.5 hours of interviews Jackie Kennedy did with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger in March 1964, less than four months after the assassination of President John Kennedy, had been the subject of intense media jockeying over the last week. The book also contains introductory essays from Caroline Kennedy and presidential writer Michael Beschloss.
    The book was under a strict sales embargo to protect the exclusive for ABC News’ Diane Sawyer-hosted special, Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, that aired last night. Some bookstores broke the embargo and The New York Times, the AP, and NBC News acquired early copies last week. Much to the dismay of executives at Disney and ABC, NBC aired audio excerpts on Friday night’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williamsand followed with additional reports on MSNBC over the next few days. The publicity surrounding the ABC-NBC squabble and the early leaks certainly helped book sales. Eleven days ago, the book was not on Amazon’s Top 100 sellers list but as the publicity grew it steadily rose through the rankings to land at No. 1 today…. – Hollywood Reporter, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words.
    In the just-released book and audiotapes, made from interviews she gave almost 50 years ago, we get these examples…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: Now we know why Jackie Kennedy was such a sought-after dinner guest. It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • In Her Own Words: Audio Tapes Reveal New Details of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Life: Jaqueline Kennedy is forever enduring in the national memory for her poise, grace, and impeccable style. But little is known about how she really felt about her years in the White House and of her relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Now, the world is privy to rare details of the presidency and private life thanks to an oral history of the president, conducted with the widowed First Lady in early 1964, just months after his assassination.
    The 8.5-hour-long series of audio interviews, as well as transcripts, are being released this week as a book entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The interviews were conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a historian and Kennedy aide who was close to the family. Previously locked up in the Kennedy Library, the tapes are being released 47 years after they were first conducted. They’re chock-full of juicy gossip and surprising details of the iconic couple’s life…. – Time, 9-12-11
  • New book and audiotapes show new and more personal side to Jackie Kennedy: It’s a side of Jacqueline Kennedy only friends and family knew. Funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting.
    In “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” the former first lady was not yet the jet-setting celebrity of the late 1960s or the literary editor of the 1970s and 1980s. But she was also nothing like the soft-spoken fashion icon of the three previous years. She was in her mid-30s, recently widowed, but dry-eyed and determined to set down her thoughts for history.
    Kennedy met with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in her 18th-century Washington house in the spring and early summer of 1964. At home and at ease, as if receiving a guest for afternoon tea, she chatted about her husband and their time in the White House. The young Kennedy children, Caroline and John Jr., occasionally popped in. On the accompanying audio discs, you can hear the shake of ice inside a drinking glass. The tapes were to be sealed for decades and were among the last documents of her private thoughts. She never wrote a memoir and became a legend in part because of what we didn’t know.
    The book comes out Wednesday as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office. Jacqueline Kennedy died in 1994, and Schlesinger in 2007…. – AP, 9-13-11
  • Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy: Tomorrow Hyperion will release a set of Jacqueline Kennedy oral histories in book and audio format. The Times yesterday published excerpts from the tapes and tonight ABC will air a two-hour special on them. Mrs. Kennedy’s candid remarks about members of her husband’s Administration and other public figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., have already generated much controversy and discussion…. – New Yorker, 9-13-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy’s candid look at life with JFK: In the conversations, Kennedy, then 34 years old, also recalls her time in the White House with her husband, John F. Kennedy, as “our happiest years.” The tapes, which have been kept under seal at the Kennedy Library, were released by Caroline Kennedy, 53, who was editor of the book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, being published this week by Hyperion. Conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy friend and aide, the interviews capture both the intimacy and Cold War tensions at the Kennedy White House…. – USA Today, 9-14-11
  • Will the Jackie Kennedy Tapes Change the Way You Think of Camelot? Audio tapes and book reveal a seven-part interview with Jackie Kennedy conducted in 1964: A 1964 seven-part interview between Jackie Kennedy and Kennedy historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was published as a book and audio tapes Wednesday. The interview was conducted soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination as part of an oral history of the Kennedy presidency. The tapes were kept under wraps at the first lady’s request, but were finally released by her daughter Caroline to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.
    The tapes provide an intimate look of the marriage between Jackie and the president, as well as her perspective on the people and events that made up the “Camelot” era. In excerpts released in advance, she warmly recalls the 45 minute naps President Kennedy would take—in his pajamas—in the middle of each day. She also recounts the anxiety of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which she says she told her husband, “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too—than live without you.”
    Some of her remarks in the interview are much more controversial. She calls French President Charles de Gaulle an “egomaniac,” civil rights leader Martin Luther King a “phony,” and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi “a real prune—bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.” She also remembers the president saying of his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?”
    Some who have already heard the tapes describe them as “explosive.”… – US News, 9-12-11
  • ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words’: Did Diane Sawyer’s special change your opinions about Jackie O?: On the eve of the release of historian Michael Beschloss’ new book, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, Diane Sawyer hosted a two-hour long special chronicling the previously unheard eight-and-a-half hours worth of audio of the former First Lady.
    The ABC special — watch it here — featured the revealing interviews that historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. conducted with Mrs. Kennedy just four months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well Sawyer’s interview with Caroline Kennedy, who revealed why she opted to release the tapes to the public now…. – EW, 9-14-11
  • Listening to the other voice in the Jackie Kennedy interviews: The voice of Jackie Kennedy’s interviewer belongs to the late historian and former JFK aide Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., whose writings are again timely in this tea-party era. He noted that the Founding Fathers embraced government as a vital help, not an obstacle, to progress…. — CS Monitor, 9-15-11
  • Jackie: JFK mused on own assassination: John F. Kennedy joked about his own possible assassination in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to recently released tapes of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
    The tapes, which were the product of conversations with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in the spring and early summer of 1964, have been released in book form as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office…. – CBS News, 9-14-11


    “It’s certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on. By then, she’s a different woman.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian and wife of Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy aide, said in an interview

    The Jackie Kennedy tapes: Catty, but won’t change history: “If people are looking for revelations about her, they will not find them. What I think they reveal is an unerring, all-observing eye…. She did not want to be implored and lobbied by people who wanted her to influence policy, so she assumed a public persona of the ‘anti-Eleanor Roosevelt.’ She was very tactical — almost like a spy.” — Carl Anthony, one of the country’s leading experts on first ladies — WaPo, 9-12-11

    “This book shows Jackie Kennedy unplugged. A lot of the rawness of her feelings, I think, as a young woman — she’s is only in her 30s when she is doing these tapes in 1964 — is very different from the more poised and discreet Jackie Kennedy we got to know in the 1980s and 1990s….
    I “was close to Arthur Schlesinger, the professor. He died a few years ago. Ted Sorensen, one of the other keepers of the flame, died, and I think Caroline Kennedy thought, it’s the 50th anniversary right now of the Kennedy presidency, and this is sitting there, and it was time to let her mother have her say, and decided to come public with this.” — Historian and CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley on the “Early Show”

    Michael Beschloss: I was surprised that she seemed to have so much influence on JFK’s attitudes toward the people who worked for him. For instance, she she says she disliked Secretary of State Dean Rusk and wished JFK would fire him. He told her he intended to do so in 1964. Others she admired, like Robert McNamara, the Defense Secretary, did extremely well in the Kennedy government. She may not have been the only reason, but what she privately told JFK didn’t hurt. There are many other instances of this in the book.

    Her voice has been virtually missing from the thousands of books written about the Kennedys in the past half-century. After all that’s been written about her, it’s illuminating to listen to her speak for herself without that kind of filter.

    She occasionally would stop the recorder and ask Schlesinger if she should discuss such-and-such. As he later recalled, he almost always told her, “Say everything — you control the tape.” — EW, 9-14-11

    Catherine Allgor: Historian Offers Insight on Jacqueline Kennedy: Catherine Allgor, UC Riverside expert on American first ladies, calls Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a “woman of her time and place.”
    Jackie Kennedy, Allgor says, “was a woman of her time and place.” “Her articulateness, her insight, her apparent education juxtaposes uneasily with her little-girl wistfulness and her aching insecurity. The Jacqueline we see in photographs and waving at crowds gives an impression of confident command, but the woman so happy that she has made her husband proud has more in common with her infamous relative, ‘Little Edie’ of Grey Gardens (the rundown mansion where Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and first cousin, Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale and Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale lived). Both were women of refinement and intelligence trapped in privileged worlds ruled by men. Both tug at the heart strings.”
    Popular consensus is that the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes won’t add much to our understanding of that period of U.S. history, Allgor says. She disagrees: “That depends on whose history. Her remarks about her marriage and how she felt about herself, about men and women, show Americans how much feminism changed our lives, and how far we have to go.” — UCR Newsroom, 9-14-11

History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy Book & Transcript Excerpts


History Buzz



Jacqueline Kennedy


Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.


On her husband’s opinion of Lyndon Johnson:

“Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God can you ever imagine what would happen if Lyndon was president?’

“Jack would say you could never get an opinion out of Lyndon at any cabinet or national security meeting. He’d just say, you know, that he agreed with them – with everyone – or just keep really quiet.

“So Lyndon, as vice-president, didn’t just do anything.”

On Charles de Gaulle and France

“De Gaulle was my hero when I married Jack,” she says.

But after meeting the French leader during a May 1961 visit, she says she found him “so full of spite”.

She also says: “I loathe the French… They are not very nice, they are all for themselves.”

On fears during the Cuban Missile Crisis

“I went up and listened and eavesdropped [to a debate on the issue]. I could hear [Former Secretary of Defence Robert] McNamara saying something and then I thought I must not listen and went away. But from then on it seemed there was no waking or sleeping.

“And I just don’t know which day was which. And I never left the house or saw the children and when he came home if it was for sleep or for a nap I would sleep with him.

“Please don’t send me away to Camp David. Please don’t send me anywhere, if anything happens we’re all going to stay right here with you. Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen I said then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, well I just want to be with you and I just want to die with you and the children do too.”

On JFK joking about the threat of assassination

“And then I remember Jack saying after the Cuban missile crisis, when it all turned [out] so fantastically, he said, ‘Well, if anyone’s ever going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.'”

On her husband

“I just wish he could have seen some more good things come in, that he worked so hard for. The tax bill, the civil rights bill, the economy up so high.

“He really did so much. There wasn’t that much more to do, except it would have gelled.”

“Once I asked him – I think this is rather touching – if he could have one wish, what would it be? In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, ‘I wish I had more good times.'”

On JFK’s reaction to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba

“He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one – just put his head in his hands and sort of wept.

“It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much.”

On Martin Luther King

“I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

On entering the White House

“I was always a liability to him [John F Kennedy], everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.”

“When we got in the White House all the things that I’d always done suddenly became wonderful. And I was so happy for Jack. He could be proud of me then because it made him so happy. Made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

On JFK meeting Winston Churchill in the 1950s

“Jack had always wanted to meet Churchill. Well, the poor man was really quite ga-ga then.

“I felt so sorry for Jack that evening because he was meeting his hero, only he met him too late.”

On future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

She calls Ms Gandhi a “bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”


In 1964, as part of an oral history project on the life and career of John F. Kennedy, my mother sat down with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., to share her memories and insights. Recorded less than four months after the death of her husband, they represent a gift to history and a labor of love on her part. In order to treat them with the appropriate respect, my children and I took very seriously the decision to publish them now, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. The moment seems right—enough time has passed so that they can be appreciated for their unique insight, yet the Kennedy presidency is still within living memory for many who will find her observations illuminating. I hope too that younger generations who are just learning about the 1960s will find these reminiscences a useful introduction to how history is made, and will be inspired to give back to this country that has given us all so much.

When I was growing up, my mother spent much of her time meeting behind closed doors with members of my father’s administration, planning his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, making sure that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would reflect his commitment to our country’s cultural heritage, executing his wishes for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the Institute of Politics, and making countless decisions on the disposition of my father’s official papers, personal effects, mementos, and memorabilia. She was determined that the Kennedy Library would be a living memorial, a place where students would be inspired to pursue careers in public service, where scholars would have access to the historical record, and where families could learn about the ideals that animated my father’s career and his vision for America. These meetings were somewhat mysterious, but my brother and I had a sense that nothing was more important than the “oral history” that we heard about from time to time.

My parents shared a love of history. To them, the past was not an academic concern, but a gathering of the most fascinating people you could ever hope to meet. My father’s interests were political—I still have his books on the Civil War and English parliamentary history, as well as his annotated copy of The Federalist Papers. My mother thought there weren’t enough women in American history to make it as interesting as reading novels and diaries from the courts of Europe. She read War and Peace during the Wisconsin primary, and maintained that reading the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon about life at Versailles was the most valuable preparation she received for life in the White House.

After my father’s death, my mother resolved to do everything she could to make sure that the record of his administration was preserved. She had confidence that his decisions would stand the test of time and wanted future generations to learn what an extraordinary man he was. She helped set in motion one of the most extensive oral history projects ever conducted up to that time, in which more than one thousand people were interviewed about their life and work with John F. Kennedy. Although it was painful for my mother to relive the life since shattered, she knew it was important that she participate. She always told us that she chose to be interviewed by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, former Harvard professor, and special assistant to President Kennedy, because she was doing this for future generations, and that was why she put the tapes in a vault to be sealed for fifty years.

I first read transcripts of these conversations a few weeks after my mother’s death in 1994 when the vault was opened and her lawyer gave me a copy. Everything about that time was overwhelming for me as I found myself faced with the same sorts of decisions about her possessions that she had made thirty years earlier. Knowing her wishes for the oral history made it easy—I knew I was reading something that wasn’t supposed to be seen yet—and although I found it fascinating, I put it back in the vault to await its time.

A few years ago, my family began thinking about how to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. We decided to concentrate our efforts on projects that would make his legacy accessible worldwide. Working with the staff of the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation and generous private partners, my husband led the effort to create the largest existing digital archive of a presidency, as well as online curricula, downloadable exhibits, and a Web site—www.jfk50.org—intended to renew my father’s call to service for today’s generation.

The publication of these interviews is an important contribution to this commemorative effort, and one with its own story. When the director of the Kennedy Library first approached me with the idea, I asked him to search the archives to confirm my mother’s wishes regarding the date of publication. Surprisingly, given the importance of the material, there was no deed of gift or transfer, nor a letter of intent regarding the date at which the interviews were to be opened. There was only a brief notation by a former government archivist that these interviews were “subject to the same restrictions as the Manchester interviews.” By way of background, there are three significant interviews that my mother gave after my father’s death. The first was to Theodore H. White in Hyannis Port on November 29, 1963, only a few days after my father’s funeral. In that interview, my mother famously told White that she and my father used to listen to the record of the Broadway musical Camelot in the evening before they went to bed, and looking back, “that one brief shining moment” reminded her of his presidency. White’s article was published a week later in Life magazine, but the notes of his interview were sealed until one year after my mother’s death. They are now open to researchers at the Kennedy Library in Boston.

The second set of conversations was with William Manchester, who was writing a book called The Death of a President. During the sessions my mother said more about my father’s assassination than she had intended. Subsequently, she became so upset at the thought of her personal memories becoming public that she sued the author and publisher to keep them out of the book. A settlement was reached, and although much of the content made its way into the public sphere, the notes of the interviews were sealed for 100 years—that is, until 2067.

By far the most important were these oral history conversations with Arthur Schlesinger in which my mother willingly recalled the span of her married life, and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality. The archivist’s notation regarding the date of publication was not consistent with my memory, nor did it seem to reflect my mother’s wishes. I checked with former members of her staff in the White House and afterward, as well as other friends and attorneys. No one had a recollection that differed from mine, and they were enthusiastic about the idea of publication.

So I was faced with a dilemma that I have confronted numerous times in connection with my mother’s personal papers and correspondence. On one hand, she was a famously private person who gave no on-the-record interviews (other than these three) about life in the White House, and requested in her will that my brother and I make every effort to prevent publication of her personal papers, letters, and writings.

However, she also saved every scrap of paper that came her way—every birthday card or telegram, every letter from her parents, every date book and diary, every draft letter or memo she ever wrote. She knew that living in the White House was an enormous privilege and she was proud of the part she had played. Early on, when she discovered that one of her secretaries was throwing out notes and internal correspondence that chronicled both daily life and the official workings of the mansion, she wrote a steaming rebuke—directing everyone on her staff to save even the smallest scribbles. Her deep immersion in memoirs of the past informed her belief that she had an obligation to preserve everything that happened during her time in the White House. In the years since her death, I have asked myself the question, When does someone no longer belong to you, but belong to history? Few people have been written about more than my mother, and I grew up feeling I needed to protect her—just as she had protected us. So at first I thought it best to leave these interviews sealed for another fifty years, rather than to expose her memory to one more round of gossip and speculation. But I also understand that the continuing interest in her life is a tribute to the immense admiration and goodwill she still commands, and I believe that open access to government is an important American value.

Over the years, I have received multiple requests to publish my mother’s memos and correspondence. At times, it has been difficult to balance her wish for privacy against her public role and pay proper respect to both. Although I agonize over each request, I know that my mother trusted my judgment and felt that I understood her outlook on life. As the years pass, it has become less painful to share her with the world, and in fact, it is a privilege. As her child, it has sometimes been hard for me to reconcile that most people can identify my mother instantly, but they really don’t know her at all. They may have a sense of her style and her dignified persona, but they don’t always appreciate her intellectual curiosity, her sense of the ridiculous, her sense of adventure, or her unerring sense of what was right. Over time, I have tried to draw the line between her public and private life much as I think she did—I try to accommodate requests that pertain to my father’s career, life in the White House, historic events and historic preservation, while denying permission for publication of her writings as a private citizen—whether as a young woman or a working editor.

These conversations are not in the same category as her personal writings, because they were recorded with the intention that they would be made accessible one day. So it was not a question of whether to publish but a question of when, and the decision was up to me. My experience with other requests informed my decision that the time was right.

In reaching this conclusion, I found it helpful to remember the context in which the interviews were conducted, and the timing of when they occurred. The goal was to create a record of my father’s life and career from the memories of those who knew and worked with him. Accordingly, the questions follow a loosely chronological sequence beginning with my father’s early political battles in Massachusetts, his 1956 fight for the vice-presidential nomination, the 1960 campaign, the transition to the presidency, the Inauguration, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, official and family life in the White House, and plans for the 1964 campaign and a second term. Along the way, there are discussions that reveal much about the central characters and events of the time in both domestic politics and international affairs.

The decision was complicated by my conviction that if my mother had reviewed the transcripts, I have no doubt she would have made revisions. She was a young widow in the extreme stages of grief. The interviews were conducted only four months after she had lost her husband, her home, and her sense of purpose. She had two young children to raise alone. It isn’t surprising that there are some statements she would later have considered too personal, and others too harsh. There are things I am sure she would have added, and her views certainly evolved over time. I struggled with the question of whether to delete remarks that might be taken out of context. I was aware that my intentions might be misinterpreted, even if the edited version was a more “accurate” reflection of how she really felt. After much deliberation, I decided to maintain the integrity of the audio interviews as a primary source while editing the text slightly for readability, not content, as has been done with other presidential transcripts and oral history interviews.

My reservations were mitigated by the remarkable immediacy and the informality of the conversations. Knowing my mother so well, I can hear her voice in my mind when I read her words on a page. I can tell when she is emotional, when she is enjoying herself, or is getting annoyed—though she is unfailingly polite. Even though most of her answers are about my father, by listening to the audio, people will learn a great deal about the person that she was. Much is revealed by her tone, and by her pauses as well as by her statements. I trust that readers and listeners will place her views in context to build an accurate and composite portrait of a person and a moment in time, and that her devotion to her husband will come through to others as it does to me.

In addition to their passion for history, my parents shared a conviction that American civilization had come of age. Today this seems an unremarkable proposition, but at the time the United States was just emerging as a global power, and people still looked to Europe for direction and leadership. My parents believed America should lead with her ideals, not just with economic or military power, and they wanted to share our artistic and cultural achievements with the world. My mother played a critical role in the development of what is now called “soft diplomacy.” She traveled with my father and on her own, often speaking the language of the countries she visited. She was an international sensation.

She also understood that the White House itself was a powerful symbol of our democracy, and wanted to make sure it projected the best of America to students and families who visited, as well as to foreign heads of state who were entertained there. She worked hard—not to “redecorate,” a word she hated—but to “restore” the White House so that the legacy of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln would be visible. She recast the White House Library to showcase classic works of American history and literature. She established the Fine Arts Committee and White House Historical Association to assemble a permanent collection of American paintings and decorative arts that would become one of the nation’s finest. She made the White House the world’s greatest stage and invited the world’s foremost artists to perform there. She welcomed young musicians, emerging African-American opera singers, jazz musicians, and modern dancers—all to awaken and expand appreciation for American arts and culture.

She felt strongly that as our capital city, Washington, D.C., should reflect America’s newly prominent place in the world. She fought to preserve Lafayette Square, and launched the effort to rehabilitate Pennsylvania Avenue—an effort that has been sustained ever since. My mother understood that the past was a source of pride for people around the world, just as it is in America, and convinced my father that the United States could build goodwill among countries like Egypt, with which we had political differences, by assisting in their historic preservation efforts. Her persistence resulted in a generous U.S. contribution to the UNESCO rescue of the temples of Abu Simbel, which were threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam, and favorably impressed the Nasser regime. In another example of cultural diplomacy, my mother was responsible for the Mona Lisa’s visit to the United States, the only time the painting has ever left the Louvre.

Most important, she believed her responsibility was to help my father in every way she could. Although she became a diplomatic and even a political asset, she never thought she deserved the title “First Lady,” which she disliked anyway, claiming it sounded like the name of a racehorse. But she was deeply patriotic and proud of what she accomplished, and my father was proud of her too. Their time in the White House was the happiest of her life.

Given the important role Jacqueline Kennedy played in the presidency of John F. Kennedy and its aftermath, it seemed a disservice to let her perspective remain absent from the public and scholarly debate that would accompany the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy administration. Fifty years seems a sufficient time for passions to have cooled, yet recent enough that the world described still has much to teach us. The sense of time passing was made more acute by the loss of my uncle Teddy and my aunt Eunice in 2009, by Ted Sorensen in 2010, and my uncle Sarge in January 2011.

But, before making the final decision, I asked my children to read the transcripts and tell me what they thought. Their reactions were not so different from my own. They found the conversations dated in many ways—but fascinating in many more. They loved the stories about their grandfather, and how insightful yet irreverent their grandmother was. They were puzzled by some of Arthur Schlesinger’s questions—personal rivalries he pursued and particular issues that have not stood the test of time. They wished that he had asked more questions about her.

But they came away with the same conclusions that I had reached—there was no significant reason to put off publication and no one speaks better for my mother than she does herself.

—NEW YORK, 2011

History Buzz August 29, 2011: Reviews — Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s No Holds Bar Memoir of the Bush Administration “In My Time” — Will Have “Heads exploding all over Washington”


History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.




IN MY TIME A Personal and Political Memoir By Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney Illustrated. 565 pages. Simon & Shuster, Threshold Editions. $35.

Browse & Search Inside, Full Text of Dick Cheney’s IN MY TIME A Personal and Political Memoir

In this eagerly anticipated memoir, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivers an unyielding portrait of American politics over nearly forty years and shares personal reflections on his role as one of the most steadfast and influential statesmen in the history of our country.
The public perception of Dick Cheney has long been something of a contradiction. He has been viewed as one of the most powerful vice presidents—secretive, even mysterious, and at the same time opinionated and unflinchingly outspoken. He has been both praised and attacked by his peers, the press, and the public. Through it all, courting only the ideals that define him, he has remained true to himself, his principles, his family, and his country. Now in an enlightening and provocative memoir, a stately page-turner with flashes of surprising humor and remarkable candor, Dick Cheney takes readers through his experiences as family man, policymaker, businessman, and politician during years that shaped our collective history….
Eyewitness to history at the highest levels, Cheney brings to life scenes from past and present. He describes driving through the White House gates on August 9, 1974, just hours after Richard Nixon resigned, to begin work on the Ford transition; and he portrays a time of national crisis a quarter century later when, on September 11, 2001, he was in the White House bunker and conveyed orders to shoot down a hijacked airliner if it would not divert.
With its unique perspective on a remarkable span of American history, In My Time will enlighten. As an intimate and personal chronicle, it will surprise, move, and inspire. Dick Cheney’s is an enduring political vision to be reckoned with and admired for its honesty, its wisdom, and its resonance. In My Time is truly the last word about an incredible political era, by a man who lived it and helped define it—with courage and without compromise. — Publisher Description, Simon & Shuster

    • Cheney’s memoir: heads really did explode: Critics – including former Secretary of State Colin Powell – fulminate over Dick Cheney’s memoir.
      “Even the cover [of Dick Cheney’s memoir] is daunting,” writes US News and World Report critic Susan Milligan, noting that it features “a grimacing Cheney inside the White House, looking like he’s deliberately trying to scare away the tourists.”
      Dick Cheney’s anticipated book, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” hit bookstores today and – no surprise – like the man himself, it’s already creating a stir.
      The 46th vice president spends the bulk of the book, co-written with his daughter, Liz Cheney, defending his controversial policies and practices, promising more than once that he has no regrets and would repeat his actions “in a heartbeat.”… – CS Monitor, 8-30-11

“Not only do [critics] want apologies. They want the apologies to be on matters they disagreed with you on — on policy.
It’s not good enough if you say, ‘Well, when I was a young man, I had a misspent youth. I got kicked out of Yale twice, arrested twice for driving under the influence.’ I had to straighten my life out. It’s a pretty big mistake that I admit, and talk about very freely in my book. That’s not good enough: It’s got to be some policy issue where they disagreed with you. And I’m not apologetic with respect to the policies of the Bush administration. I think we basically got it right.
I didn’t say no mistakes. But … from the standpoint of what I wanted to put down, what I knew about, what I was intimately involved in, I think we got it right.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney in an Interview with Politico

    • Dick Cheney’s last campaign: ‘We got it right’: His last campaign is an unyielding defense of his legacy, after years of reveling in what he calls his “Darth Vader image.” Dick Cheney says he knew critics and historians would tear apart his new book, but that he wrote it so his seven grandchildren would know why he did what he did…. – Politico, 8-31-11
    • Dick Cheney versus Colin Powell: Memoir feeds the feud: Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s new memoir, ‘In My Time,’ has passages critical of Colin Powell. The former secretary of State took his shots on Sunday, and Cheney is jabbing back.
      Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday defended the way he treats ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his new memoir “In My Time”.
      Mr. Cheney told interviewer Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” that while there are passages in the book critical of Mr. Powell, there are also chapters about how well the pair worked together at the Pentagon when Cheney was secretary of Defense and Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
      “So there’s a lot of very positive stuff in there. But a balanced account, I think, also required me to put down what my opinion was, and that’s what I’ve done,” said the ex-veep.
      Cheney’s memoir is being officially released Tuesday. Among its most notable overall themes is that the Bush administration cabinet was a team of rivals, a group of antagonists who disagreed with each other – or at least with Vice President Cheney – and fought and backstabbed in the best Washington bureaucratic traditions…. – CS Monitor, 8-30-11
    • Leaving Regrets to Others, Cheney Speaks: In an interview on NBC’s “Dateline,” former Vice President Dick Cheney says that his new book, “In My Time,” will have “heads exploding all over Washington.” Whatever readers think of Mr. Cheney’s politics, their heads are more likely to explode from frustration than from any sense of revelation. Indeed, the memoir — delivered in dry, often truculent prose — turns out to be mostly a predictable mix of spin, stonewalling, score settling and highly selective reminiscences.
      The book, written with his daughter Liz, reiterates Mr. Cheney’s aggressive approach to foreign policy and his hard-line views on national security, while sidestepping questions about many of the Bush administration’s more controversial decisions, either by cherry-picking information (much the way critics say the White House cherry-picked intelligence in making the case to go to war against Iraq) or by hopping and skipping over awkward subjects with loudly voiced assertions. It’s ironic that Mr. Cheney — who succeeded in promulgating so many of his policy ideas through his sheer mastery of bureaucratic detail — should have written a book that is often so lacking in detail that it feels like a blurred photograph…. – NYT, 8-26-11
    • Cheney’s memoir: few apologies, some evasion, and critical words for Condi Rice: An early review of Cheney’s “In My Time” suggests that readers of the memoir will react more with frustration than with anger. In Cheney’s view of history, the war in Iraq was one of the most significant accomplishments of the Bush administration. … – CS Monitor, 8-25-11
    • Dick Cheney memoir ‘In My Times’ has no apologies: Former Vice President Dick Cheney takes quite a few shots — and makes no apologies — in his long-anticipated autobiography, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” which will be out Tuesday. The book, written with his daughter Liz Cheney…. – Politico, 8-26-11
    • Expected and Unexpected: Dick Cheney’s Memoir Edition: According to his memoir, In My Time, which was “obtained” before its release next week by the New York Times, Dick Cheney urged President George W. Bush to bomb a Syrian … – New York Magazine, 8-25-11
    • Dick Cheney Adds Cable News, CBS and ‘The View’ to His Book Tour Schedule: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is preparing to embark on a major book tour media blitz… – mediabistro.com, 8-25-11
    • Cheney Gears Up Publicity Tour for Memoir: Former Vice President Dick Cheney will emerge from private life next week for a publicity blitz surrounding his 576-page memoir, “In My Time,” and there are few major media outlets in print, radio and television that he will overlook. … – NYT, 8-24-11
    • Bush, Cheney, Rice steal the headlines: Former vice president Dick Cheney is stealing the headlines with his upcoming book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. The book hits the stands next week but is already being previewed. Cheney’s unapologetic memoirs defend his administration’s most controversial decisions, including its allegation that Saddam Hussein sought uranium in Africa to build weapons of mass destruction, the surge of additional troops into Iraq and the use of harsh interrogation tactics to get information from suspected terrorists…. – USA Today, 8-26-11

“I didn’t set out to embarrass the president or not embarrass the president. If you look at the book, there are many places in it where I say some very fine things about George Bush. And believe every word of it.” — Dick Cheney, 70, told NBC’s Jamie Gangel in an intervoiew airing August 29, 2011

    • Dick Cheney says memoir will have heads ‘exploding’: Dick Cheney is already promising there will be “heads exploding all over Washington” when his new book hits stores Tuesday.
      The 46th vice president made that declaration in an interview with NBC — portions of which were aired on the Today Show Wednesday morning — as he embarked on a media blitz to promote the book, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.”
      The memoir discusses Cheney’s health, the Sept. 11 attacks, his secret resignation letter, and his thoughts about President George W. Bush and other prominent characters from the Bush White House, NBC reports…. – LAT, 8-25-11
    • A political junkie’s guide to Cheney’s memoir: Since the book leaked, much of the coverage on Dick Cheney’s memoir has focused on the portions he devotes to national security and foreign affairs during his time as vice president. But Cheney’s political career began well before 2000…. – Politico, 8-28-11
    • Dick Cheney’s reading list: A man’s character lives in the books he loves. So perhaps the search for the soul of Dick Cheney should lead to the books that mean enough to him to merit a mention in his new memoir, “In My Time,” which is due out Tuesday. … – WaPo, 8-26-11
    • Dick Cheney’s book is different and it’s because he’s the author: In this book cover image released by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” by Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney, is shown. (AP Photo/Threshold Editions) (Anonymous – AP) Dick Cheney’s new book has set off a predictable beehive of political gossip in Washington, as the eight years of the Bush administration and its actors are again being prosecuted in the court of public opinion.
      The former vice president’s book, which is harshly critical of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former CIA director George Tenet and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, follows in a long line of political tell-alls from the people involved….
      But Cheney’s memoir could be quite different — if it’s actually the kind of pull-no-punches tell-all that it’s supposed to be — and it’s potential for shock-and-awe has everything to do with the author…. – WaPo, 8-25-11
    • ‘In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir’ by Dick Cheney: If this book were read by an intelligent person who spent the past 10 years on, say, Mars, she would have no idea that Dick Cheney was the vice president in one of the most hapless American administrations of modern times. There are hints, to be sure, that things did not always go swimmingly under President George W. Bush and Cheney, but these are surrounded by triumphalist accounts of events that many readers — and future historians — are unlikely to consider triumphs.
      This is not surprising. The genre of statesman’s memoir rarely produces self-criticism, or even much candor. Apparently, the point is to redeem your large advance from the publisher with a brisk, self-complimenting account of your life and times, with emphasis on your moment in the limelight. There should, of course, be a dash of “news” and a few frank passages about your true feelings — about others, not yourself.
      For Cheney and his daughter Liz, whom Cheney describes as “my collaborator and the CEO of our book team,” the only real point of writing about the vice presidential years is to make clear how right Cheney always was, and how wrongheaded were his critics and bureaucratic rivals. More than once he tells us he would do again exactly what he did the first time, “in a heartbeat.” He acknowledges no serious regrets about anything.
      This big book is not just about being vice president. Its first 255 pages are devoted to Cheney’s eventful life before the day Bush asked him to lead the effort to find him the right running mate for the 2000 campaign…. – WaPo, 8-29-11
    • In memoir, Cheney defends decisions, Bush as president: Former vice president Richard B. Cheney provides an unapologetic defense of the George W. Bush administration in his memoir to be released next week, including explanations of his own decisions on contested national … – WaPo, 8-26-11
    • ‘In My Time’: Dick Cheney’s Unapologetic Memoir: Call it spin, score settling or setting the record straight: Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s new memoir of his extraordinary political career is out next week. Robert Siegel talks with Charlie Savage of the New York Times. … – NPR, 8-26-11
    • Dick Cheney memoir ‘In My Time’ already making waves: Dick Cheney’s memoir “In My Time,” to be published next week, tells the story of Cheney’s time in Washington and the White House. While the title of the book might indicate he was in charge, he was a two-term vice president under George W. Bush. … – LAT, 8-26-11

“I’m glad members of my family are giving their version of what it was like to serve our country. I did the same thing….
Eventually, objective historians will analyze our administration and will draw objective conclusions.” — Former President George W. Bush in an interview with “Fox & Friends”

    • George W. Bush: I’m fine with Cheney’s memoir: While former Vice President Dick Cheney’s new memoir has garnered some vociferous criticism from some members of his administration, former president George W. Bush says he’s fine with the book — and “glad” to see that members of his administration are telling their stories.
      The book, which paints unflattering portraits of several of Cheney’s former colleagues, has already ruffled the feathers of prominent former Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell.
      Mr. Bush, however, said he wasn’t bothered by the memoir…. – CBS News, 9-1-11
    • Bush Takes the High Road on Cheney’s Book: Former President George W. Bush is taking a tolerant view of a new book by his vice president, Dick Cheney. Bush told Fox and Friends this morning that he encourages members of his administration to give their version of events during his eight-year presidency, even if they disagree.
      In his book, In My Time, Cheney has some negative things to say about former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, which they dispute. But Bush said, “I’m glad members of my ‘family’ are giving their version of what it was like to serve the country…I did the same thing. I put my version out there” in a memoir published last year. [Vote: Is Cheney Taking Cheap Shots in His New Memoir?]
      Bush repeated his long-time assessment that it will take many years to put his administration into proper perspective. “Eventually objective historians will analyze our administration and draw objective conclusions,” he said.
      He declined to give his preference on who should be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, saying that he will “remain an observer, an interested observer.” And he didn’t criticize his Democratic successor, Barack Obama…. – US News, 9-1-11
    • Is Cheney Taking Cheap Shots in His New Memoir? Dick Cheney’s memoir ‘In My Time’ attacks many former colleagues: Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir In My Time hit book stores Tuesday and while on the publicity tour he promised that it would cause “heads exploding all over Washington.” In the book, he stands by the controversial waterboarding interrogation technique, reveals that he had a letter of resignation sitting in his desk drawer in case his health failed him , and recalls the details of his personal experience of 9-11. However, what is exploding most heads is the attacks he launches at other Republicans. [See a photo gallery of Bush’s legacy.]
      Cheney claims Arizona Sen. John McCain once angrily stormed out of the room during a discussion of interrogation techniques and the vice president mocks McCain for interrupting his 2008 presidential campaign to return to Washington to address the financial crisis. Cheney calls Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “naïve” for her attempts to negotiate with North Korea and recounts a time when welled up with tears in his office over the Nigerian uranium scandal. Cheney insinuates that he was behind Rice predecessor Colin Powell’s 2004 resignation, saying it was “for the best” even though Powell claims that he always planned to serve as Secretary of State for only one term…. – US News, 8-30-11

“I kept the president fully and completely informed about every in and out of the negotiations with the North Koreans. You can talk about policy differences without suggesting that your colleague somehow misled the president. You know, I don’t appreciate the attack on my integrity that that implies.” — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

    • Condi Rice fires back at Dick Cheney: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins Colin Powell in protesting claims made by Dick Cheney in his memoir.
      The heads are still exploding from former vice president Dick Cheney’s recently published memoir.
      The latest blow-up, on Wednesday, came from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
      Rice spoke out against several claims about her in Cheney’s book, “In My Time: A Personal and Professional Memoir,” saying that she viewed it as an “attack on my integrity.”
      In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Rice protested Cheney’s suggestion that she had misled President George W. Bush about nuclear diplomacy with North Korea…. – CS Monitor, 9-1-11

“So there’s a lot of very positive stuff in there, but a balanced account also requires me to put down what my opinion was and that’s what I’ve done.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney

“It’s not necessary to take these kinds of barbs and then try to pump a book up by saying, ‘Heads will be exploding.'” I think it’s a bit too far. I think Dick overshot the runway with that kind of comment, if that’s how he plans to sell his book.
From what I’ve read in the newspapers and seen on television it’s essentially a rehash of events of seven or eight years ago. Mr. Cheney had a long and distinguished career and I opened his book that’s what he would focus on, not these cheap shots that he’s taking at me and other members of the administration who served to the best of our ability for President Bush.
It was clear by 2004 that the team was not functioning as a team. And we had different views, and not just views, not views that could be reconciled. And so I said to the president that I would be leaving at the end of the year, after the election, and he ought to take a look at his whole team to try to resolve all these issues.” — Colin Powell on CBS’s “Face the Nation”

    • Dick Cheney defends his comments on Colin Powell: Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday defended comments in his new memoir about Colin Powell, saying his take on the former secretary of state is “basically all very positive” and noting that he supported him for promotion to various military positions.
      Cheney, whose long-anticipated autobiography “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir” hit shelves Tuesday, sat down for a live interview with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show. Lauer did not directly ask Cheney to respond to Powell’s criticism this weekend that the former vice president’s book takes “cheap shots” at him and some of his other colleagues from George W. Bush’s administration.
      Lauer asked Cheney about parts of the book where he takes Powell to task for his opposition to the Iraq War. Cheney responded that in the three chapters in which he details his tenure as secretary of defense working with Powell, “there’s a lot of very positive stuff” and noted that he recommended the general for several jobs in the military…. – Politico, 8-30-11
    • Colin Powell: Dick Cheney Taking ‘Cheap Shots’ In Book (VIDEO): Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney of taking “cheap shots” at him and others in a new book. Powell was the nation’s top diplomat during the first four years of the Bush Administration…. – Huff Post, 8-28-11
    • Powell: Cheney “overshot the runway” in book: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that former Vice President Dick Cheney took “cheap shots” in his forthcoming memoir, and that he was taking his aggressive promotional techniques “a bit too far.” Powell, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation”…. – CBS News, 8-28-11
    • Powell Accuses Cheney of Cheap Shots: Powell told CBS’ Face the Nation that former Vice President Dick Cheney took “cheap shots” at him in Cheney’s new memoir, In My Time. Cheney writes that Powell undermined President George W. Bush by criticizing the administration. … – Daily Beast, 8-28-11
    • Powell: Cheney ‘Overshot the Runway,’ Took ‘Cheap Shots’: In an interview on Face the Nation this morning, former Bush secretary of state Colin Powell responded to leaked criticism appearing in former vice president Dick Cheney’s forthcoming memoir…. – National Review Online, 8-28-11
    • The Chapter That Went Missing From Dick Cheney’s Book: Dick Cheney’s hyper-hyped autobiography is short on revelations (it turns out that the “secret undisclosed location” was his house) but long, very long, on excuse making when it comes to the wars of whim into which he steered the United States. … – The Nation, 8-26-11
    • Cheney says he pushed to bomb Syria: From the Dick Cheney memoir, the former Vice President says he pressed President George W. Bush to bomb Syria in June 2007, but he was outnumbered by other advisers who were snakebit over the “bad intelligence” about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction…. – Politico, 8-25-11
    • Cheney: I wanted to bomb Syrian reactor in ’07: Dick Cheney urged then-President George W. Bush to bomb Syria in 2007, according to the former vice president’s new memoir. According to the New York Times, which obtained an advance copy of the new book, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir…. – JTA, 8-28-11
    • Cheney Says He Urged Bush to Bomb Syria in ’07: Former Vice President Dick Cheney says in a new memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian … – NYT, 8-24-11
    • Reading the Pictures: Cheney’s Audacious Memoir Cover (And Claim to the Empire): Well, it’s hard not to be impressed by Cheney’s cojones (and the spiteful swipe at Bush) given the cover photo of his new memoir. Situated in the President’s residence, Cross Hall and the famous red carpet is the space associated with the President of the United States, the backdrop and sanctum recognized, in the American eye, with presidential addresses and presidential processions down the gallery.
      Of course, the dimensions of Cheney’s “top drawer” ego have never been a secret. Perhaps it’s his deteriorating health, though, that motivated this kind of imperial parting shot, compelled to emphasize how much he, not Bush, was the “vision guy” and the true top dog…. – Huff Post, 8-26-11

“I did it because I was concerned that — for a couple of reasons … One was my own health situation. The possibility that I might have a heart attack or a stroke that would be incapacitating. And, there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice-president who can’t function.”

    • Dick Cheney Memoir Reveals Secret Resignation Letter: In his new memoir, In My Time, former Vice President Dick Cheney talks about a secret letter of resignation that he wrote only two months into office. Worried about his health, he wrote the letter in March 2001 and locked in a safe. – mediabistro.com, 8-25-11
    • Cheney kept secret signed resignation letter while vice president: Former Vice President Dick Cheney kept a signed letter of resignation locked in a safe throughout most of his eight years in the White House, he revealed in an interview to air next week on NBC…. – CBS News, 8-24-11

“It’s important for us not to get caught up in the notion that you can only have popular methods of interrogation if you want to run an effective counter-terrorism program. The fact is it worked. We learned valuable, valuable information from that process and we kept the country safe for over seven years.” — Former VP Dick Cheney

    • Cheney: ‘No regrets’ about waterboarding suspects CBS News, 8-28-11
    • Former VP Cheney says waterboarding justified in interest of protecting national security: Former Vice President Dick Cheney says there’s no contradiction in advocating harsh interrogation tactics against suspected US enemies and opposing those practices when used against American citizens. … – AP, 8-30-11
    • Cheney: Bush authorized leak on Iraq: Dick Cheney writes in his forthcoming book, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” that he was surprised to learn that President George W. Bush had personally authorized a leak about Iraq strategy to a Washington Post columnist — a disclosure … – Politico, 8-28-11
    • Bush’s Unanswered 9/11 Questions: By the time the president wrote his 2010 memoir, the call from the vice president had become a call he made to Cheney. Bush’s snap authorization, moreover, had by then transmogrified into a well thought-out plan. “I called Dick Cheney as Air Force One … – Daily Beast
    • Cheney reveals his ‘undisclosed location’: Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney disappeared and was whisked off to a “secure, undisclosed location” to protect his safety. But Cheney never confirmed where exactly he hunkered down. That is, until now.
      Cheney confirms in his new memoir, “In My Time,” that some of the speculation was correct–one of his “undisclosed locations” was his residence in Northwest Washington, D.C., the Washington Post reports.
      Which, in turn, means Joe Biden was right. Vice President Biden told the world in 2009 that he discovered the bunker beneath his home during a tour of his new house. Biden revealed during the 2009 Gridiron Club dinner that the room was located “behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment,” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift wrote at the time.
      In the book, Cheney says that in addition to his D.C. home, the other undisclosed locations were at his home in Wyoming and at Camp David, the presidential retreat.
      Cheney writes that he was surprised by the interest in the location, noting a “Saturday Night Live” skit that placed him in a cave in Afghanistan, according to the Post…. – Yahoo News, 8-26-11
    • Cheney opposed decision to save GM: Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he opposed the decision to save General Motors Corp. from collapse in December 2008. In a new memoir “In My Time” published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster, Cheney says he disagreed with President George W. Bush…. – The Detroit News, 8-30-11

“I began my trip with a stop in London to visit one of America’s closest and best allies in the war on terror, British prime minister Tony Blair. I have tremendous respect for Prime Minister Blair. He is a Labour party liberal and I am a conservative Republican, and we didn’t always agree on strategy or tactics. But America had no greater ally during our time in office. His speeches about the war were some of the most eloquent I’ve been privileged to hear.”

“The president wanted to be absolutely clear that if he decided to go to war, we would finish the job. We would remove Saddam Hussein, eliminate the threat he posed and establish a representative government.”

“At the request of the British, I had called a number of the Tories, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader. He was, on this issue, a rock of support for Blair.”

    • Dick Cheney autobiography heaps praise on Tony Blair: Dick Cheney, vice-president to George W Bush, pays tribute to ‘one of America’s closest and best allies in the war on terror’….
      In the 565-page In My Time, Cheney is unrepentant about the most controversial decisions taken by the White House, from the waterboarding of Guantánamo Bay detainees to the invasion of Iraq…. – Guardian UK, 8-30-11
    • Dick Cheney speaks out in new memoir: Dick Cheney, one of the most polarizing figures in recent history, has published a memoir. In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir covers Cheney’s 40-year career in American politics, and includes some keen and controversial insights into the George W. Bush administration, in which Cheney served as vice president of the United States.
      Cheney claims that, thanks to his memoir, “heads are going to be exploding all over Washington.” Cheney uses the 565 pages to defend his most controversial policies, including the 2003 decision to invade Iraq, the use of extreme interrogation tactics such as waterboarding and his failed attempt to convince Bush to bomb Syria.
      Cheney was a powerful, controversial and ambitious figure in American politics, perhaps even more divisive than the president he served. As a result, his memoir should be a very controversial and inflammatory read — much like the man himself…. – CBC, 8-28-11


“I was deeply disappointed. I understood that a pardon for Libby was unlikely to be well received in the mainstream media and that it wouldn’t be of short-term help to those around the president who were focused on generating positive press about his last days in office. But in the long term, where doing the right thing counts, George W. Bush was, in my view, making a grave error. …George Bush made courageous decisions as president, and to this day I wish that pardoning Scooter Libby had been one of them.” — On President George W. Bush

“Powell seemed more comfortable talking about poll numbers than he was recommending military options. … I brought the meeting to a close, and afterward, although we normally operated on a first-name basis, I addressed Powell formally. ‘General,’ I said, ‘I need some options.’ The business we were about was deadly serious, and I wanted him to understand he was receiving an order.” — On Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Cheney was Defense secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration

“I was under the impression that the president had decided against a public apology, and was therefore surprised a few days later when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the White House press pool, ‘We wouldn’t have put it in the speech if we had known what we know now.’ The result was the conflagration I had predicted. … Rice realized sometime later that she had made a major mistake by issuing a public apology. She came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk, and tearfully admitted I had been right. Unfortunately, the damage was done.” — On White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice

“I was also disappointed on June 2, 2004, when Tenet, citing personal reasons, told the president he would be leaving. The Senate Intelligence Committee was soon to issue a report that many thought would be critical of Tenet, and I suspected that entered into his thinking. The president had kept Tenet on when we came into office, a move I had supported. Throughout the intelligence mistakes of Tenet’s tenure, the president and I had backed him. For him to quit when the going got tough, not to mention in the middle of a presidential campaign, seemed to me unfair to the president, who had put his trust in George Tenet.” — On CIA Director George Tenet

“As I read Brent’s piece, I found myself thinking that it reflected a pre-9/11 mind-set. … Brent was quoted later saying he believed I had changed since we’d worked together in the first Bush administration. In reality, what had happened was that after an attack on the homeland that had killed three thousand people, the world had changed.” — On Brent Scowcroft

“He went home instead. … At one point my friend Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma asked why the executive branch had the right to decide when members of Congress, a coequal branch of government, could come back to Washington. ‘Because we’ve got the helicopters, Don,’ I told him.” — Prologue: Cheney opens by describing his experiences on Sept. 11, including the refusal of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, who as president pro tempore of the Senate was next in the presidential line of succession after the speaker, to move to a secure location.

“Who RETRACTS a concession? In 1976, the election had also been very close, and we had decided to sleep on it and see how things looked in the morning before, making any decision about conceding to Carter. I thought that if the Gore campaign had been any kind of a professional operation, they would have realized how close the vote was and wouldn’t have conceded in the first place. But to concede and then take it back was amateur hour. And the fact of the concession hurt Gore, I believe, as we headed into the recount.”

“I picked up the phone and called Jim Baker [the night of the Supreme Court decision]. ‘Hello, Mr. Vice President- elect,” he said. ‘Thank you, Jim,’ I said, ‘and congratulations to you. You did a hell of a job. Only under your leadership could we have gone from a lead of eighteen hundred votes to a lead of one hundred fifty votes.’ He laughed heartily. He knew and I knew that his leadership in Florida had been vital.”

“After one late-night rally, my six-year-old granddaughter, Kate, climbed into the seat next to me on the campaign plane. ‘Grandpa,’ she said, ‘if you win, will you come to school as my show-and-tell?’ ‘You only want me if I win?’ I asked. ‘Yep,’ she answered. … [S]o on a snowy February morning, I was Kate’s show-and-tell. My impression was that most of her fellow first-graders were more interested in my Secret Service agents than in Kate’s old grandpa, but I’ll never forget the huge smile on her face as I walked into the classroom.”

“[A]nd why apologize when the British had, in fact, reported that Iraq had sought a significant amount of uranium in Africa? THE SIXTEEN WORDS WERE TRUE.”

“Our choice incensed the White House press pool and the rest of the mainstream media … But … the last thing on my mind was whether I was irritating the New York Times.”

“And, it pains me to note, so did his boss, Colin Powell, whom Armitage told he was [Robert] Novak’s source on October 1, 2003. Less than a week later, … there was a cabinet meeting. … [T]he press came in for a photo opportunity, and there were questions about who had leaked the information that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. The president said he didn’t know, but wanted the truth. Thinking back, I realize that one of the few people in the world who could have told him the truth, Colin Powell, was sitting right next to him.”

“Given the opposition of politicians and the public to putting more troops in Iraq, George Bush was truly courageous to order a new strategy and the surge of troops to carry it out. The next ten months ratified his brave decision. Our troops, together with the Iraqis, defeated the insurgency, dealt a severe blow to al Qaeda, and created a secure environment so that the Iraqi political process could begin to take hold. When historians look back, George Bush’s decision will stand out as one that made a difference for millions and put history on a better track.”

“It is impossible for me not to make a comparison with George Bush in 2007. When President Bush surged troops into Iraq, he encountered significant pressures to reverse course, but he continued in the face of opposition, increasing American forces in order to implement the counterinsurgency strategy that enabled us to prevail. He did not allow domestic political considerations to interfere with his responsibilities as commander in chief.”

“I remember thinking how grounded the president was through the whole economic ordeal. He kept perspective and was very good at handling pressure. He dealt effectively with some of the most difficult and complex issues any president has had to face.”

“I have some medical choices to make in the future, but I’m doing well for now. … I have some fishing planned. … I have reached the biblical three score and ten, and a man who can look back on the things I have seen and the people I have known has no grounds for complaint.”

“My daughter Liz was my collaborator and the CEO of our book team. … It is a rare blessing to have reason to spend so many hours of quality time telling your daughter about your life and work. My wife, Lynne, and my daughter Mary helped with the book as well, making this truly a family project … Mary Matalin has lived this project since its inception … We all treasure her wise counsel and her friendship. … Bob Barnett was a skillful representative … and we have benefited from his sage counsel every step of the way.”

Nancy Clarke: White House Florist’s Tales of Six First Ladies Rosalynn Carter to Michelle Obama in “My First Ladies”


History Buzz

When Hillary Clinton Ran Naked Through the White House

Former first lady Hillary Clinton dashed naked from her White House bathroom to the bedroom. Laura Bush would drive staffers crazy directing where each Christmas ornament should be placed on the presidential tree. Barbara Bush was such a fan of Keds tennis shoes, her husband bought her 20 pairs in different colors and designs. And Nancy Reagan once called, distressed that two roses in a vase in her dressing room had drooped. Former White House chief florist Nancy Clarke has a closet full of such insider tales from her 31 years with six first ladies from Rosalynn Carter (favored barbecue dinners) to Michelle Obama (prefers gala apples over flowers). And now, two years after leaving the White House, she’s written a rare behind-the-scenes book, My First Ladies, due out in September.

“I truly believe I had the ultimate job any floral designer could ever dream of,” says Clarke. While every first family brings in a chief social secretary to handle East Wing affairs, Clarke was there for six administrations, serving as a de facto deputy social secretary. Hers is the first such look at the quirks and traits of her bosses.

Consider Clinton, described as a mix of dignity and schoolgirl. When the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, Clinton didn’t show her feelings to staff and, Clarke says, never engaged in the kinds of fighting with her husband that was described in the media. Once, Clarke took the elevator to the presidential residence and saw Clinton dash naked from her bathroom to the bedroom. “We looked at each other and we both screamed,” Clarke writes. Clinton joked about it later. “She said it was like living in her sorority house again.”

Reagan, Clarke says, was the most elegant and romantic of the six. Dispelling rumors that the Reagan marriage was an act, the Gipper once spotted mistletoe hanging in a foyer, then pulled his wife over for a big hug and smooch.

Laura Bush, obsessed with Christmas, was also very down to earth, driving her hubby’s Ford pickup at their Texas ranch and even climbing into a refrigerated truck to view the flowers to be used at her daughter’s wedding.

Mother-in-law Barbara was considerate, so much so that she mistakenly gave Camp David staffers pricey Steiff teddy bears used in Christmas centerpieces that were supposed to be returned to storage.

Having survived six first ladies, Clarke is too diplomatic to pick a favorite. “I loved working for every single one. They were all different. They all had different personalities. And I really did, I loved my job.”

Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.

Timothy Snyder: Neglecting the Lithuanian Holocaust


History Buzz

Source: NY Review of Books, 7-25-11


The desecrated memorial stone to the Jews murdered in 1941 at the Ponary Forest, Vilnius, Lithuania, July 2011. The graffiti reads “Hitler was right.”

In early July the words “Hitler was right” were painted on the memorial stone to the 72,000 Jews who were murdered at the Ponary Forest near Vilnius in Lithuania. On another monument close by, a vulgar reference was made to the compensation the Lithuanian government has made to the descendants of murdered Jews. No one seems to have noticed.

Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania, was known for centuries as the “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of its centrality to medieval and early modern Jewish thought and politics. In the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Jews settled in Vilnius in considerable numbers from both west and east. Over centuries, Jews prospered under a regime that permitted them local autonomy. During the waning of the Commonwealth in the eighteenth century, Vilnius was home to scholars such as Elijah ben Solomon, the “Gaon of Vilne,” the great opponent of the Hasidic movement.

In the nineteenth century Vilnius was home to the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, in the Russian Empire. After World War I the city was incorporated by Poland, though it was claimed by Lithuania as its capital. There were far more Poles than Lithuanians in the city, but there were about as many Jews as Poles, roughly eighty thousand each in the 1920s. In interwar Vilnius, tensions between Poles and Jews and between Poles and Lithuanians were high, but relations between Lithuanians and Jews were relatively peaceful.

In 1939, as the World War II began, the Jews, Poles, and Lithuanians of Vilnius fell under Soviet power. By the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, eastern Poland (including Vilnius) came within the Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviets in 1939 gave Vilnius to Lithuania, then annexed the whole country in 1940. The NKVD, the Soviet secret police, then set about deporting Lithuania’s political and social elites—about 21,000 people in all, including many Jews. Thousands more were shot in NKVD prisons. This level of wartime terror was unprecedented, and its first perpetrators were Soviets rather then Nazis. We remember, for example, that the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara saved several thousand Jews by issuing them transit visas from Lithuania in 1940; what is often overlooked is that these Jews were fleeing not the Holocaust, which had not yet begun, but the threat of Soviet deportations.

Meanwhile, the Germans prepared to betray their Soviet allies. Part of their planning for the invasion of the Soviet Union was the recruitment of local nationalists, who would help them spread their anti-Semitic message: Nazi rule was liberation from Soviet crimes, which were in fact the fault of local Jews. During the first few weeks of the German invasion, which first touched Lithuania and other lands that the Soviets had just annexed, local peoples took part in a few hundred extremely violent pogroms, killing some 24,000 Jews…READ MORE

David Eisebach: Porn king Larry Flynt book bares politicians’ scandalous lives in “One Nation Under Sex”


History Buzz

Source: Philadelphia Daily News, 7-24-11

Weary of sex scandals that have rocked all portions of our government in recent years, there’s a lot of talk on the campaign trail about getting back to the principles of our nation’s Founding Fathers.

One Nation Under Sex

That sentiment may change if people read the new book, “One Nation Under Sex,” by Larry Flynt and historian David Eisenbach, because men such as Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson would make Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem like choirboys, and the partisan press of their era would make the tabloids of today read like children’s books.

Flynt and Eisenbach, however, are not simply concerned about getting under the covers, or hiding in the closets, of the White House. Their book deals with how the private lives of politicians have affected the nation’s public policies — how Franklin’s womanizing helped the colonists gain the support of France, how President James Buchanan’s alleged homosexuality helped bring about the Civil War, how Franklin Roosevelt’s affair(s) forced shy wife Eleanor out of her shell to become one of the great first ladies.

Of course, there are whole chapters on Clinton and the Kennedys (according to the authors, John Kennedy said that he would get migraines if he didn’t have sex with different women; brother Bobby Kennedy had an affair with Jackie after the president’s death; and Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in brother Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick, had previously been Bobby’s mistress).

Flynt, the well-known pornographer and activist, said in an interview earlier this month that he’s always been interested in politics and that when he was talking with his publisher about a book on the subject, the publisher “suggested I do it in a historical context.”

He found a kindred spirit in Eisenbach, a Columbia University professor, who created and hosted the History Channel program “The Beltway Unbuckled.”

During the early days of the country, the press played an active role going after politicians (the newspapers of the day generally were in the pocket of one side or the other), but after a while such unseemly gossip-mongering gave way to the press protecting presidents (and athletes, movie stars, etc.). Everyone in the White House press corps knew who was having affairs — they just kept quiet. These days, it’s again open season.

But such behavior has been going on forever with powerful men — “They have huge egos and need to be fed by sexual conquest,” Flynt said — and voters would be silly to think it’s ever going to stop. Or that it should.“Americans need to adopt one simple rule,” the authors write. “Don’t trust anyone who dedicates his or her life to stomping out other people’s consensual sexual activities — it is pretty much guaranteed that lurking behind all the antisex zealotry are deep-seated sexual issues.”…

The book makes its case that powerful people go after what they want, and the rest of us might as well expect that and move on. The more that politicians repress their sexual instincts, the book alleges, the more troubling their decision-making often becomes.

But don’t expect the nation to give up its fascination with sex scandals any time soon. “It’s like a car crash,” Flynt said. “Everyone wants to stop and look. When it comes to sex scandals, everyone wants to know more.”

Andrew Roberts: WWII outcome was not inevitable — “The Storm of War


History Buzz

Source: The New Star, 7-24-11

In the 66 years since the end of World War II, the Allied victory over the Axis powers, though viewed as hard-won, has assumed a certain inevitability. We were always going to win, in other words, no matter how bad it looked at the time.

In fact, noted historian Andrew Roberts says in a new one-volume history of the worst war mankind has ever experienced, that there was nothing inevitable about the conflict’s outcome.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazis could have won, Roberts writes.

And had the Nazis won, as Winston Churchill described it in 1940, “then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science.”

We came close to sinking into that “New Dark Age” as Roberts shows as in his fine new book, “The Storm of War,” the latest history of the catastrophic war that cost 50 million lives.

Since the Germans had the best weapons, the best army, the best tactics and occasionally the best strategy almost to the end of the conflict, Roberts concludes that they could indeed have won the war, but lost “because they were Nazis.”

In sum, Hitler’s war aims were in the end defeated by a horrible ideology, Nazism, which made heedless destruction its goal, destruction of the Jews and other Nazi racial enemies….READ MORE

Julia Lovell: Historian Finds New Relevance in Chinese Conflict


History Buzz

The Opium War is a touchy subject, admits Julia Lovell.

The Chinese often refer to the conflict that began in 1839 as the beginning of colonial submission, while for many British it has faded to the footnotes of history.

But the myths of the war are still relevant, as they explain China’s complicated relationship with the West, Ms. Lovell argues in her new book, “The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China.”

The 36-year-old, who teaches history at the University of London, spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Chow about the book’s inspiration, why writing it put her in a bad mood, and how James Bond inspired her to study Chinese. The following interview has been edited.

I started off as a history major in university. In my Christmas holiday of my first term, being an undergraduate, I was watching a James Bond movie on TV. It was “You Only Live Twice,” the one where he goes to Japan.

There’s a scene where Miss Moneypenny asks him, “How are you going to manage with the language?” He says, “Don’t worry, Moneypenny, I studied Oriental languages in Cambridge.” I thought this was my only chance to have something in common with James Bond…. READ MORE

Eric Foner: The Evolution of Liberalism


History Buzz

Source: The Browser, 7-18-11

The historian chooses five books illustrating how concepts of American liberalism have changed over the past 50 years, and tells us about the tension that lies at the heart of liberalism today

Eric Foner’s FiveBooks

As a historian, what do you make of the American left’s turn back to the term progressivism?

Ever since Reagan and the first Bush turned liberal into a term of abuse, it’s very hard to find politicians who will forthrightly proclaim themselves liberals. The term progressive is a substitute. It sounds good. How can anyone be against things that are progressive as opposed to retrograde? Of course, the term progressive relates to the Progressive Era of a century ago, when certain views that we associate with liberalism entered the political spectrum. Things like governmental regulation of corporations and provision of basic social security for people. If you read the platform of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 Progressive Party, it laid out much of the agenda for 20th century liberalism through the New Deal.


Modern liberals and turn-of-the-century progressives share a similar view of the role of government in society. But going back to the term progressive is a little misleading. Earlier progressives had no interest, by and large, in race issues. They accepted segregation. And they were uninterested in civil liberties, which has become a basic element of modern liberalism. They were statists – they weren’t interested in standing up against the state. So today’s progressivism is different from what progressivism meant a century ago.


What would you define as the core tenets of today’s progressivism?


As I see it, the core tenets are somewhat at odds with each other. On the one hand you have the belief in governmental assistance to the less fortunate, governmental regulation of economic activity and very modest governmental efforts to redistribute wealth to assist those further down the social scale. So it’s active government, in the pursuit of social goals, when it comes to the economy. On the other hand, modern liberalism emphasises privacy, individual rights and civil liberties – keeping government out of your life when it comes to things like abortion rights. In other words, in the private realm liberalism is for autonomy and lack of government intervention. And also I think today’s liberalism is strongly identified with the rights of various minority groups within American society. This multicultural element was not really part of liberalism until the radical movements of the 1960s. One of the reasons I chose these books is that I think liberalism has changed significantly since the 1960s. It is no longer the same thing it was in the era of Theodore Roosevelt or even Franklin Roosevelt….READ MORE

Bruce Stewart: West North Carolina historian reveals the truth about moonshiners and prohibitionists


History Buzz

Bruce Stewart‘I was curious why moonshiners were embraced as heroes by many people in Western North Carolina in the 1860s and 1870s; and then condemned in the 1880s and 1890s,” Bruce Stewart, assistant professor of history at Appalachian State University, said in a recent interview with the Citizen-Times.

Stewart has just published a book, “Moonshiners and Prohibitionists: The Battle over Alcohol in Southern Appalachia,” that pries the lid off historical truth and stands as a model of research.

In the generation before the Civil War, the temperance movement had been supported by urban leaders such as Asheville’s James Patton and Augustus Merrimon.

When railroads arrived, many people’s affinity for the good old days of uncriminalized whiskey changed to support for prohibition. Even mountain preachers closely associated with the independence feelings of their flocks got on the respectable industry and tourism train.

Those who continued to say, “be hot, my still,” became outlaws and were branded degenerates.

“Local crusaders,” Stewart writes, “responded by demonizing alcohol manufacturers and their rural clientele, much like southern reformers did to African-Americans and northern temperance advocates did to eastern European immigrants.”

Stewart’s study is clearly written and full of instances and deductions.

Discovery moment

Stewart had been an undergraduate living in his parents’ basement in Winston-Salem, commuting to UNC Greensboro, when he’d committed to his career.

“When I was going to college,” Stewart said, “I also worked at UPS. And I did not want to do that, so that got me motivated to really crack down on my studies.”

At UPS, he worked five hours a night, five nights a week.

He went on to Western Carolina University, where he received his master’s degree in history, producing what became Chapter Four of his new book. A doctoral thesis at the University of Georgia yielded the full draft in 2007….READ MORE

Karen Cox: Gone With The Wind Evokes Strong Feelings


History Buzz

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6-2-11

“Gone With the Wind” defined Atlanta, the South and the Civil War for millions of people around the world. As the novel turns 75, the conjunction of that event with the 150th anniversary of the war it depicts — inexcusably romanticizes, many would say — is crackling like crossed wires.

Most other best-sellers published in 1936 have been relegated to oblivion (Charles Morgan’s “Sparkenbroke”) or, at best, school reading lists (Aldous Huxley’s “Eyeless in Gaza”).

“Gone With the Wind” can still be read in more than 40 languages and continues to draw thousands of devotees such as Selina Faye Sorrow to fan events. Sorrow, 48, owns 30 copies of the book, including one from Egypt. She makes her own replicas of Scarlett’s dresses and has hundreds of items of “GWTW” kitsch around her Powder Springs home, including the Rhett Butler-Scarlett O’Hara pillows on her king-size bed.

On Saturday, scores of others who share her passion — hoop-skirted women and gray-coated Confederate re-enactors — gathered for a celebration at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. Other events include a film premiere on the life of Margaret Mitchell and a champagne toast at her grave in historic Oakland Cemetery. To this day, “GWTW” remains an Atlanta brand rivaled only by Coca-Cola and few others.

The book was spotted as a best-seller before the public even saw it. The actual publication date continues to cause confusion and controversy. The first printing of 10,000 copies contained a May 1936 date. But the distribution was delayed until June because the Book of the Month Club chose to feature it, said John Wiley Jr., co-author of “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Best Sellers Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.”

To this day, Mitchell’s novel and the successful film remain the most powerful forces in shaping the perception of Southern life before, during and after the Civil War, said Karen Cox, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of “Dreaming of Dixie: How the South was Created in American Popular Culture.”

“ ‘Gone With the Wind’ eclipsed everything else,” she said. “It cemented that vision of the Old South in the nation’s imagination for years to come.”

However, for many, especially African-Americans, “GWTW’s” portrait of black slaves as happy servants grates upon the nerves.

Edward DuBose, who grew up in Atlanta, remembers the movie being used as an elementary school teaching tool in the ’60s. He also remembers singing “Dixie” in class. “It was a false, soft version of the Civil War,” said DuBose, 53, who now serves as president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP. “My understanding of it was you were second-class, not as intelligent as the other students.”

He finds no joy in all this “GWTW” partying.

“For African-Americans, it was a reflection of blacks as slaves,” he said. “I don’t get any enjoyment out of these celebrations.”

However it is regarded today, the publication of “GWTW” caused a sensation seldom matched in American cultural history. By the time the movie was released in 1939, the book had sold more than 2 million copies and the entire nation was engaged in a game of casting the actress who would play Scarlett. The book won the Pulitzer Prize, and the movie won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Emerging as it did in the midst of an industrial century and the depths of the Great Depression, the moonlight-and-magnolia romance offered an appealing alternative for readers in search of escape. The South may have lost the war, but for decades it won, with the help of this story, the battle over the public perception of the era.

Gordon Jones, the senior military historian with the Atlanta History Center, calls the book the dominant example of a particular view of the Civil War era — the vision of charming belles and grand plantations, devoted slaves and noble Confederates — called “The Lost Cause” narrative.

But the explosion of television news after World War II and the issues raised by the Civil Rights movement focused attention on the historical inaccuracies in the story, Jones said.

“Its cultural impact is diminishing,” he said. “It’s become kind of campy, like watching a 1950s horror movie.”

These days, the strongest emotional reaction the story stirs is resentment and outrage among African-Americans over the portrait of slavery, he said.

For fans such as Sorrow, race and politics are beside the point. For her, the story’s appeal endures in the colorful characters, the sweeping spectacle and the portrait — real or not — of a fairy-tale time of charming women, chivalrous men and elegant living.

To those who want to debate the novel’s historical accuracy, she offers a singular response: Fiddle-dee-dee. The only event she wants to re-enact is the movie.

“I do keep it separate,” she said.

However, in some quarters, people still take the story as history, said Cox, the author on Southern life. Her lectures abroad reveal that many Europeans still have a “GWTW” view of the South, she said.

Meanwhile, those old controversies still flare up, especially here in a state where people are debating the flying of the Confederate flag over the Dodge County Courthouse in Middle Georgia.

“In a lot of ways ‘Gone With the Wind’ is accurate,” said Calvin Johnson, 61, of Kennesaw, a member of the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “I like the way it shows the South in a respectful way.”

The story has its flaws, said Johnson, who stressed he does not defend slavery. Slaves were not happy servants in some households; but in many they were, he said.

He has no problem with Mitchell’s portrayal of slavery or the war.

“It’s not offensive to me,” Johnson said.

Can you feel that controversy crackling?

Timothy Holder: History educator quizzes readers’ presidential knowledge


History Buzz

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, 6-1-11

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

“Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia” by Timothy Holder, TDH Communications, 106 pages

Three presidents of the United States had the nickname Hickory.

It’s an odd nickname, but Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory” and his political protege James Polk was called “Young Hickory” and Franklin Pierce was “Young Hickory of Granite Hills.”

Timothy Holder isn’t sure that last one really constitutes a nickname because of its long-windedness, but he found it to be an interesting fact about the country’s 44 presidents.

“Three presidents with the nickname ‘Hickory,’ who would’ve thought that?” said Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College.

In his new book, “Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia,” published in February, Holder provides readers with many facts about the presidents that they might never have thought true.

One president spoke English as his second language. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, grew up speaking Danish.

“You’re not a better historian for reading, but it’s fun,” said Holder, who lives near Mascot.

Holder, 44, said he always liked history growing up, but he didn’t decide to become a history teacher until he was in his 20s. He had received his undergraduate degree in Bible, thinking he might want to be a preacher.

“I was always interested in how I could learn a story in history and there was always a story leading up to that and a one leading up to that,” Holder said. “There was always more to the mystery.”

Much of his writing combines these two passions for Christian faith and history, especially biographies. Over the past eight years, Holder has authored and coauthored nine books, including “Influential Christians,” published last year and “Ask the Professor: Advice for College Grads,” which came out in January.

“Influential Christians” is a book containing biographies of 16 influential writers, musicians and preachers.

His books have all been nonfiction so far, though he hopes to write fiction in the future.

“I think what I was drawn to was the communication of the truth,” said Holder, who also teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church. “To communicate the truth, that is why I am here.”

For him, writing books is another way to communicate the truth.

His presidential trivia book, which includes at least five quirky facts for each president, plus years of service and political party, is a bit different than his other books.

However, at the suggestion of his wife, Angela, he wanted to make a more affordable book for readers to purchase at book signings.

His publishers set the price for his book fairly high at $20 to $25. He self-published the trivia book so he could control the cost.

As a professor, Holder said it is easy to find time to write over breaks and the summer. Holder wrote most of his trivia book last summer.

He already knew a lot of presidential facts from the courses he teaches, but he also did some research and “pleasure reading” to find the quirkiest facts about the country’s commanders in chief.

Just like with his lectures, Holder said he tried to inject humor into the book because he finds people focus better with a little bit of laughter.

Each month, Holder said he sets small writing goals, such as finishing 30 pages so his larger goal of writing a 300-page book doesn’t seem as daunting.

Sesquicentennial Update: Great Civil War books stand out

Great Civil War books stand out as readers try to satisfy an endless fascination

Source: Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 5-29-11

Here’s a startling fact:

“Books about the Civil War have accumulated at the rate of more than a title a day since fighting erupted at Fort Sumter in April 1861,” writes historian Gary Gallagher in his introduction to a massive bibliography about the conflict.

Somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 titles have rolled off the presses, and a reader could go broke or blind engaging with the new ones timed to mark the sesquicentennial.

“We as a nation are completely compulsive on the Civil War,” observed Jerald Podair, a professor of history and American studies at Lawrence University. “I tell my classes that bad books on the Civil War sell better than good books about just about everything else.”

The regional and internal qualities of the war, its incredible drama, its Shakespearean cast of characters and the fact that the conflict could have gone either way feed our bedrock fascination. So does a continuous tug to resolve the war’s ultimate meanings….

Experts tend to single out a few books repeatedly as the gold standard for general readers.

Here are six titles that rise:

  • “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James M. McPherson.
  • “The Civil War: A Visual History” edited by Jemima Dunne and Paula Regan.
  • “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara.
  • “Personal Memoirs” by Ulysses S. Grant.
  • “This Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust.
  • “A Stillness at Appomattox” by Bruce Catton.

Gary W. Gallagher: How the Northern view shaped the Civil War


Source: Charlotte Observer, 5-22-11

Revisionist history argues that U.S. loyalists valued the Union itself more than the idea of emancipation or turning slaves into citizens

Historian Gary W. Gallagher writes that Northerners “believed victory over the slaveholders confirmed the nation….” COURTESY OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS

More Information


The Union War
Gary W. Gallagher
Harvard University Press, 215 pages

Americans’ obsession with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War brings to mind the Civil War Centennial celebration a half-century ago when Bruce Catton and Allan Nevins dominated Civil War scholarship. Then, as now, the Civil War stood as our nation’s defining national drama, our version of Homer’s “Iliad.” Yet the conflict’s causes and meanings often seem confused and controversial because, as Fergus W. Bordewich explained recently, “Passions and myths die hard.”

In his revisionist “The Union War,” University of Virginia historian Gary W. Gallagher argues, “Attachment to Union, more than any other factor by far, motivated loyal citizens bent on defeating the rebellion.” Gallagher insists that most white Northerners fought for the Union because they subscribed to the interconnection of liberty and Union and disdain for secession articulated by Sen. Daniel Webster in his famous speeches of 1830 and 1850.

Gallagher seeks to correct what historian David W. Blight terms the now prevalent “emancipationist” historical memory of the war. Northern citizen-soldiers fought to preserve the Union, not to end slavery or to transform chattels into citizens. While mindful of slavery’s complex and deleterious role in fomenting disunion, Gallagher emphasizes the centrality of Northerners’ devotion to the idea of the Union of their grandparents and their parents….READ MORE

Deborah Lipstadt: ‘Eichmann Trial’ Recalls Holocaust Victims’ Worldwide Testimony

Source: PRNewswire, 5-4-11

Holocaust Deborah Lipstadt is author of "The Eichmann Trial," a re-examination of the world's first internationally televised trial of Nazi Adolph Eichmann, chief operations officer of Hitler's Final Solution. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta.historian Deborah Lipstadt’s new book, “The Eichmann Trial,” is gaining widespread recognition this spring, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first internationally televised trial. But the trial’s biggest legacy, says the Emory University professor, is that victims of the Holocaust got to tell their stories to a worldwide audience.

Lipstadt’s account provides a behind-the-scenes historical window to proceedings that riveted millions and revealed the evil behind the actions of Nazi Adolph Eichmann, chief operational officer of Hitler’s Final Solution.

“American television networks broadcast special telecasts,” Lipstadt says of the trial, which opened in Jerusalem April 11, 1961. Although it was not the first Nazi war-crimes trial, “there were more reporters in Jerusalem than had gone to Nuremberg,” she says. And for good reason.

Captured in Argentina, Eichmann had been spirited out of the country to Israel by Israeli security services. As Lipstadt says, “the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of his capture ere eclipsed by the ‘who’: who found him and more important, who would try him. Now the victims’ representative—Israel—would sit in judgment.”

Unlike Nuremberg, where very few Holocaust victims gave testimony, approximately 100 survivors testified at the Eichmann trial, which became a centerpiece of the prosecution’s case. “It was a chance for them to tell their stories, one by one by one, to be present and to put a face on the suffering in a way that hadn’t been the case at Nuremberg,” Lipstadt explains.

Lipstadt remembers being intrigued as a child by televised news clips of the trial on the evening news, but not fully understanding the connection between the Eichmann trial and the anti-Semitism that gave rise to the horrors of the Holocaust. Lipstadt’s own encounter with anti-Semitism occurred much later, after she published her 1993 groundbreaking work, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”

In that book Lipstadt described the views of a leading British Holocaust denier, and was subsequently sued by him for libel in Great Britain. The 2000 trial, which resulted in a resounding victory for Lipstadt, was lauded by the British press as comparable to the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials.

While Lipstadt says “the importance of the Eichmann trial dwarfed mine,” she does see some parallels. “One of these men helped wipe out one-third of world Jewry. The second had dedicated himself to denying the truth of this.”

Both trials also addressed the phenomena that had a common source: anti-Semitism. “Without centuries of persistent hatred,” says Lipstadt, “the Third Reich would have found it impossible to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to despise, scapegoat and ultimately participate in the murder of European Jewry.”

The lessons of the Eichmann trial still resonate today, says Lipstadt. “It reminds us that the victim has a name and a face and a history. The Holocaust didn’t happen to numbers or just a large group. It happened to people.”

More news from Emory at http://news.emory.edu

Stanley Kubrick’s Unfinished “Napoleon,” in 1,000 Pages

Source: Boston Globe, 5-2-11

Stanley Kubrick spent four years of his life, from 1967 to 1971, planning an epic film about Napoleon. He worked with an Oxford history professor and dozens of assistants to compile one of the world’s largest Napoleonic archives — including 17,000 photographs and drawings of Napoleon’s world — and sent teams out into the field to take 15,000 location photographs. He designed costumes, contacted actors, and reached out to the armies of Romania and Lithuania, planning to hire 30,000 troops to serve as extras during the battle scenes. In a note to himself, Kubrick wrote: “I expect to make the greatest film ever made.”

It was never meant to be; the film was too expensive for the cash-starved studios of the late 1960s. In 2009, the art-book publisher Taschen released Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, a $1,500 collection of ten books about the film, nestled inside one hollowed-out “Napoleonic history” book. This year, they’ve released a cheaper “facsimile edition” — it’s only $45 at Amazon. It tells the same story of ambition, obsession, and ultimate defeat….READ MORE

A costume made by Kubrick’s designers for the Napoleon film.

Jan Tomasz Gross: Holocaust Plunder Book by U.S. Historian Stirs Polish Passions

Source: Bloomberg, 4-12-11

"Golden Harvest"

The cover jacket of the U.S. edition of “Golden Harvest” by Jan Tomasz Gross, due to be published in March 2012. The author claims ordinary Poles plundered the graves of concentration camp victims after World War II in search of gold and other valuables. Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of the Polish-language edition of “Golden Harvest” by Jan Tomasz Gross, due to be published in March 2012. The author claims ordinary Poles plundered the graves of concentration camp victims after World War II in search of gold and other valuables. Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

"Golden Harvest"

A book by a Princeton professor that says ordinary Poles plundered graves near Nazi death camps is stirring debate in Poland, with critics saying it is fiction designed to cast the Polish as predatory anti-Semites.

“Golden Harvest,” by Poland-born historian Jan Tomasz Gross, is scheduled to be published in the U.S. and U.K. next year. After it came out in Poland, the book entered the chart of the top 10 bestsellers at Empik Media & Fashion SA, which operates stores across the country.

Gross takes as his starting point a photo of what, at first glance, appears to be a line of smiling agricultural workers at the end of a day’s work. At the bottom of the picture is a line of skulls. The photo was taken in 1945 or 1946 near Treblinka, the site of a death camp in which at least 800,000 people were murdered, Gross writes. He says the people were searching for valuables overlooked by the Nazis….READ MORE

Historian Manning Marable Dies at 60, Release of his “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”


History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.



Manning Marable: On Eve of Redefining Malcolm X, Biographer Dies

Source: NYT,4-1-11

For two decades, the Columbia University professor Manning Marable focused on the task he considered his life’s work: redefining the legacy of Malcolm X. Last fall he completed “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” a 594-page biography described by the few scholars who have seen it as full of new and startling information and insights.
The book is scheduled to be published on Monday, and Mr. Marable had been looking forward to leading a vigorous public discussion of his ideas. But on Friday Mr. Marable, 60, died in a hospital in New York as a result of medical problems he thought he had overcome. Officials at Viking, which is publishing the book, said he was able to look at it before he died. But as his health wavered, they were scrambling to delay interviews, including an appearance on the “Today” show in which his findings would have finally been aired.
The book challenges both popular and scholarly portrayals of Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader, describing a man often subject to doubts about theology, politics and other matters, quite different from the figure of unswerving moral certitude that became an enduring symbol of African-American pride…

Malcolm X biographer Manning Marable has died

Source: LAT, 4-1-11

Manning Marable, whose long-awaited biography of Malcolm X, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” will Malcolmx_alifeofreinventionbe published on Monday, died Friday. He was 60 years old.

Marable, who had led African American studies at Columbia University, was a professor there with many titles. Officially, he was the M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and professor of history and public affairs at Columbia University. Columbia also notes that he was founding director of African American studies at Columbia from 1993 to 2003 and since 2002, he directed Columbia’s Center for Contemporary Black History.

As far back as 2005, Marable was talking about “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.” In February of that year, on Malcolm X’s birthday, he told Democracy Now about the materials that he had seen that others had not, including three “missing” chapters from Malcolm’s autobiography that he said show the leader in a very different light.

Back then, Marable had already been at work on the biography for a decade — meaning that he’d spent more than 15 years on the book and died just three days before its publication.

A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable will be published by Viking on Monday.

Manning Marable book revisits assassination of Malcolm X, names alleged triggerman

Source: WaPo, 4-3-11


Associated Press/ – Malcolm X speaks to reporters in Washington in 1963.

Forty-six years after Malcolm X predicted his own assassination, the question of who pulled the trigger remains unanswered among many scholars who study his life. A book out Monday resurrects the long-standing mystery and suggests that some of those responsible for the activist minister’s death have never been prosecuted.
The exhaustive biography by historian Manning Marable, who died Friday after a long illness, offers a theory about Malcolm X’s assassination and tells a fuller story of the man who at various points was a street hustler, a minister who preached racial separatism and a civil rights icon…READ MORE

Bernard von Bothmer: Praise for Presidential Historian Bernard von Bothmer’s Framing the Sixties for Its Wealth of Primary Sources

First-Hand Interviews Make for Good History

Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush


Source: SFGate, 3-25-11

In Framing the Sixties, Bernard von Bothmer relies on a trove of primary sources in building his position that the sixties will continue to define us at least until the last of the baby-boom generation exits the stages of power. He also offers future historians a wealth of new primary sources in the more than120 interviews he conducted with cabinet members, speechwriters, advisers, strategists, historians, journalists, and activists from across the political spectrum. A number of historians and critics are appreciating the effort.

“[Von Bothmer’s] research has been prodigious,” writes Alexander Bloom in the recent issue of the Journal of American History. “He combed every presidential library and countless periodicals, and he interviewed just about everyone.”

In getting so many of the key players of the era to open up and go on record, von Bothmer, a recipient of the University of San Francisco’s 2010 Distinguished Lecture Award for Excellence in Teaching, has impressed many with his thesis. “One of the most insightful lessons of this book,”writes Ohio University History Professor Kevin Mattson in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture, is that the 1960s “is like a dinner party that can’t be vacated, that will never be transcended, and that sticks to us like glue. . . . von Bothmer traces out the difference between the ‘good’ and ‘bad sixties’. . . . [He] brings things together into a coherent narrative and does a fine job of maintaining his focus.”

Von Bothmer’s main premise is that U.S. Presidential politics since the time of Ronald Reagan have been a see-saw struggle in which each party has sought to lay claim to the ideals of the decade. That each party views those ideals so dichotomously is what makes von Bothmer’s study so fascinating. “Von Bothmer details numerous overgeneralizations, misstatements of fact, and revised personal biographies as politicians adjust their ideas and past actions to modern political trends,” continues Bloom, professor of history at Wheaton College. “In fact, one can almost read a history of the last thirty years embedded in von Bothmer’s analysis.”…READ MORE

Del Quentin Wilber: ‘Rawhide Down’: The (almost) death of a president

Source: Politico, 3-11-11

Nancy and Ronald Reagan stand together in a room at the George Washington University Medical Center. | AP Photo

A new book documents decisions to downplay the severity of Ronald Reagan’s wound. | AP Photo Close

Ronald Reagan barely survived in 1981.

A book out Tuesday paints a much direr picture of the president’s prognosis in the hours after John Hinckley shot him than the White House or his doctors acknowledged at the time … and in the decades since.

In “Rawhide Down,” Washington Post reporter Del Quentin Wilber reports that the then 70-year-old Reagan lost more than half his blood after arriving at George Washington University Hospital.

Eager to avoid panic at home and not embolden enemies abroad, Wilber documents decisions to downplay the severity of the unconscious Reagan’s wound.

Some medical professionals who initially saw Reagan thought he was a goner, Wilber reports. The nurse trying to take Reagan’s blood pressure when he arrived at the hospital couldn’t hear a pulse. The surgeon struggled to locate the bullet lodged an inch from Reagan’s heart, which had collapsed his left lung.

Told via press and official accounts that Reagan walked into the hospital of his own volition and told funny jokes to the doctors, the public didn’t grasp how close to dying he came. If the Secret Service had taken Reagan back to the White House, instead of rerouting to the hospital, he almost certainly would have died.

Reagan’s closest advisers didn’t want to temporarily transfer power to Vice President George H.W. Bush because they feared it would raise bigger questions about Reagan’s age and ability.

Lyn Nofziger, a longtime Reagan aide, didn’t want the surgeons who had operated on Reagan to brief the press because he thought they’d look too tired and emotional in front of the cameras. So he picked a hospital administrator, who lied to reporters when he said the president “sailed through it” and “was at no time in any serious danger” during a press conference five hours after the shooting.

The administrator, Dennis O’Leary, also lied when he said the bullet never came close to “any vital structure,” and he failed to mention that Reagan collapsed soon after he walked into the hospital. He understated the amount of blood Reagan lost by 1.5 units and told reporters that Reagan received three fewer units of blood than he did.

The book’s publication coincides with the 30th anniversary of the March 30, 1981, shooting and the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth. It’s also timely in the wake of the January shootings in January that critically injured Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and took the lives of six others…READ MORE: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51173.html

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