In Memory of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007)



In Memory of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007)

Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.



Steve Brier
Joshua Brown
Jack Censer
Daniel Cohen
Marion Deshmukh
Gary Gerstle
Mack Holt
Mills Kelly
Meredith Lair
Elena Razlogova
Amanda Shuman
Peter Stearns

Chris Hale and Pillarisetti Sudhir
Lee White


Washington Post
George Mason University

Career Highlights

Reflections on his Career
About Roy Rosenzweig
Basic Facts


Washington Post ObituaryRoy A. Rosenzweig, 57, a social and cultural historian at George Mason University who became a prominent advocate for “digital history,” a field combining historical scholarship with digital media’s broad reach and interactive possibilities, died Oct. 11 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. He had lung cancer.

Dr. Rosenzweig, who taught history at GMU for the past 26 years, founded the university’s Center for History and New Media in 1994. As its director, he oversaw the creation of online history projects aimed mostly at high school and college students, including Web sites about U.S. history, the French Revolution and the history of science and technology.

Perhaps its most visible project was the September 11 Digital Archive, a collection of 150,000 items — including e-mails, digital voice mails, BlackBerry communications and video clips — made by average citizens at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The center gave the materials to the Library of Congress in September 2003.

The center, part of GMU’s Department of History and Art History, has more than 40 full- and part-time staff members.

Dr. Rosenzweig was an author, filmmaker and documenter of oral histories. His books, including a social history of New York’s Central Park and the labor movement’s struggle in the 19th century for a shorter workday, underscored his interest in presenting what he called “perspectives of ordinary men and women” over the wealthy and powerful.

In the early 1990s, he helped create an award-winning U.S. history survey presented on CD-ROM. He then started the Center for History and New Media, which stemmed from his wish “to democratize the study of the past — both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences.”

Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, who conducted early digital history projects as a University of Virginia history professor, said Dr. Rosenzweig “was the real pioneer in this.”…

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Official Statement from George Mason University

Roy Rosenzweig, a historian and pioneer of digital technology and new media, died from cancer on Oct. 11. Rosenzweig was the Mark and Barbara Fried Chair and director of the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which he founded in 1994. CHNM has been at the forefront of efforts to use new media and digital technology to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past while reaching new and diverse audiences.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG Just a few weeks ago, Rosenzweig was named as one of the Mason professors to lead CHNM in creating an online National History Education Clearinghouse. The online project will help K-12 history teachers become more effective educators and show their students why history is relevant to their daily lives.

Rosenzweig was involved in a number of different digital history projects, including web sites on U.S. history, historical thinking, the French Revolution, the history of science and technology, world history and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Earlier this year, Rosenzweig received the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians in recognition of his contributions to significantly enriching the understanding and appreciation of American history.

Rosenzweig was a graduate of Columbia College and studied at St. John’s College of Cambridge, England before receiving his PhD from Harvard University. Before coming to George Mason in 1981, he was an assistant professor of history and humanities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In 2005, Rosenzweig’s web-based project,”History Matters,” earned him and the CHNM the James Harvey Prize of the American Historical Association. In 2003, he was awarded the second Richard W. Lyman Award for his work with CHNM, particularly the”History Matters” project and the September 11 Digital Archive.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG The $25,000 prize recognized scholarly achievement of unusual merit and impact and innovative use of information technology in humanistic scholarship and teaching. These projects are attempts to make new and rare historical documents free and accessible to anyone and explore how technology can be used to enhance the study of history.

In 1999, Rosenzweig was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award, the commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at public and private colleges and universities in Virginia.

He was the coauthor of numerous books, including”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park,” which won the 1993 Historic Preservation Book Award and the 1993 Urban History Association Prize for Best Book on North American Urban History. He also co-wrote”The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life,” which has won prizes from the Center for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History.

Rosenzweig was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and lectured as a Fulbright professor. He also served as vice president for research of the American Historical Association.

In Appreciation

Amanda Shuman, PhD candiate in Chinese History, former studentIf it weren’t for Roy, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Roy’s advice, generosity, inspiration, and encouragement had a large impact on my life. I would probably not be pursing a PhD in history right now if I had never met Roy.

One night in late October 2002, I went to visit Roy in his office on the GMU campus. I had made an appointment with him per another history professor’s e-mail. I wanted to ask him about the History and New Media M.A. program. I always liked history and was an IT major and it seemed like the field was a perfect fit, though I wasn’t sure it was practical. In fact, I was debating between instructional technology or history teaching. In the midst of our discussion about the program and CHNM, Roy asked about where I was currently working. I told him how much I disliked my IT consulting job. I was thinking of taking some classes part-time and possibly going back to school full-time in the future, though I wasn’t sure how I would do this. Roy immediately encouraged me to apply for a job at CHNM. I was completely floored! I began working at CHNM soon thereafter.

In fall 2003, I took Roy’s Clio Wired class. Our final website project could be on any topic we wished. Despite having trouble finding websites as sample models for my proposed topic, Roy encouraged me to pursue it anyway. My final project was a little website proposal called”Westerners in China.” That was my first research project on Chinese history (ever). I enjoyed researching it so much that I subsequently took an East Asian history graduate class and Chinese language classes in preparation for a doctoral program in Chinese history. For two more years, I continued to work at CHNM. Roy was nothing but encouraging and even curious of my Chinese language studies. When I decided in 2005 to apply for PhD programs in Chinese history, he offered me application advice that was priceless and wrote recommendations for every school.

Roy was the pioneer in digital history and I am honored to have known him for that. Countless people have been inspired by what Roy has written, said, and accomplished. However, I feel especially blessed to have worked at CHNM and known him professionally as an extremely supportive and encouraging supervisor, co-worker, and professor, and personally as a colleague and friend.

Elena Razlogova, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Concordia University, Affiliated Scholar, CHNM; Associate Producer, Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives

Working with Roy, at the Center for History and New Media and as a student, gave one a unique understanding of the purpose and practice of history. Roy founded CHNM because he considered new media a useful means to democratize historical scholarship. In 1995, the Center consisted of the server in a closet, and I was its only employee. Since then, Roy brought together an amazing crew-CHNM now employs over 40 people-and infected us with his relentless work ethic. Some of us who”graduated” from the Center have since taken it as a model for our own ventures in collaborative digital history.

At the Center and elsewhere, Roy applied his unreconstructed”new left” radicalism to new digital realities. In a new medium, the Center’s projects continue Roy’s early work in labor and public history-they take voices and interpretations of ordinary people seriously. This is evident both in the earliest and latest CHNM projects-from the CD-Rom Who Built America, a US history survey”from the bottom up,” to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, on Hurricane Katrina. Roy chose to collaborate on most of his books, despite historians’ traditional preference for solitary research and writing. He argued for open access and”open source” scholarship at countless academic and government meetings, often with little result, but he never gave up. Thanks to him, articles in the American Historical Review are now open to the public.

To say that Roy was generous to students and junior colleagues would be an understatement. He read entire dissertations and book drafts for students and colleagues, even long after they had moved to other universities. Each time, he would write up pages of detailed suggestions for revision, complete with grammar and typo corrections. He was kind, but brought all of his diverse knowledge to bear on your project. One could always count on him to write a letter of recommendation or help with a grant application, no matter how exasperated he was with an inopportune or last-minute request. Once a university I had applied to unexpectedly requested a second long letter from him, to be emailed the same day, dealing specifically with my work in digital history. I went to his office, and he wrote it right then, in ten minutes, even though he was extremely busy. I got the job.

After working with Roy, it is easy to be a historian and a human being -one just needs to measure everything by his standards. But to those of us who knew him he is irreplaceable.

Joshua Brown, Executive Director, American Social History Project, City University of New York Graduate Center

Roy Rosenzweig JPG

Daniel Cohen, Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Director of Research Projects at the Center for History and New Media

Where to begin? It’s the only possible response when asked to remember Roy Rosenzweig. Academics are fortunate if they are able to become pioneers or innovators in a single field; Roy managed to found or advance at least three fields: social history, public history, and digital history. And we often suspect that pioneers and innovators have character flaws associated with the dogged pursuit of the cutting edge: narcissism, aggression, humorlessness. Yet everyone who knew Roy was amazed at his unparalleled combination of brilliance, insight, and incredible hard work with humility, generosity, and laugh-out-loud wit.

Eight years ago I received a call from Roy, who had heard through a mutual acquaintance that I had moved to Washington. I only vaguely knew of Roy, and had no idea why he should want to talk to me, but nevertheless agreed to meet him for lunch. I’m so profoundly thankful I answered his call.

Roy and I ate at a restaurant near his house and had some nice conversation. I thought little of our casual meeting until a year later, when Roy called me to say that he had just gotten a grant and had remembered a few points I had made over lunch and how relevant they were to the grant proposal. The only thing I could remember from a year earlier was that Roy was bursting with energy and ideas and had consumed more coffee over lunch than I drink in a week. We met again for lunch and by the end of the meal he had convinced me to come work with him.

That’s how it began for me, and for countless others. Sitting on a panel with Roy at a conference, meeting randomly over coffee, receiving a congratulatory email from him about an article you had written. No matter how trivial the reason behind the first contact, Roy would remember you, and he would often move these minor encounters–the kind most of us have every day and think nothing of–onto a path toward collaboration and friendship.

I know of no one with as large an address book and as many friends as Roy. But he didn’t just collect these acquaintances superficially, for show or for his own career ends like so many people do on Facebook or LinkedIn. As his social histories of the United States also emphasize, he viewed every human being as a special resource who brings unique talents and ideas into the world, and he liked nothing more than to connect people with each other.

Almost every topic of conversation prompted a welcome referral from Roy:”You should talk to my friend so-and-so, who has done some really interesting work on that subject.” The history of family photos?”She wrote a great article on that.” Standards for library catalogs?”Met this guy at the Library of Congress.” Byzantine art? Documentary filmmaking? Preservation of eight-track tapes? Him, her, and you’re not going to believe this but here’s an email address for you. Now go contact them.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG

But Roy didn’t just bring his many acquaintances together. He reveled himself in collaborating with others. Roy found it deeply unfortunate that unlike in the sciences, the humanities suffered from a serious lack of collaboration. He scoffed at the mythical ideal of the intellectual toiling alone on the great book. Roy co-authored over a dozen major works, not to mention the scores of highly collaborative digital projects at the Center for History and New Media, which he founded at George Mason University in 1994.

A typical but still remarkable moment occurred when Roy received the Richard W. Lyman Award (presented by the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation) in 2003 for”outstanding achievement in the use of information technology to advance scholarship and teaching in the humanities.” He got up on stage, used his computer to project a giant list of names onto a screen, and said,”These are all of the people I collaborated with on the projects that this award honors. These are the people that did the work, and I want to thank them.”

Of course, that was just Roy being his usual humble self. Roy’s collaborators will readily admit not only how wonderful but also how daunting it was to work with him. To paraphrase Paul Erdös, Roy was a machine for turning coffee into publications and websites. With his incredible mind and a large coffee nearly always by his side, he was able to produce such a wide and deep array of creative works. When we were writing a book together I would slowly plod along while insightful, beautiful prose seemed to pop off of his laptop at a disturbingly rapid pace. Working with him on a project forced you to elevate yourself, to do the best you could do.

Long before Roy became ill, the staff at the Center for History and New Media would ponder (when Roy was out of the room) what we would do decades hence, when we expected Roy would finally leave this world. In the spirit of Roy’s humor, some of us decided that we would simply have to preserve his brain in a giant vat of fresh-brewed coffee. Others took their cue from science fiction and thought we could transfer his mind onto silicon for the continued benefit of future generations.

If only we could have done so. But perhaps in a partial sense that is what has happened over the last decade. Roy’s thoughts and vision sit on the Center for History and New Media’s server, silently connecting with thousands of people every day, and his books and articles connect with thousands more.

If only those people could have met Roy Rosenzweig in person. He would have liked to have had coffee with them.
–“Remembering Roy Rosenzweig” originally posted on

Jack Censer, Dean, George Mason Universty

During his twenty-six years at George Mason University, Roy Rosenzweig accomplished one miracle after another. The department could claim little national distinction before Roy came; every accomplishment that transpired over the next quarter century bears his mark. Roy worked tirelessly on history, and there is no doubt his reputation drew luminaries like the late Lawrence Levine and newcomer Martin Sherwin to our ranks. Likewise George Mason’s master’s program, enhanced by Roy’s appeal to students, developed into one of the most productive in the nation. Roy likely oversaw over 100 students through the capstone tutorial of our program. He also directed many thesis students in history and the Cultural Studies Program as well. Yet without a doubt, Roy’s greatest achievement was the Center for History and New Media. Launched in 1994, the center took form first as a sign on Roy’s office door. The roots of this Center lay in Roy’s work in association with the American Social History Project at CUNY, led by Steve Brier and now Josh Brown on the revision and digitalization of Herb Gutman’s textbook on U.S. History. This joint collaboration produced a cd-rom that began the digital revolution in history. And it also gave rise to an incredible burst of activity that created a Center with a $2.5 million endowment and grant awards of many millions. The upward trajectory has never slackened.

Here I really want to focus on Roy as a person. Of course, he was a tireless worker. When Daniele Struppa, previous dean of our college, was hoping to create a digital project across the humanities, he asked Steve Brier how it might be possible to amass sufficient manpower. Steve’s answer sticks in my mind, “Well you’ve got Roy. That’s five people.” When Roy and I taught together on two occasions, his preparation for class and his feedback to students showed this same indefatigable level of activity and energy.

Roy could not do enough for people. At the dawn of the age of the personal computer when he understood these newfangled machines as did few other humanities faculty, Roy was a one-man help desk. I called him more than once, but he assisted anyone who asked. He could not turn away anyone in need. He even went computer shopping with colleagues on more than one occasion. He did have one flaw or strength, depending on one’s point of view. He was absolutely dedicated to Apple, and all PC purchasers did have to accept his admonitions about the poor judgment of such a purchase.

Roy loved a party, and he and his wife, Deborah, hosted countless ones. Several years ago they moved from a bungalow to a very spacious home that, like their first house, always seemed to be filled with people. They frequently took in out-of-town colleagues who needed a place to bed down in the D.C. area. Roy and Deborah’s home was, in fact, a magnet that helped to counteract the centrifugal force of this gigantic metropolitan area whose terrible traffic often threatens to push us apart.

My last meetings with Roy illustrated important facets of his amazing character such as his sense of duty and lack of self-importance. Several weeks ago, as he was struggling with illness, he found it difficult to accomplish all he expected to do in running the Center. At this point, I was dean of the college so he asked me, what would be the impact of his inability to fulfill all his duties. Anyone would have been entitled to some slack under these circumstances. Roy would have been well within his rights to presume that his prior contributions and fame spoke for themselves, but instead his humility led him to ask about his obligations. He had presumed no quarter, and the incident illuminated his deep humanity. And, in our last meetings, as he knew the end was approaching, he told me that he was sorry to have put me through this. Facing death, he worried about my feelings. His self-abnegation and concern for others was never more striking.

These stories of Roy’s empathy for other and lack of self centeredness as he fought cancer revealed yet another important character trait, perhaps the most inspiring of all: his courage. I really have never had a hero, but Roy became one to me. I never heard him complain or bemoan his fate, as I and most others would have done. Roy just wanted to live and continue contributing. His example, I hope, will inspire in me more stoicism and determination in the face of difficulties than I have heretofore mustered. This one last gift may leave an indelible mark.

I shall miss Roy to the end of my days, but I shall cherish the numberless experiences we had together. As he was my comrade for so many years, there will always be a void by my side. I hope to fill it with my memories and by trying to maintain my end of our unshakeable bargain to cherish the department and the university as well as the study of history

Meredith H. Lair, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, George Mason Universty

Other people can speak more intelligently about Roy’s scholarship, more intimately about his friendship, than I. What I can say about Roy is that he set a standard of decency and kindness to which we should all aspire.

I began to suspect Roy was more than just a”big name” when I received notice that I had been rejected for a faculty position at Mason. Most search committees never take the time even to notify candidates that a position has been filled, but Roy wrote me personally. The letter was specific to me, not a form letter, and Roy included some handwritten personal remarks at the end. It was the nicest rejection letter I have ever received, so supportively written that it felt more like an affirmation of my work than a piece of unwelcome news. I mentioned the letter to an acquaintance of mine who had also unsuccessfully applied for the position. She replied that she too”had just gotten the world’s nicest rejection letter” specially tailored to her. He did it for everyone. Two years later, after I had joined the faculty in a different position at Mason, I served on a search committee with Roy and saw the process from the other side. Despite that fact that he had served on dozens of such committees, that he had read the dossiers of hundreds, perhaps thousands of hopeful scholars, and that he had written too many rejection letters to count, Roy still worried over the feelings and careers of the bright young historians he could not employ–people he would never meet, people with no titles or grant money to bestow, individuals who might otherwise seem interchangeable in a profession so ruthlessly competitive. They mattered to Roy. And I will always remember, from that uncertain time in my life, how much it meant to me that I meant something to him.

Roy has left many legacies: a new field of history, a brilliant body of scholarship, his students, the department and Center he helped to build. Most important, though, is the standard of conduct he set for all of us in the profession. A half-hour after I found out Roy had died, I was standing reluctantly at the gate for a flight to yet another conference. For my sadness, I did not want to go, but I found myself asking,”What would Roy do?” I think we would all do well, in our current grief and when the stresses of academe become too much, to ask ourselves that question. What would Roy do? And the answer comes: be patient, be kind, have a coffee, and do the work.

Peter Stearns, Provost, George Mason Universty

Roy was obviously one of the most distinguished faculty. He was truly an imaginative historian, from his first book that I still use to the pioneering work he did on the Center for History and New Media. He will be greatly missed personally and professionally, but we will be building on his accomplishments for a long time to come.

Marion Deshmukh, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

Roy’s untimely death will leave an incredible void personally and professionally. Roy was instrumental in creating so many programs in the History Department and the university, from crafting courses leading to doctoral programs in cultural studies, in community college education, and in our PhD program in History and New Media, one of the most innovative in the country. As others have noted, Roy rarely turned down any request to colleagues or students, however burdensome. We always wondered when (and if) Roy slept—in his abbreviated life, cut short at its prime–Roy accomplished more than most of us can or will if we had ten lives.

Despite his many accomplishments: superb researcher and scholar, innovator in digital history, a terrific teacher and mentor to so many students, he was, as has also been noted, uncommonly modest and unassuming. He shunned the limelight, usually giving others far more credit for what he actually created, wrote, or conceptualized. His work for the AHA, OAH and countless other professional organizations attest to the wide respect he garnered from colleagues in the US and, indeed, throughout the world.

Being a close friend and colleague of Roy’s for decades, this is an especially sad time. The department is mourning one of the truly best people we have ever known. Given his accomplishments, however, his name and creative ideas will, indeed, must live on.

Steve Brier, Founding Director, American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning

My friendship with Roy goes back more than a quarter century. We met at the Radical History Review in the late 1970s, where we were both editors, hit it off pretty quickly because we were both interested in non-traditional ways to do and present history, especially to the public, and decided we’d work together on what would become the Public History issue of the RHR. That volume was our first collaboration and became Presenting the Past, the first book published (in 1986) in the Critical Perspectives on the Past series at Temple University Press that I had the good fortune to co-edit with Roy and the late Susan Porter Benson for more than twenty years.

When Herb Gutman and I launched the American Social History Project in 1981, Roy was on the first (and every subsequent) directors/advisory/editorial board we set up to help us run and advise ASHP. Roy helped us get the first edition of the Who Built America? textbook finished in 1989 and 1991, in the years after Herb Gutman died, serving then as Supervising Editor and on the two subsequent editions, as co-author. He advised ASHP on every one of our multimedia projects, including films and videos as well as teacher guides and teacher training projects.

Roy and I entered the wonderful world of computers together, buying matching Kaypro II computers (which ran the now defunct CPM operating system) in 1982, Roy to do his own academic work and my ASHP colleagues and me to write the WBA? textbook. Our early shared use of computers led us to begin to poke around the emerging field of computer controlled media in the late 1980s. I was down in Arlington visiting one time in 1989, I believe, and Roy and I took the Metro into DC near Union Station to visit a new exhibit of computer controlled training tools and programs that some company or museum was displaying (I remember that one of the exhibits focused on a laserdisc for training fire fighters). Out of that exposure emerged the idea that we really wanted to explore the uses of multimedia to do history. ASHP had been doing films and videos throughout the 1980s, but the computer opened up immense new vistas for improving the teaching and learning of history. Very soon after that (in 1990) I got a call from Bob Stein, who headed a company called Voyager, who said he wanted to turn the WBA? textbook (actually, only the first volume was out at that point) into the first electronic textbook and we (meaning ASHP and Roy) were off on the wild Toad’s ride of creating what became the first history CD-ROM, which Voyager published in 1993. That’s the origins of Roy’s (and our) descent (or ascent, depending on your perspective) into the wonderful world of multimedia.  Everything that Roy did in digital media flowed out of that first collaborative experience, including his founding of the Center for History and New Media at GMU in 1994.

I spent a great deal of time down in Arlington with Roy at the Jackson house in those years writing and thinking about what the WBA? CD-ROM would look like. Sometime in that period (I can’t remember exactly when, but maybe 1992; my colleague, Josh Brown, says it was in the late 1980s), Deborah Kaplan, Roy’s partner and wife, despairing that Roy was never going to do anything other than work all the time on his computer, announced one night at the dinner table that she thought they both needed hobbies, things that would get them to focus on something other than their academic work. She suggested that they both think about what those new hobbies might be and we’d discuss it at dinner in a few nights. I was then witness to the following exchange (this is not a verbatim transcript, but it’s pretty damned close!):

Deborah (brightly): “Well, I’ve thought a lot about what my hobby should be and I’ve decided I’m going to take up gourmet cooking.”

Roy (sitting in uneasy silence):

Deborah (imploringly): “Roy, have you given this some thought? Have you come up with a hobby?”

Roy (hopefully): “Can the computer be my hobby?”

I laugh every time I think about this story (and as those who know me realize, I’ve probably told it a hundred times over the years). It speaks to Roy’s singlemindedness of purpose and his ridiculous intensity and capacity for work, which everyone who knew him admired and, at the same time, was daunted by. I learned after many years of collaborating with Roy on a variety of digital, print, and other kinds of projects that the best thing to do was sit back and admire that dedication and tenacity (and greatly benefit from it) and never, ever (unless you were a masochist) try to match it or him in output.

He was and will always be one of a kind, a brilliant, loving, intense, supportive and totally unique human being. He will be missed by all of us for a very long time, in large measure, because there is no one quite like him and there never will be. We miss you and we love you, Roy, and thank you for everything you did and gave us over these years. And, as Mike O’Malley said to me a few days after Roy died: “How are we supposed to get through things without Roy drawing up our To Do lists?”

Mills Kelly, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

Yesterday we lost one of the greatest historians and greatest humans I’ll ever have the privilege to know. My colleague and friend Roy Rosenzweig passed away, surrounded by his family yesterday afternoon. Although I’ve known for a while that this was going to happen, I still can’t imagine the world without Roy.

I first met Roy through his words. In the late 1980s I was a PhD student at George Washington University and signed up for a course in American labor history, not because I have a great interest in the field, but because it fit my schedule. I only remember one book that I read that semester (I’m sure the others were good as well) and that was Roy’s Eight Hours for What We Will. That book was so good, I actually re-read it after the semester, just so I could enjoy it a second time, and it remains one of the few volumes of American history to have survived on the few bookshelves I can cram into my office here at George Mason.

I didn’t actually meet Roy for another decade. When I first became interested in how digital media might be transforming student learning in history courses in the late 1990s, the only historian’s work that really spoke to my interests and concerns was Roy’s. Somehow I found my way to the first website of the Center for History and New Media and was very impressed by the work that Roy and his colleagues at George Mason were doing. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that someday I would be named the Associate Director of the Center.

But in the fall of 2000 I saw an ad in Perspectives for a senior digital historian at Mason. The ad had a very short closing date, so rather than applying, I called Roy directly to find out what was going on with the search and whether I, a mere untenured assistant professor, might be considered for the position.

That was the first time I ever spoke to Roy and in many ways it sums up his most defining characteristic–his generosity. Instead of telling me that he couldn’t really give me many details of the search process, he took a good half an hour to explain, in detail, what was happening with that particular search. He very gently told me that, no, I could not be considered for that position, because the department had been given permission to make a senior hire and so they really needed to hire someone already tenured. But then he told me that the department had a second search going on–for a Western Civilization Coordinator–and that I really should apply for that, since much of my work in the scholarship of teaching and learning had been focused on my Western Civ courses. He also gave me a number of useful hints about how to pitch my letter of application to the search committee.

Those who knew Roy well know that he was almost never without a cup of coffee. Well, when I had my AHA interview, Roy was there–it was in a hotel room and the committee members mostly sat on the edges of the beds while I sat in a chair. Five minutes into the interview, Roy kicked over his cup of coffee that he had set on the floor, and we all spent a few minutes cleaning up. I remember thinking that the next person to interview would wonder what in the world had happened to the carpet in that room!

When I came to campus, it was Roy who really sold me on the job at Mason. After a full day of interviewing, he drove me to dinner with several future colleagues and asked me what he could do to help convince me to take the job. The fact that Roy wanted me to work here was the final straw–there was no way I could say no after that.

That was in 2001. For the past six years I have been one of literally dozens and dozens of beneficiaries of Roy’s guidance, friendship, counseling, support, and great good humor. None of the work in digital humanities that I have done since arriving here would have been possible without all of those things I received from Roy. He had so many good ideas, so many helpful suggestions, such an incredible work ethic, that everyone who was anywhere nearby got better just by being in his general vicinity.

During my first semester here, our then department chair, now dean Jack Censer told me once, “Don’t stand too close to Roy.” When I asked why, he said, “Because you’ll get pulled along in his wake and no one but Roy is capable of doing all the things he does in any given day.” Jack, who has known Roy since forever, was absolutely right. No one but Roy is capable of doing all that he did.

Al Gore may not have invented the Internet, but I think it is no exaggeration to claim that Roy invented Digital History as a field of serious scholarly endeavor. Before Roy got involved I’m sure there were others who were playing around with what digital media might mean to our professional practice. But it was Roy who made Digital History into a professional field. For that alone, the profession and many subsequent generations of history students will be forever indebted to this great man.

For myself, I will be inspired by his example for the rest of my life. I know that as long as I’m fortunate enough to be on this earth I will try to live up to the standard that Roy set. And I know that I’ll always fall short.

Roy, I’ll miss you more than I can ever express.

Mack P. Holt, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

It has been a very sad week for us in the History Department at George Mason. Roy’s death has left a hole in our hearts as well as in our intellects. So many wonderful things could be said about him, and many of them already have been said by others. So, in this time of grieving, I want to reminiscence on a happier time, indeed one of the happiest times I ever experienced with Roy. It was on Saturday night, February 20, 1999. The setting was a colleague’s home, where most of the department and their spouses had gathered to honor Roy, accompanied by lots of food and drink. The occasion was his appointment as a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Scholar, the closest thing the college had to an endowed chair at the time, and the highest honor the college could give him. As I was also on the review committee appointed by the dean to advise on this appointment, I recall with pleasure one of the dozen or so outside letters by the some of the most distinguished historians in the country whom the dean solicited for their evaluations of Roy’s scholarly accomplishments. One of them began her letter with a striking statement: “Roy is a national treasure!”  I had never thought of Roy in this way (Roy as Grand Canyon? Roy as Julia Child?), but it certainly rang true then, as it still does. But on the night of February 20, 1999 we were gathered in a spirit of fun, pleasure, and boundless admiration for a colleague whom everyone adored. One of our former chairs, Marion Deshmukh, had started the tradition that on such occasions we should endeavor to create some doggerel, scribbled verse, or other creative party piece to honor the occasion. So on that night, I read aloud a limerick I had jotted down earlier in the day. It seemed fitting for the occasion and made me very proud and privileged to call Roy my friend and colleague. Upon re-reading it this week as I have been reflecting on Roy, it still seems fitting and says (in its own abominable way) what I still feel about him, indeed what we all feel.


There was once a historian named Roy
Who was very perceptively coy.
He wondered why history
Was always a mystery
In all that he heard as a boy.

So he decided to make history a vocation,
And studied the American nation.
Though much to his surprise
He discovered all the lies
That had been spread since the beginning of creation.

From Columbia to Harvard he ascended,
Where he his dissertation defended.
He looked at workers’ leisure
And all they did for pleasure
Eight hours every day, so he contended.

But he also met a lady from Brandeis
Whose hold over him began to aggrandize.
So he decided to woo her
And eventually pursue her,
Which made quite a match woman and man-wise.

So he set out in earnest to give chase,
But his beloved was setting the pace.
He found that too often
She was thinking of Jane Austin,
So he rarely made it to first base.

But wedlock and marriage are the ultimate blessing
Despite all the statistics so distressing.
To Washington and George Mason
They both soon did hasten,
Where they began a new life of professing.

Then Roy took off into Central Park
Which became his next major lark.
From the Tavern on the Green
To the eastern ravine,
He recorded it all, even muggers in the dark.

Then he launched the Center for History and New Media,
Which would transform poor old Clio he decreed. He, uh,
Made a CD-ROM that offended,
So the Wall Street Journal contended,
Because of gay cowboys and other such tedia.

But any distress Roy easily disguises
Because his CD-ROM won so many prizes.
And his history of the net
Will be his best work yet,
Or so one of his grad students surmises.

But what one notices of Roy is how hard he works.
There’s nothing or no one that he shirks.
The late hours he keeps
And rumors he occasionally sleeps
Are part of his charming quirks.

But Roy is a friend always unfailing and just,
A constant someone we can always trust.
Even as CAS Distinguished Scholar
He’s never too big for his collar,
Which makes Roy a King among us.

So tonight we have all gathered to attest
That Roy stands out from all the rest.
And though a trite cliché,
It’s true anyway:
We salute you Roy; you’re the best.

[February 20, 1999]

And you are the best, Roy. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Rosenzweig’s Reflections on his Career

American history traditionally has been written and presented from the perspective of the ‘victors’ Roy Rosenzweig JPG –the rich and powerful. My historical work–writing, editing, filmmaking, collecting oral history–contributes to more recent efforts to rewrite U.S. history to incorporate the lives and perspectives of ordinary men and women and to present that vision of our past to the largest possible audience.

In the past several years, I have devoted substantial attention to using new media and new technology to present and teach about the past. That has led to my work in developing two multimedia CD-ROMs in U.S. history, a CD-ROM on the French Revolution, and an Internet web site for teachers of the U.S. History Survey Course called ‘History Matters.’ Roy Rosenzweig JPG The web site for my Center for History and New Media ( provides an introduction to that work. The continuity with my earlier work is my interest in using new media to democratize the study of the past–both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences.


By Roy Rosenzweig

  • The past is a reservoir of alternatives to the present, many survey respondents told us in pointing toward a possible use of the past for people to shape a civic arena. In perhaps the most far-reaching claim for history’s ability to make available all human experience to any individual, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that”Who hath access The Presence of the Past JPG to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.” By recovering things from the past or by looking at the experience differently we can see how to think and act differently in the future. The past can challenge us with eloquent, brilliant, troubling material that widens our present experience and wisdom. It provides perspectives to engage, accounts to cross-examine, and opportunities to hone skills of empathy, compassion, and reflection. Good history teachers have long presented students with documents, artifacts, pictures, and films in which people address issues of identity, narrative, and agency thereby introducing students to variety of perspectives on moral issues, political alternatives, and ways of making individual and collective narratives. — Roy Rosenzweig (with David Thalen) in”The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life”
  • In Contemporary and historical accounts, those who lived in Central park before it became Central Park have generally been unrepresented or misrepresented, either ignored or disparaged as a debased population of savages. Legislative discussions and public reports contain only indirect hints that anyone at all lived on proposed park land. Guides to the city that described East Side settlements like Yorkville and Carmanville made no mention of the equally large community of park dwellers. A few newspaper reporters evinced slightly more interest, none of it sympathetic. On March 5, 1856, a Times reporter drew on the recurrent New York motif of a dual city of”sunlight Roy Rosenzweig JPG and shadows” to contrast the”human misery” in its lowest and filthiest depths” within the park boundaries to the luxury and elegance” that he expected to flourish when the finished park rivaled the Champs Elysées. He described the residents as”principally Irish families” living in”rickety…little one storie shanties…inhabited by four or five persons, not including the pig and the goats.” The Evening Post wrote that the duties of the new Central Park police would be”arduous,” since the park was the”scene of plunder and depredations,””the headquarters of the vagabonds and scoundrels of every description,” and the location of”gambling dens, the lowest type of drinking houses, and houses of every species of rascality.” An even more pervasive charge (really an assumption) was that the park dwellers had stolen the land itself, that they were squatters.Most subsequent writers have drawn their information (often embellishing along the way) from a single paragraph written by the park’s first engineer, Egbert Viele, who from the distance of forty years recalled the park as”the refuge of about five thousand squatters, dwelling in rude huts of their own construction, and living off the refuse of the city.””These people who had thus overrun and occupied the territory were principally of foreign birth, with but very little knowledge of the English language, and occupied the territory were principally of foreign birth, with but very little knowledge of the English language, and with very little respect for the law. Like the ancient Gauls, they wanted land to live on, and they took it.”

    The”pre-parkites,” as one commentator called them, left no firsthand accounts to counter these scornful reports, but it is possible to piece together an alternative portrait of the roughly sixteen hundred residents from manuscript censuses, city directories, tax lists, land records, church registers, and the maps and petitions generated by the acquisition of the park land. More than 90 percent of those who lived on that land were immigrants-mostly Irish or German-or African Americans, compared to about half of the overall population of the city and also uptown Manhatten. More than two-thirds of the adults worked at unskilled and service jobs-as laborers, gardeners, domestics, and the like-and most of the rest as tailors, carpenters, masons, or in other skilled trades. About one in ten ran a small business-a grocery or a butcher shop, for example. These aggregate figures challenge the existing portraits of the”pre-parkites” as criminals and vagabonds. — Roy Rosenszweig (with Elizabeth Blackmar) in”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”

  • Historians need to join in lobbying actively for adequate funding for both current historical work and preservation of future resources. They should also argue forcefully for the democratized access to the historical record that digital media make possible. And they must add their voices to those calling for expanding copyright deposit-and opposing copyright extension, for that matter-of digital materials so as to remove some of the legal clouds hanging over efforts like the Internet Archive and to halt the ongoing privatization of historical resources. Even in the absence of state action, historians should take steps individually and within their professional organizations to embrace the culture of abundance made possible by digital media and expand the public space of scholarship-for example, making their own work available for free on the web, cross-referencing other digital scholarship, and perhaps depositing their sources online for other scholars to use. A vigorous public domain today is a prerequisite for a healthy historical record.More than a century ago, Justin Winsor, the third president of the AHA, concluded his Presidential Address- focused on a topic that would be considered odd today, that of preserving manuscript sources for the study of history-with a plea to the AHA”to convince the National Legislature” to support a scheme”before it is too late” to preserve and make known”what there is still left to us of the historical manuscripts of the country.” For founders of the historical profession such as Winsor, the need to engage with history broadly defined-not just how it was researched but also how it was taught in the schools or preserved in archives-came naturally; it was part of creating a historical profession. In the early twenty-first century, we are likely to be faced with recreating the historical profession, and we will be well served by such a broad vision of our mission. If the past is to have an abundant future, if the story of Bert Is Evil and hundreds of other stories are to be fully told, then historians need to act in the present. — Roy Rosenzweig in”Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era”
  • History is a deeply individualistic craft. The singly authored work is the standard for the profession; only about 6 percent of the more than 32,000 scholarly works indexed since 2000 in this journal’s comprehensive bibliographic guide,”Recent Scholarship,” have more than one author. Works with several authors–common in the sciences–are even harder to find. Fewer than 500 (less than 2 percent) have three or more authors.Historical scholarship is also characterized by possessive individualism. Good professional practice (and avoiding charges of plagiarism) requires us to attribute ideas and words to specific historians–we are taught to speak of”Richard Hofstadter’s status anxiety interpretation of Progressivism.” And if we use more than a limited number of words from Hofstadter, we need to send a check to his estate. To mingle Hofstadter’s prose with your own and publish it would violate both copyright and professional norms.

    Roy Rosenzweig JPG A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes the online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, which contains 3 million articles (1 million of them in English). History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles. Wikipedia is entirely free. And that freedom includes not just the ability of anyone to read it (a freedom denied by the scholarly journals in, say, jstor, which requires an expensive institutional subscription) but also–more remarkably–their freedom to use it. You can take Wikipedia’s entry on Franklin D. Roosevelt and put it on your own Web site, you can hand out copies to your students, and you can publish it in a book–all with only one restriction: You may not impose any more restrictions on subsequent readers and users than have been imposed on you. And it has no authors in any conventional sense. Tens of thousands of people–who have not gotten even the glory of affixing their names to it–have written it collaboratively. The Roosevelt entry, for example, emerged over four years as five hundred authors made about one thousand edits. This extraordinary freedom and cooperation make Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production. — Roy Rosenzweig in”Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46

About Roy Rosenzweig

  • “The quotes from actual survey interviews set to rest the myth that Americans are not interested in history. Instead, the Americans they surveyed challenge educators, museums, authors, and filmmakers to present history in authentic and experiential ways that engage them as active participants.” — Barbara Franco, Executive Director, Historical Society of Washington, D.C. reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • “Rosenzweig and Thelen have raised imaginative and important questions. They have written an important book that all historians should read and debate.” — Richard White, Stanford University, Journal of American History reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • “While the historical profession and its critics have pointed to a vast ignorance among the American people about the past, historians Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen argue that it’s the commentators who have much to learn. Conducting a phone survey of 1,453 Americans from a variety of backgrounds, the authors soon discovered that their professional training had left them unprepared for how people actually thought about the past. A surprising number of Americans feel unconnected to the nation-centered version of history taught in classrooms, searching instead for an intimate encounter with the past through family histories, the collection of memorabilia, and museum excursions. But these examples of”popular historymaking” are more than just anachronistic remembrances, and Rosenzweig and Thelen recount the ways that Americans use their historical imaginations to live in the present and shape the future.A profound reconsideration of what counts as historical thinking, The Presence of the Past exposes some misconceptions at the heart of the so-called history wars. Historical professionals like Gary Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross Dunn who argue (in History on Trial) that academic standards must reflect the rich ethnic mixture of the nation miss the fact that most students are alienated from the classrooms that have made them regurgitate volumes of facts. Cultural conservatives like Lynne Cheney and William Bennett, who insist on a triumphant version of the national past, fail to recognize that most Americans do not see their lives as connected to purported heroes like George Washington. A wonderful and refreshing book, The Presence of the Past points toward a democratization of historical consciousness by tenderly exploring how ordinary people remember. — James Highfill, reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • It is customary for professional historians as well as some members of our” chatting classes” to dismiss ordinary Americans as historical illiterates. Not so, according to Rosenzweig and Thelen, both professors of history. After surveying 1,500 Americans regarding their attitudes toward the past, they offer some surprising conclusions. Of course, in a narrow sense, many Americans are deficient in their knowledge of history; that is, for example, they are unable to describe the causes of the War of 1812. But in a broader sense, the authors conclude that most Americans have a strong awareness of their historical heritage. Furthermore, they tend to integrate that heritage into their personal lives rather than viewing it as a distant, sterile, and irrelevant series of facts. In what is regarded as a race-obsessed culture, it is striking that many of the respondents to the survey seem to shy away from”identity politics,” preferring to interpret the past in terms of their individual experiences. — Jay Freeman reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • In this prodigiously researched, eloquent work, history professors Rosenzweig (George Mason University) and Blackmar (Columbia) have written an outstanding study of the evolution of Manhattan’s Central Park, from its early days as a carriage promenade for the rich to its development as a haven from urban stress for all classes of people. Construction of the park, which was conceived by the wealthy both as a boon to the public and as a means to enhance real estate values, began in 1856. The project displaced 1600 park site residents, including Seneca, an African American community; exploited the laborers who cleared the land; and was rife with disputes between Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects who won the design competition. Although the emphasis is on the first 50 years of the park’s development, Robert Moses’s reign as park commissioner from 1934 to 1960 is adequately covered, as is the current controversial dependence on the private sector to finance this beautiful, democratic public space. — Publishers Weekly review of”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”
  • What took 166 tons of dynamite, six million bricks, 19,000 cubic yards of sand, 20,000 men, and $5 million to build? If you answered New York’s Central Park, give yourself a perfect grade. The same is awarded this magnificent public works history, a masterpiece combining the story of the park, the history of New York, city and state politics, and the people of the city. Central Park was conceived in the 1840s, built in the depression era of 1857, and renovated during the Great Depression. The authors have exhausted primary and secondary sources to produce this definitive work, which surpasses an earlier photographic history, Circle of Seasons . From the work of park designers Frederic Law Olmsted and Calbert Vaux to New Deal park commissioner Robert Moses to the administration of Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the volume is a rare combination of scholarship and readable text. The emphasis is on the 19th century and the park’s formative decades, including design, property acquisition, and the men whose labor created the world’s best-known park. Ignoring neither the vested interests of the propertied class who stood to benefit from the park nor the fear of crime in Central Park, Rosenzweig and Blackmar produce a model history–not just of the park but of the city and people who turn to it for amusement, recreation, relaxation, and more. — Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala. in Library Journal reviewing”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”
  • “A lively and challenging exploration of the messages and methods of popular history…. [The book] offers candor, analysts, and useful models for future efforts.” — Journal of Social History review of”Presenting The Past : Essays on History and the Public”
  • “In the proliferating scholarship on American working-class history, leisure has been among the last themes to be taken up. Thus, the appearance of Roy Rosenzweig’s book is especially to be welcomed. It is an admirable study on several counts. For one thing, it fully exploits the advantages of local history … His exhaustive research has yielded rich materials, anabling him, for example, to show the changing composition of Worcester’s saloonkeepers and to chart the opening history of the city’s movie houses … especially impressive is his subtle assessment of the impact of the movies on Worcester’s working people.” — David Brody, Journal of American History reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “Eight Hours For What We Will is a major contribution to modern American working-class history and to the history of a changing American popular and mass culture.” — Herbert Gutman, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “This is conceptually a very innovative and important book.” — Thomas A. McMullin, Historical Journal of Massachusetts reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “Rosenzweig provides a fascinating study of the interplay of class, ethnicity, and economics in shaping the leisure culture of Worcester’s working class.” — Mark Aldrich, The Journal of Economic History reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions:

Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History & New Media; College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History; Director of Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, 1981 to present (Asst. Prof., 1981-85; Assoc. Prof., 1985-92; Prof. 1992-98);
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan Univ., 1980 to 1981;
Assistant Professor of History and Humanities, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1978 to 1980.

Area of Research:

20th-century US, digital history


Ph.D., History, Harvard Univ., 1978
Research student in history on Kellet Fellowship, St. John’s College of Cambridge Univ. (England), 1971-73
B.A., magna cum laude, Columbia College, N.Y., 1971.

Major Publications:

  • (With Stephen Botein, Warren Leon, and others) Experiments in History Teaching, Harvard-Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), 1977.
  • (With R. Broadman and J. Grady) A Study Guide for”Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston,” Cine Research Associates, 1980.
  • Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • (Coauthor) Water and the Dream of the Engineers (documentary film), Cine Research Associates, 1983.
  • (With Broadman and Grady) What Has Happened to Our Water?: A Study Guide for the Film”Water and the Dream of the Engineers,” Cine Research Associates, 1985.
  • (With Betsy Blackmar) A Social History of Central Park, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1990.
  • (With E. Blackmar) The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, Cornell University Press, 1992.
  • (With S. Brier and J. Brown; also visual editor) Who Built America? From the Centennial of 1876 to the Great War of 1914 (on CD-ROM), Voyager Co. (New York City), 1993.
  • (With D. Thelen) The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life, Columbia University Press (New York City), 1998.
  • (With Daniel J. Cohen), Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Editor, Contributor:

  • (Contributor) James Green, editor, Workers’ Struggles: Past and Present, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1983.
  • (Contributor) Charles Stephenson and Robert Asher, editors, Life and Labor: Dimensions of American Working Class History, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1984.
  • (Editor with Susan P. Benson and Steve Brier, and contributor) Presenting the Past: Essays on History and the Public, Temple University Press, 1986.
  • (Chief editor) Government and the Arts in Thirties America: A Guide to Oral Histories and Other Research Materials, George Mason University Press (Fairfax, VA), 1986.
  • (Editor with Leon) History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1989.
  • (Contributor) Thomas B. Frazier, editor, The Private Side of American History, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1987. 
  • (With others; also executive producer) Who Built America? From the Great War of 1914 to the Dawn of the Atomic Age in 1946 (on CD-ROM), Worth Publishers (New York City), 1999.
  • (Editor, with Jean-Christophe Agnew), A Companion to Post-1945 America, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2002.

Coeditor of the series”Critical Perspectives on the Past,” Temple University Press, 1985–. Editor of”Newsnotes,” a feature inLabor History, 1979-87. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including International Journal of Oral History,Monthly Labor Review,Film Library Quarterly,Journal of American History, History Microcomputer Review,Nation, and New York Times Book Review. American Quarterly, member of editorial board, 1987-90, guest editor, 1998-99; member of editorial board, Radical History Review, 1977–, History Computer Review, 1996–, and Journal of Multimedia History, 1997–; coeditor, Federal One, 1981-90. Some of Rosenzweig’s work has been translated into Italian and German.


James Harvey Robinson Prize of American Historical Association for”outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history” for History Matters, Jan. 2005;
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Award for Excellence in the Humanities, December 2004;
Forrest G. Pogue Award for Excellence in Oral History, March 2004;
Richard W. Lyman Award (presented by the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation) for”outstanding achievement in the use of information technology to advance scholarship and teaching in the humanities,” 2003. Vice-President, Research Div., American Historical Association, 2003-5;
State of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, 1999;
“Edsitement” selection by NEH for”History Matters” Web site;
Historic Preservation Book Prize for Best Book of 1998 from Center for Historic Preservation, Mary Washington College and Award of Merit from American Association for State and Local History for The Presence of the Past;
James Harvey Robinson Prize of American Historical Association for”outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history” and finalist, Interactive Media Festival Award for Who Built America? CD-ROM;
Urban History Association Prize for Best Book in North American Urban History; Abel Wolman Prize for Best Book in Public Works History; Abbott Cumming Lowell Prize for Best Book of 1992 from Vernacular Architecture Forum; Historic Preservation Book Prize for Best Book of 1992 from Center for Historic Preservation; New York Historical Association Award for Best Manuscript on New York History, 1991 (for The Park and the People.)
Fulbright Commission, Senior Scholar, Australia, June-July, 1990;
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1989-90;
Forrest G. Pogue Award for Excellence in Oral History, November, 1987;
Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant from the AHA, 1987;
NEH Research Grant for”Central Park: A Social History,” 1986 to 1988;
Distinguished Faculty Award, GMU, 1986;
American Association for State and Local History Research Grant, 1985;
NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, 1984 to 1985;
Research Grant from NEH for Oral History of Government-Sponsored Arts Projects, 1983 to 1985;
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan Univ., 1980 to 1981.

Additional Info:

Rosenzweig was also member of board of directors,Cine Research Associates, 1978-88, coproducer of the Roy Rosenzweig JPG historical documentary film Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston, 1979; National Endowment for the Humanities, associate producer of Changing American City film series, 1981-83. Danforth Foundation, organizer and administrator of”Experiments in History Teaching Program,” 1976-77; American Social History Productions, member of board of directors, 1984–; Committee on History making in America, cofounder and member of steering committee, 1989-97; co-organizer and executive producer of the Internet course”History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web;” coexecutive producer of the interactive CD-ROM and Internet web site”Images of the French Revolution.” Guest lecturer at universities in the United States and abroad, including University of Tokyo, University of Virginia, Yale University, University of Melbourne, and Emory University; consultant to museums, government agencies, and community projects. George Mason University Press, member of editorial board, 1985-90.

Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster



HNN, 9-02-05

Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

This past week hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with New Orleans suffering some of the worst devastation as water levels rose throughout the city, leading to an unprecedented peace-time order to evacuate the entire area.. Students at Tulane University were set to start classes this week. At first the university was hopeful that it would be possible to resume classes on September 1. Soon that date was pushed back to September 7, but with 80 percent of the city flooded the university is uncertain now when the school will reopen. However, with the entire city being evacuated hope seems gone for this semester, if not longer.

Presently the university has relocated, and is now making its administrative headquarters in Houston, Texas. The university’s regular web server is down but Tulane University president Scott Cowan has been managing an emergency page on the Tulane site updating the university community and the public on the school’s status.

Starting last Saturday Tulane officials ordered students to evacuate the university. Tulane arranged for twelve buses to take students to nearby Jackson State University in Mississippi, where it was believed they would be safe. Students had just arrived for the academic year and were reluctant to leave; only 700 of the university’s 13,000 students chose to evacuate. Most stayed on campus never believing the magnitude of the disaster about to befall the city. The situation was no better at Jackson State where the Associated Press reported on August 31 that the university “suffered power outages, darkening the wood-floored gymnasium where the Tulane students were staying. On Tuesday, the gym’s bathrooms went out of service.” Students relocated again on Wednesday to Atlanta’s Georgia Tech University and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University; universities in the two closest cities not affected by Katrina.

University President Cowan reported on September 1, 2005 that there were faculty and staff who remained on campus, living in unsatisfactory conditions. The entire uptown campus was evacuated with only a “core team of public safety and facilities personnel” remaining. Cowan reported that “All of the students who were evacuated to Jackson State University in Mississippi have returned to their homes or are in the process of returning to their homes.”

Campus buildings themselves survived the storm nearly intact, accordimng to the president:”The campus did sustain some damage, though it generally fared very well during the storm. There are many downed trees, some buildings sustained water damage, and some roofing tiles were damaged. The necessary repairs are manageable. The dorms are intact and students’ belongings are safe.”

HNN has been paying special attention to the situation for students and faculty of Tulane’s history department. HNN has set up the Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty to help students and professors to communicate. Lists of missing professors and students have been posted along with offers from volunteers ready to offer assistance and housing.

History Department chairman Jim Boyden, safe in Baton Rouge, notified HNN about the history department’s current status. Boyden sadly confessed that he has ” no two-way communication with Tulane administrators,” but added, “I’m very confident that we’ll have answers to basic questions and be able to begin reconstituting the department soon.”

With Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students having no place to attend classes and with faculty having nowhere to teach; universities across the country are offering to take in Tulane students and faculty for the fall semester, and perhaps the rest of the academic year if need be. Many of these universities will be waiving tuition for the fall semester, while others are offering in-state tuition rates. Early offers were from Atlanta’s Georgia Tech and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University. Approximately 275 Tulane students chose to go to Atlanta, and another 140 went to Dallas including the football team, coaches and training staff. According to the AP “Georgia Tech and Southern Methodist were providing rooms, food, telephones, computer access and free airport shuttle services to the Tulane students and staff.”

Both Cornell University in New York and Texas A&M University have notified HNN via the blog of their offers to admit Tulane students. Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings announced that the university will take in some of Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and will possibly allow Tulane faculty to teach as visiting professors. Cornell has set up a site with more information. Texas A&M will let in students from Tulane and surrounding universities in New Orleans including Dillard, Southern, Xavier, and Loyola Universities and the University of New Orleans. Additional universities extending offers include: Yale University in Connecticut; Loyola University in Chicago, Syracuse University in New York; Rice University in Texas; Boston University in Massachusetts; and McGill University in Montreal, Canada among others.

In his most recent post on the Tulane site University President Cowan expressed his gratitude for exterior support for the university writing “When possible, I’ve been trying to scan the student web blogs and am deeply touched beyond words by your support and passion. Your loyalty to Tulane University is touching and vital to our recovery plan.”

Related Links

HNN Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty
Hot Topics: Katrina
Tulane University Emergency Information
Cornell Special Katrina Admission Information

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Q & A: Did Republicans Apply an Ideological Test to Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court Nominees?



HNN, 7-25-05

Did Republicans Apply an Ideological Test to Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court Nominees?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.
Even before he selected Appellate Court Judge John G. Roberts for the Supreme Court President Bush argued that any person he nominated would deserve “a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote.” To many Republicans that meant that the nominee’s ideology should not be put on trial. If the nominee was qualified he or she should be confirmed. After Judge Roberts was selected Republicans argued that he was possibly one of the most qualified candidates for the bench that had ever been put forward. The obvious conclusion was that he should perforce be approved by the Senate forthwith.

What has been the standard used in the past to measure nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States?

The Bork Legacy

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. After tumultuous hearings, which marked a turning point in the history of judicial nominations, Bork was turned down by the Senate. Since the founding of the Republic the Senate has rejected just a dozen nominees to the Court. But Bork’s rejection came after a highly charged battle over his ideology. This was unprecedented. The fireworks over his ideology began immediately. Within an hour of his selection, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) took to the Senate floor to denounce Judge Bork’s views on civil rights and abortion and argued, “No nominee, especially a nominee who is well known to have argued ideological positions on issues important to the American people, should be confirmed without full and candid disclosure and discussion of those positions and their importance to him.” As Leonard Gross and Norman Vieira, co-authors of Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations, have noted, “The Bork proceedings clearly established a firm precedent for ideological inquiries and for the rejection of judicial nominees, at least in some instances, on purely ideological grounds.” One of the consequences was that presidents afterward would be tempted to nominate individuals who had not left a long paper trail of opinions. Bork had and he had been reproved and rejected.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

After Justice Byron White announced his retirement on March 19, 1993, President Bill Clinton decided to nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman justice of the Supreme Court. When her nomination went to the Senate for confirmation Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) stated bluntly that the nominee’s ideology was rightly a matter of concern. But Cohen suggested during the hearings that judicial ideology should be used only to determine if the nominee’s philosophy is “so extreme that it might call into question the usual confirmation prerequisites of competency and judicial temperament.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was not pleased with the advance praise of Ginsburg by many senators and argued that “a coronation in advance is not in the best interest of the system.”

Although Ginsburg’s confirmation seemed almost assured the Senate did consider her positions on liberal issues. When asked about her position on abortion Ginsburg was forthright, becoming the first nominee to expressly confirm that she believed in a woman’s right to abortion. Despite her frank admission, few Republicans took the position that her embrace of abortion rulings disqualified her from a seat on the Court. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and others became exasperated when she declined to answer Senator Specter’s question about her position on the death penalty. They also expressed frustration when she declined to answer questions about gay rights. When Sen. Cohen pressed her for an answer, she responded, “Senator, you know that that is a burning question that at this very moment is going to be before the Court, based on an action that has been taken. I cannot say one word on that subject that would not violate what I said had to be my rule about no hints, no forecasts, no previews.”

Republicans did not find Ginsburg to be a controversial nominee and on Thursday, July 29, 1993, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of her confirmation, a mere six days after the hearings concluded. The Senate then approved Ginsburg’s nomination by a vote of 96 to 3. The three dissenters were Conservative Republicans Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Don Nichols (R- Oklahoma), and Robert C. Smith (R-New Hampshire). Sen. Helms said he voted against her because of her position on abortion and the “homosexual agenda.”

Stephen Breyer

President Clinton was able to fill a second seat in the Supreme Court when Justice Harry Blackmun announced his retirement in April 1994. Clinton chose another nominee who would elicit little or no opposition when on May 12, 1993 he announced his selection of Chief Judge Stephen Breyer of the court of appeals in Boston. Breyer was a judicial moderate. As Leonard Gross and Norman Vieira observed, “Breyer was perceived as a candidate without an ideological agenda. Some of his opinions were sure to please liberals, while other opinions would give comfort to conservatives.” The New York Times reported that “in this new low-key era, don’t expect even the conservative Republicans on the panel to raise any serious objections.” (NYT, July 8, 1994) Breyer, formerly chief counsel for the judicial committee, had strong support in both parties. Republican senators like Sen. Hatch wanted Clinton to nominate Breyer. Prior to the hearings Senators Hatch and Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) both assured Breyer they would support his confirmation, an indication that Breyer was ideologically compatible to Republicans.

Although Senators Hatch and Thurmond supported Breyer; they and Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) were concerned about Breyer’s ideological position on freedom of religion, an important conservative issue. They were disconcerted his admission that he believed in a wall of separation between church and state. They felt that his position was rigid. As a judge Breyer had ruled that a school district’s officials had the right to visit a religious grade school to evaluate the quality of its teaching; Republicans deemed this a violation of religious freedom. Breyer defended his action by claiming he was more sensitive to the issue then the Supreme Court had been in similar rulings. Breyer also claimed, according to the NYT, that “the great religious wars of three centuries ago were fought over the right of people to pass on their beliefs to their children. It was therefore not surprising, he said, that controversy over the issue increased when it involved schools.” (NYT, July 14, 1994) The senators were also concerned about his position on home schooling; Breyer responded that he approached the issued without a bias one way or the other.

Breyer’s largest hurdle came when Newsday broke a story indicating that he had investments in some of Lloyd’s of London’s insurance syndicates. Senators argued that his investments would create conflicts of interest if Breyer would be presented with “Superfund” cases that could affect Lloyd’s potential liability. In the hearings Breyer promised to sell off his investments in Lloyds, and to make all of his investments public. However, as the confirmation process was winding down Newsday further exposed Breyer as having been on a three-judge panel in a pollution case where the Kayser-Roth Corporation was sued by Lloyd’s of London after being held accountable for cleaning up the site of a chemical spill. The case demonstrated that he had failed to recognize that he had a conflict of interest. (Lloyd’s was directly involved in the case, but it was uncertain if his syndicates were.)

Despite concerns about the Lloyd’s case, the eighteen member Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to approve Breyer’s nomination. Ten days later, on July 29, 1993, after less than six hours of debate, Breyer easily won Senate confirmation by a vote of 87 to 9. The Boston Globe reported, “Conservatives and liberals alike rose to praise his abilities as a judge, with Kennedy and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah leading the way.” (Boston Globe, July 30, 1994) The nine dissenting senators (all Republicans) included: Conrad Burns (R-Montana), Daniel R. Coates (R-Indiana), Paul Coverdell (R-Georgia), Jesse Helms, Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), and Robert C. Smith. They indicated they were primarily concerned with Breyer’s ethics, but also objected to his support of federal funding for abortion counseling, his lack of commitment to private property rights, and his opposition to prayer in public schools and at public schools’ graduation ceremonies.

Sen. Smith told the Union Leader that he opposed Breyer because “He will move the court away from the conservative justices’ (William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas) way of the court, which most people in New Hampshire essentially support on most of the issues.” Although he still voted for him, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) “chastised Breyer for his role in promoting a federal courthouse on Boston’s waterfront that he called ‘an exercise in extravagance and arrogance.’ ” (Boston Globe, July 30, 1994)

In the end, despite their reservations, most Republican senators approved of Breyer’s nomination because, as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) put it, they “take the view that Breyer is the best justice – ideologically speaking – they can expect President Clinton to nominate.” (Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 1994)

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Where History is Making News Around the World



HNN, 7-11-05

Where History is Making News Around the World

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.
If history doesn’t really matter, as so many people, taking their cue from Henry Ford, seem to believe, what do they make of all the events in the news that are directly related to history? This is the question they seldom seem to ask themselves. Of the historical anniversaries of which so much is routinely made, of the tensions between nations arising from disputes about history, of the many arguments about the content of student textbooks–of these things they express a determined insouciance that is downright breathtaking.

One measure of the extent of this indifference can be found on this map, which charts a select list of the news stories posted on HNN during the single month of June 2005. Each star on the map represents a different news story. Mouse over any star to see a short explanation. (Clicking on the star will bring up the original link from which the story was drawn except in those cases where the link became outdated.) As with our Breaking News page, descriptions of events are taken directly from the websites where the news is found; quotation marks are dispensed with in such cases.

Like HNN’s Breaking News page, the map features only those news stories reported in the English-language press. The result is that the map is heavily skewed toward news stories that draw the attention of English-speaking readers, leading to a heavy concentration of stars in the United States and Western Europe, with a sprinkling of stars in Asia. Click here to view the lists of media sources HNN interns use to track news stories featured on the Breaking News page.

View the HNN news map.

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Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN



HNN, 6-28-05

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman said on C-Span’s “Q&A” that they welcomed the recent press coverage concerning the liberal accusation that as Republicans they are pushing forth a conservative ideological agenda through their involvement with the New-York Historical Society, and specifically, last fall’s Alexander Hamilton exhibit. “Frankly, I didn’t mind any of the publicity, because the New-York Historical Society has been sort of a back number” was Gilder’s comment. “You know,” he continued, “it’s right next to the American Museum of Natural History, that has millions of visitors a year. I’m a trustee there too, so I know the numbers.” Later on he added: “You want to come at it and say, ‘Well, ours is a great story of communism,’ fine. As Arthur Schlesinger [a member of their advisory board] said, the only way you can overcome a bad idea is with a good idea. So, we’ll have lots more controversy, discussion. We’ll bet on the great American story.” In an interview on June 26, 2005 on the C-Span program “Q&A,” hosted by Brian Lamb, Gilder and Lehrman, the co-founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discussed topics ranging from their first meeting, to the founding of the institute in New York in 1994, and its various programs that promote the study of American History. Gilder dominated the interview. Despite recent controversy the interview however, was rather tame, friendly, and nostalgic.

Highlights of the interview included their personal anecdotes about their meeting, reminisces of studying at Yale, and their family backgrounds. Gilder and Lehrman were perhaps most comfortable and relaxed discussing these issues, and enjoyed especially reminiscing about Yale. Gilder described their meeting as eventually leading to “the beginning of just a great friendship.” Lehrman emphasized his patriotic roots “And I can tell a story about my grandfather that I think is – tells the kind of background I – that I did come from – a patriotic, unselfconscious, unapologetic American commitment…. I was thinking of making a European trip to see all about European culture. My grandfather was scandalized. What would you ever want to do going to Europe? I mean, everything is here in America. This is the new Jerusalem. This is a place that has everything that you need and everything that you can see.” While Gilder spoke fondly of Yale “I was just brought up by my father to love Yale. I mean, he never said a word – that I had to apply or should apply. But, you know, in class of ’25, he was a bit of an outsider, being a Jewish guy, in those days. Although there were still good number, but nothing like as many as when I was there – maybe eight percent, nine, percent when I was there. But he loved the place.”

Gilder, who comes from a Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. in the 1830s, bears more of the financial burden of the institute. Lehrman, whose family were East European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1880s, apparently takes a more active role in designing the institute’s strategy. In a friendly way they poked fun at their ancestral differences. Lehrman chided Gilder that ” unlike Dick’s well-heeled Bohemian immigrants, mine were penniless.” Gilder retorted that ” I was a legacy [at Yale] …. Lew had to work to get in.”

When Lamb asked about the controversial Alexander Hamilton exhibit, he was direct without being aggressive: “The criticism that I read, that you two wanted to engineer a – the Hamilton exhibit for purposes to further your own political beliefs because Hamilton represents you more, say, than some of the other people in history. Start with that. What’s your reaction when you read that criticism?” Responding, Gilder and Lehrman, apparently a little uncomfortable, frequently began using hand motions while speaking. Lehrman avoided Lamb’s initial question by just discussing Hamilton’s important place in history and Gilder justified their decision: “we believe that, first, the New-York Historical Society, being established in 1804, Alexander Hamilton having been killed in a duel in 1804, and the New -York Historical Society inaugurating its 200th anniversary, it was perfect.”

Lamb then questioned, “Why is it that college professors are allowed to say and write anything they want to about history, but when somebody like you gets into it, there’s automatic criticism for your particular views?” Gilder said, “I can’t answer the question, because it’s a tough – I hate any tough questions, you know that.” In response to a question about the institute’s alleged rightward bias, Gilder pointed out that the advisory board included “lots of folks on all sides of the political spectrum, probably more left than right.” And Lehrman clarified that if scholars funded by the institute have “a point of view which is different from mine or different from Dick’s, as David Brion Davis, the historian and professor of history said, ‘Not a single person in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History programs has ever received either a direct or an indirect influence from either of us.’ ”

The remaining portion of the C-Span interview discussed the various programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, basic information about the institute, the collection, endowments, especially educational initiatives such as their history high school and American History Teaching programs. The interview focused on the institute’s budget, and the awards and prizes, including the history of the Lincoln Prize based at Gettysburg College, the Douglass prize and the newly inaugurated Washington Prize.

Lamb, wanting to liven up the interview, asked about the possibility of dissidents in the institute’s programs, specifically the history high school initiative: “But do you run into the possibility that a teacher says, out in a high school, ‘I don’t need Gilder Lehrman to tell me how to teach history?’ ” Lehrman responded, “I think I have received two or three letters in the entire history of our programs where there have been objections to the way that we’ve gone about it.”

Lamb returned several times to the Hamilton controversy, hoping to coax more opinions from his interviewees. Both Gilder and Lehrman, however, remained cool and focused on what they viewed as the important issues: the institute and its accomplishments in promoting American history. Lamb at ont point asked if there was some connection between the fact that Ron Chernow, the admiring biographer of Hamilton, won “your new Washington Prize from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, $50,000.” “What would you both say to the cynics watching saying, “Well of course these two guys would like Alexander Hamilton or Henry Clay or Abraham Lincoln because they both have really done very well in this system and they’re able, now, just to push through history their basic thoughts of it.” Lehrman coolly responded, that “they set the example for us. I mean, Lincoln, in – he sets the example for us.”

In the concluding remarks of a rather uncontroversial interview Lamb wanted Gilder and Lehrman to point out the favorite aspects of their work. For Lehrman it was purely academic; “whenever I teach the subject, for example, the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian conflicts of the 1790s, General Washington’s – President Washington’s first presidency – whenever I’m teaching the subject, I find it inspiring.” While for Gilder it was the business aspect; “Well, right now, I’m wildly excited about the combination of the Gilder and Lehrman Institute and the New-York Historical Society. We have two different missions, but both focused on history. And Lew and I are working now, very hard, on the Historical Society, because Jim and Lesley and our team at GLI have done such a dandy job. There our job is to get out of the way, whereas here, our job is to get in the way. I like to get in the way.”

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Q & A: How did the Present Alternative Minimum Tax come into Existence?



HNN, 6-20-05

How did the Present Alternative Minimum Tax come into Existence?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

Why are more and more people having to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)? And what is it? This controversial tax was enacted as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1969 to target the rich. But because the rates were not adjusted for inflation, it now targets not only the rich but also the middle class, and there seems to be no end to the problems its causes. The New York Times reported that “by 2010, nearly 30 million taxpayers will be hit — among them, a staggering 94 percent of married filers who have children and make $75,000 to $100,000.” The Alternative Minimum Tax was designed as a parallel tax system to the federal income tax and checks it to ensure that that the people in higher tax bracket don’t evade paying any taxes through loopholes.

With the AMT most tax deductions are disallowed. In 1969 the minimum tax was a 10 percent flat rate. Over the years the AMT has evolved to also include a corporate AMT; with each tax reform effort from the Carter to Clinton Administration the AMT has increased. As of the latest revision, which was passed in 1993, there is a two tier system: 26 percent and 28 percent for individuals. Here is a look back through media reports and presidential and congressional messages about the origins of the AMT in the Johnson and Nixon Administrations and its subsequent revisions in the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton Administrations.

President Lyndon Johnson and the Origins of the AMT

The story of the AMT begins with the Vietnam War. The government needed to secure additional funds to finance the war which in 1968 and 1969 was at its peak. According to Sheldon D. Pollack in The Failure of U.S. Tax Policy: Revenue and Politics, the need for new revenues led the executive branch “to embrace a conception of ‘tax reform’ consisting in closing revenue ‘leaks’ and reversing the ‘erosion’ of the tax base concomitant to the many preferences that had crept into the tax code.” In his administration’s last month in office President Lyndon Johnson named Joseph Barr treasury secretary. Both Barr and Assistent Secretary of the Treasury Stanley S. Surrey instigated the proposals to tighten the tax loopholes that eventually led to the creation of the AMT.

Surrey made the Johnson Administration aware of the growing economic cost tax preferences were having on the nation’s finances, coining the term “tax expenditures.” Surrey spent his years as assistant secretary compiling reports about the true nature and reality of tax expenditures in the country. This work culminated in the first tax expenditure budget, which included a complete list of major loopholes in the tax code, and identified the impact they had on the government and economy.

In August 1969 as he was preparing the next year’s budget Barr warned that the country faced a taxpayers’ revolt. He explained, according to the Washington Post, that in 1967 there were a total of 155 individuals with incomes over $200,000 who did not pay any federal income taxes; twenty of them were millionaires. These individuals successfully used all tax loopholes available to legally evade paying taxes. The revelation attracted wide media attention and led to public shock. As he presented the next annual budget, published in the final weeks of his administration, President Johnson indicated that the problem needed to be addressed, but not by him:

We believe that in justice to the next Administration that will take office within the next month and will have to live with and administer any legislation passed, it is only appropriate that they have the opportunity to examine carefully and make their judgments to these matters.

Several possible solutions were discussed at the time including, according to anonymous sources with the House Ways and Means Committee run by Wilbur Mills, “the establishment of some sort of minimum tax on persons with large incomes who escape all taxation at present because their income is entirely from sources that receive preferred tax treatment, such as oil wells or municipal bonds.” (“Tax Law changes Sought by Mills,” NYT, January 1, 1969)

The Nixon Administration and the Tax Reform Act of 1969

As a result of the Surrey tax expenditures budget and Barr’s revelations the Nixon Administration inherited from its predecessor a tax reform issue that needed to be dealth with. The media gave extensive coverage to the tax debate. The Washington Post reported on February 8, 1969, in a story headlined, “Bid to Tax Untaxed Hinted by Treasury”:

The Nixon Administration hinted broadly yesterday that it will seek to make the rich–or least some of them to pay more taxes. “I think the American People are saying something and the message is getting through,” a Treasury spokesman said, claiming that congressmen are getting a large volume of mail protesting the fact that some wealthy individuals escape income taxation altogether.

In April 1969 the Nixon Administration presented its proposal for tax reform to Congress. The measure was accompanied by this message:

Reform of our Federal income tax is long overdue. Special preferences in the law permit far too many Americans to pay less than their fair share of taxes. Too many other Americans bear too much of this tax burden. . . . We must reform our tax structure to make it more equitable and efficient; we must redirect our tax policy to make it more conducive to stable economic growth and responsive to urgent social needs. Much concern has been expressed because some citizens with incomes of more than $200,000 pay no federal income taxes. These people are neither tax dodgers or tax cheats. Many of them pay no taxes because they make large donations to worthy causes donations that every taxpayer is authorized by existing law to deduct from his income in figuring his tax bill. But where we can prevent it by law, we must not permit our wealthiest citizens to be 100 percent successful at tax avoidance. Nor should the Government limit its tax reform only to apply to these relatively few extreme cases.(NYT, April 22, 1969)

After Nixon made his proposal, the House Ways and Means Committee took up the legislation. According to Rowland Evans Jr. and Robert D. Novak (Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power), Chairman Wilbur Mills “did not conceive of tax reform as a device to increase revenue. His idea was that by ending special tax advantages, tax rates for run-of-the-mill taxpayers could be lowered.”

In late April the committee began holding hearings on the Nixon proposals for tax reform. According to the NYT, the first week of hearings focused on “the so-called minimum tax”:

The levy aims to foil wealthy people who arrange their affairs to escape taxation under the present law and everyone seems to think that’s a good idea. A formula devised by Prof. Stanley S. Surrey, tax counsel to the Treasury, “would have the effect of placing a 50 percent ceiling on the amount of an individual’s income that could enjoy tax-exempt status,” according to the 291 page reform study prepared for President Johnson and left by him as a farewell gift to the incoming administration. (NYT, April 28, 1969)

The final legislation increased revenues and closed loopholes and tax prefernces.

1978 Reforms

The Alternative Minimum Tax that Americans are now grappling with was introduced in its present format as a result of tax reform in 1978. While the Congress rejected many of President Jimmy Carter’s proposals, Congress did choose to approve tax cuts geared toward upper-income groups; these included cuts in capital gains and corporate taxes. The final legislation, the Revenue Act of 1978, featured $18.7 billion in tax cuts. The bill formally transformed the minimum tax devised in 1969 into the “Alternative Minimum Tax” and increased the percentage in taxes that individuals would be required to pay. Media reports indicated that the reductions in capital gains taxes would be offset by increases in the AMT. (Washington Post, August 3, 1978)

Ronald Reagan and the 1982 Tax Reform

In 1982 tax reform was again an issue as was the challenge of reducing an exploding budget deficit caused by the dramatic tax cuts of 1981 and increased spending for the military. Congress rejected the Reagan administration’s belief in supply side economics. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Bob Dole, a fiscal conservative, did not believe that reducing taxes could lead to increased revenue. Sen. Dole therefore taxes and tariffs by $105 billion over the next two years. President Reagan supported just $31.7 billion in tax increases for the same period. On the Senate floor Dole candidly defended tax hikes:

The roots of this evening’s debate actually go back to February [1982], when the President [ Reagan] released a budget calling for deficits in excess of $700 billion over the next 3 years. Those deficits were unacceptable by any criteria. Do we want to reduce the deficit, do we want to continue the downward trend of interest rates, or do we want to signal to the financial markets and the people in our States that we really do not care, that we really have not quite enough courage to take this step, because some tax might affect someone in our constituency?

The media seized on Dole’s statement. A headline in the Washington Post declared: “Republicans Eye Bigger Tax Increase” (March 11, 1982) The story noted:

Dole listed a number of tax changes which he has already publicly endorsed or signaled support for. These include an Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations and individuals, raising $4 billion in 1983 and $8 billion in 1984. Wealthy individuals who pay little or no tax would be required to add back all deductions, take a $50,000 exemption, and then pay a tax set at 15 percent of the remaining income.

The tax reform efforts resulted in the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which included revenue enhancement methods including the creation of a minimum corporate tax.

Deficit Reduction Act of 1984

Despite the tax increases of 1982, the deficit continued to grow and again became a hot issue when the 1984 budget was being drafted. Once again Dole took the lead in proposing higher taxes. But in November 1983 the Senate approved a tax bill that fell short of the fresh taxes that Sen. Dole had originally called for. But in March 1984 the House Ways and Means Committee approved $49.3 billion in tax increases, which were to go into effect gradually over four years. The main elements of the committee’s proposals were later signed by President Reagan. The bill was an effort by both chambers of Congress to reduce the federal budget deficit. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan also made a proposal to increase the Alternative Minimum Tax and raise $1.2 billion in revenues. His proposal, according to the NYT account publ;ished on March 2, 1984, broadened the “deductions affected by including losses claimed by taxpayers from investments made with the aim of reducing taxes.”

The resulting Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 included significant income tax provisions.

The 1986 Tax Reform Act

In 1986 Congress approved a major reform of the tax code proposed by President Reagan, Sen. Bill Bradley and others. Once again the Alternative Minimum Tax was included in the final tax package. In addition, Congress approved a Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax.

Years later investigative journalists Barlett and Steele, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 1991), revealed that the AMT of 1986 actually reduced taxes on the wealthy:

When Congress enacted the Tax Reform Act of 1986, lawmakers hailed its alternative minimum tax provision as the most stringent ever, guaranteeing that nobody would ever escape paying at least some tax . . . [But] passage of “the toughest minimum tax ever’ resulted in a 75 per cent drop in the number of people who paid the tax, and a 90 per cent drop in the amount they paid. On average, a millionaire in 1986 paid an alternative minimum tax of $116,395. Three years later, a millionaire paid $54,758. That amounted to a 53 per cent tax cut.

1990 Tax Increase

After years of ever steeper budget deficits and a prediction by OMB director Richard Darman that the next budget deficit could reach $231 billion, Congress and the first President Bush in 1991 decided finally to stem the tide of red ink. The bill finally agreed to both Copngress and President Bush provided for $40 billion in new taxes in 1991 and $500 billion in new taxes over five years. The AMT was raised were 21 percent to 23 percent.

Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1993

The final major tax legislation of the twentieth century was approved in 1993 at the behest of the Clinton administration. On August 5, 1993 the House passed the bill by 218 to 216. The next day on August 6, after weeks of compromise, the Senate approveed the bill on a strict party-line vote. Not one Republican voted for the measure. It passed when Vice President Al Gore in his position as President of the Senate cast the deciding vote.

The measaure included yet another increase in the AMT, this time to 26 percent for people who earned between $100,000 and $175,000, and 28 percent for those who earned above $175,000.

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Deep Throat Revealed: Historians’ Comments



HNN, 6-03-05

Deep Throat Revealed: Historians’ Comments

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

This past week it was revealed that W. Mark Felt, the second in command at the F.B.I. during the Nixon Administrstion, admitted in a Vanity Fair magazine interview that he was “Deep Throat,” the insider source who relayed top secret information about the Watergate coverup to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. HNN surveyed major media to see how historians reacted to the news. Text reprinted below was copied straight from news accounts.

Richard Norton Smith, Historian, former Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.

• “It’s been replaced by a new Washington game, which is, what were Deep Throat’s motives?”
• “He seems pretty conflicted over the years about what he did. In some ways, that’s the most honorable thing about what he did: He didn’t think he was a hero.”

Gleaves Whitney, Director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University

• Whitney “noted some have speculated Deep Throat was a composite or a “literary device” Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein created as cover for a variety of sources.”
• “It is odd that the second-most-important law enforcement officer in the United States would go to the media rather than to a prosecutor. I need more information before I pronounce him a hero or a villain.”

Robert Dallek, Presidential Historian now working on a book about Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger

• “There was a powerful feeling of cynicism and skepticism about the government. There was a kind of pot that was brewing with all these unpleasant doubts and questions.”
• “He was able to put them on the trail of the truth to find out just exactly what was going on in this scandal.”
• “If this was a vendetta, then that would devalue what he did. But people never operate strictly out of one motive or another. He was clearly offended by the constitutional breaches that had occurred, but he was probably fueled by a certain amount of resentment at the politicization of the FBI.”

Keith W. Olson, Professor of History, University of Maryland, author of “Watergate: the Scandal that Shook America”

• “Revelation of Deep Throat’s identity generated massive media attention with further reflections still to come. Much of the interest stems from the fact that the mystery of his identity lasted more than thirty years. Mark Felt’s acknowledgment that he was Deep Throat belongs in the context of the series of Watergate crises that included the Saturday Night Massacre, the 18 and 1/2 minute gap on one tape, the TIME magazine call for Nixon to resign, the publication of the transcripts of the tapes, the House Judiciary Committee passage of articles of impeachment, the Supreme Court ruling, the resignation, and the Ford pardon. In this broad context Deep Throat’s identity would have had far less impact than it produced in 2005.”
•”A second thought concerns Felt’s motive, or more accurately motives, a subject that will continue to stimulate interest. Like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Felt wanted to maintain FBI autonomy. Gray’s appointment and performance plus Hoover’s opposition to the Nixon-sponsored Huston Plan the summer of 1970 are factors that provide a fuller context regarding Felt’s motivations.”

Joan Hoff, Professor of History Montana State University, Bozeman, an expert on the Watergate scandal

• Hoff believes the identification of Deep Throat is part of “an orchestrated publicity stunt on the part of the Post and Woodward” because Woodward plans to publish his own book on Felt. “Lo and behold,” Felt’s family decides he’s Deep Throat and Felt can’t say whether he is or not, and we get the big story.”
• “It’s conceivable that as the second in command at the FBI, the deputy director, he could have gotten information from somebody about this,” she said. “But I don’t think he gave them this information. I think it was somebody in the White House. At that point, the White House was so embattled over the tapes and the possible subpoena [of them], there were only 3 or 4 people who had access to those tapes.”
• “He is the top law enforcement officer in the country because there’s only an acting director [of the FBI] at that point. Why didn’t he go to Sirica or a grand jury and blow the story open?”
• Hoff predicts that the story will rebound to the discredit of Woodward. It’s another flashy story, she concedes, “but I think they made a mistake in choosing Felt.”

Athan Theoharis, a Historian at Milwaukee’s Marquette University who has written extensively on the FBI

• “Here you have the White House seeking information that would have political value to the White House from the FBI that had nothing to do with law enforcement. So there was a very legitimate reason for senior FBI officials to be concerned about the Nixon White House and the impact of its policies on the independence and integrity of the agency itself.”
• The No. 2 man at the bureau was no doubt uncomfortable with his role, Prof. Theoharis said. But he said Mr. Felt had two motivations, “one principled and one bureaucratic.” Mr. Felt saw first-hand how the Nixon White House was using the Central Intelligence Agency and its own appointee at the bureau to obstruct the investigation into its links to the Watergate burglars, Prof. Theoharis said.

W. Michael Weis, Illinois Wesleyan University History Professor

• “One thing that this does underscore for me is that there are always a lot of people close to an administration, but not actually in the administration, who probably know a lot more about what’s really going on than they’re willing to admit. But not many of them are willing to come forward and do what Deep Throat did.”
• “While it was seen as a victory for open government and democracy at the time, I believe that Watergate taught the people who want to engage in these illegal activities how to be better at it. They learned from the mistakes that were made by those involved in Watergate. Consequently, when the Iran-Contra scandal breaks in the late 1980s, you have people spending days and days shredding and burning documents and cleaning out hard drives.”
• “In the immediate aftermath of Watergate, we had a chance to curb the power of government and to enact reforms that would make it impossible to deceive the American people. And we didn’t do it.”
• “If democracy is going to prevail, then citizens have to know what’s going on in the government; citizens have to understand why decisions are made and how they’re made. Today, we know less than ever before.”

Joseph Coohill, Penn State New Kensington History Professor

• Coohill said that while the finding is important, people should remember that former FBI official W. Mark Felt was not the sole reason for President Nixon’s resignation. He said media coverage of Felt’s role in the Watergate scandal has been exaggerated.
• “It definitely solves an intriguing puzzle in American history. But to call him a hero is overstating it.”
• “People using this opportunity to look back at Watergate should give equal, if not more, credit to Nixon’s personal counsel John Dean and the reporters who pressured the investigation of White House activities, Coohill said.”
• “There was a whole galaxy of things going on in bringing down (Nixon).”

David Kilroy, Wheeling Jesuit University Associate Professor of History

• But it was no surprise to Kilroy that “Deep Throat” worked at the FBI. He says he doubted it was anyone in the White House. Originally, “Deep Throat” was thought of as a traitor, but throughout the years, the perception of his role in history has changed, prompting his children to persuade him to come forward with his identity.
• Kilroy says the Watergate scandal and Deep Throat made a huge impact on the field of journalism, but also on our country as a whole. The incident also showed the importance of an independent media, and the consequences of not checking the power of the executive branch.

Don Ritchie, Senate Assistant Historian

• “Hallelujah!” Ritchie recalled saying yesterday.
• Ritchie’s new book, “Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps,” has just come out and on page 233, Ritchie makes it plain that he believed Felt was the storied source. “I was greatly relieved that my account of Deep Throat turned out to be right,” he said.
• Ritchie sensed a divide among Capitol Hill staff members along age lines. “Those under 30 were puzzled by why anyone would care,” he said, noting that those older than 30 all seemed to take great note of the story.

Sanford Ungar, President of Goucher College on PBS

• “That book was published 29 years ago and it’s fascinating to look back now and see that Mark Felt, when I knew him for a period of time, spent several intense sessions with him talking to him, was a very opportunistic person who thought still he had a chance to become director of the FBI, and I think he may have done the right thing for the wrong motive or at least for partially the wrong motive at the time.”
• “I did not know that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. I was led off track by the fact that — as I remember this — that Deep Throat had to be a smoker. And Mark Felt did not smoke when I was with him.”
• “And I found a hard time imagining him as a smoker because he was such a dapper, meticulous person, that I couldn’t imagine him getting ash on his suit or being willing to smell like a cigarette. That was — that’s where I went wrong.”

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Interview with Michael J. Klarman, Winner of the 2005 Bancroft Prize



HNN, 4-18-05

Interview with Michael J. Klarman, Winner of the 2005 Bancroft Prize

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

Michael J. Klarman, the James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, recently won the 2005 Bancroft Prize for From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. This book primarily examines the relationship between the Supreme Court and race relations in the United States. Klarman focuses on race related legal decisions that occurred between 1896, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Plessy vs. Ferguson in favor of the separate but equal doctrine, and 1954, when the Court overturned Plessy in the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision .

HNN asked Mr. Klarman to discuss his book and the award. The interview was conducted by email.

You write in your preface that “I signed a contract to write this book in the spring of 1998, but in some sense I have been working on it since the first semester that I taught constitutional law at the University of Virginia School of Law—the spring of 1988.” What made you decide after a decade of scholarship on race in legal history that prompted you to write a full length book on the topic?

I started thinking about writing a book around the time my 1994 Journal of American History article on Brown ‘s backlash was published. My interest in race intersected with my interest in the Supreme Court, how it functions, the relationship between the Court and public opinion, and the often complicated and unpredictable consequences of Court decisions. Having figured out (at least provisionally) what I thought had happened in Brown and how it had affected the larger world of race relations, it was natural to work backwards toward Plessy v. Ferguson, which seems a natural bookend to Brown . But a lot of the project really emerged out of one of the classes I began teaching around 1991–a course on Constitutional History from Reconstruction to Brown . Many of the ideas from that course ultimately found their way into the book.

Besides the fact that Brown vs. Board of Education is considered the most important Supreme Court decision of the twentieth century, what led you to develop such an interest in the journey for civil rights?

My interest in (some would say, fixation upon) Brown comes from being a Constitutional Law professor. Anyone who teaches Constitutional Law ultimately has to make peace with Brown v. Board, which is one of the most famous and important cases in the Court’s history. To me, making peace with Brown involves two separate issues. First, there is the normative question–why is Brown right, which everyone today assumes it was, even though many of the justices in 1954 had significant doubts about whether striking down school segregation was constitutionally justified. Second, how important was Brown –to the civil rights movement, to our conception of the Court, to the justices’ own conception of their role in American society? Those were the questions I started with.

Do you feel that your clerkship for Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affected your career and the way you look at constitutional law?

I don’t think that clerking for Justice Ginsburg affected my perspective on Constitutional Law, though I have great admiration and affection for her. It is true that we both share some doubts–perhaps unusual among political liberals–as to whether wide-ranging judicial review is a good thing. For example, Ginsburg has expressed the view that the Court may have gotten involved too quickly and too aggressively in the abortion controversy in Roe v. Wade in 1973, thereby possibly inhibiting the cause in the long term. I share the view that Court decisions can produce political backlashes when they get too far in advance of political opinion. Brown had such an effect on southern politics, though I also believe that the violent backlash produced by Brown ultimately generated a counterbacklash when northern audiences watched peaceful black demonstrators being beaten by law enforcement officers on television. I think today we’re seeing such a political backlash against the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in November 2003 that protected same-sex marriage under the state constitution. I believe that ruling produced an enormous political backlash in the 2004 elections, including the adoption in thirteen states of constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage, a decisive impact on a couple of U.S. Senate races, and possibly on the presidential race in Ohio.

Who were your mentors? Did they have any impact on your writing of your book or your teaching, and if so how?

The best teacher I ever had was a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania named Mark Blitz, who today teaches at Claremont McKenna in L.A. He was a truly inspirational teacher, and I think my interest in teaching was born in the classes I took with him as an undergraduate. There were people at Stanford Law School whom I modeled myself upon as a teacher–Tom Jackson, Barbara Babcock, Mark Kelman, Bill Cohen. But my scholarship is very different from what most Constitutional Law professors do; I’m much more interested in situating constitutional change in a social and political context than I am in legal doctrine or its intellectual history. So I don’t think I’ve consciously modeled my scholarship on that of any law professor. There are many historians whose work I hugely admire: Eric Foner, Ed Ayers, David Potter, Stanley Elkins & Eric McKitrick. But because I’m mainly interested in historical questions that intersect with Constitutional Law, it’s the scope and ambition of their work that inspires me more than their methodologies. In legal academia the people whom I have tried hardest to emulate, especially in their commitment to scholarship, are probably Bill Stuntz–a long-time colleague and now probably the nation’s leading criminal procedure expert–and Mike Seidman, one of the most interesting and creative constitutional theorists around.

Did teaching your courses on Constitutional History influence the way you chose to approach the subject matter of this book?

Yes, absolutely. People sometimes talk of the synergy between teaching and scholarship, and I consider myself very fortunate to have found that to be the truth. A lot of the topics I’ve written about–both in law review articles and in my book–emerged from my Constitutional History courses. If you looked at the syllabus for my course on Constitutional History from Reconstruction to Brown and compared it to the table of contents of my From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, you’d see a striking resemblance. Indeed, it’s sad to say that publishing the book has risked ruining that course for me because I no longer have much to say to students in class that they haven’t already read in the book.

How did you research From Jim Crow to Civil Rights? Why did you rely so heavily on secondary sources in writing the book?

The book relies on a mix of primary and secondary research. Each chapter covers a different era, and in each I begin with a sketch of what race relations looked like at the time, in order to then situate the Court’s decisions within that context. Because the history of race has attracted so much scholarship and because I was trying to paint a broad picture of the racial context of each era, I relied heavily on secondary literature for that part of each chapter. But the other portions of the chapters tend to rely more on primary sources.

My main primary sources were the courts cases themselves–Supreme Court and lower court–the justices’ private papers, the NAACP papers (which are a gold mine of information for someone trying to assess the consequences of Supreme Court decisions involving race issues), and the Southern School News, which is a phenomenal resource for anyone interested in developments in southern education, desegregation, and southern politics from 1954 through the late 1960s.

What made you decide to write From Jim Crow to Civil Rights as “more as political and social history than as intellectual history of legal doctrine”?

There are, roughly speaking, two sorts of legal historians–those who tend to see legal change as a product of external political and economic pressures and those who take a more internalist approach, seeking to understand judicial decisions in terms of the factors that judges invoke in their opinions–the text of legal materials, judicial precedents, legal principles, etc.

My own view is that judicial decision making in the Constitutional Law area is heavily influenced by the judges’ own values, and those values are partly a reflection of the broader context of the times. For example, on most important issues of Constitutional Law these days–abortion, affirmative action, school prayer, gay rights, campaign finance reform–the justices tend to divide 5-4 or 6-3, and along predictable political lines. To me, this suggests that the judges’ personal values have a great deal to do with their decision making. But, having said that, the Court rarely gets significantly out of step with public opinion. For example, the Court never protected women under the Equal Protection Clause until after the women’s movement, and it never protected gays until after the gay rights movement. Brown was rendered possible only by dramatic changes in racial attitudes and practices flowing out of World War II. Thus, if one wants to understand why the Court by a 7-1 vote upheld racial segregation in 1896 but then unanimously invalidated it in 1954, I think one needs to understand what was happening in the broader world of race–political, economic, social, ideological, demographic changes–because the relevant legal materials guiding constitutional interpretation didn’t change in significant ways during the interim.

What do you feel was the overiding purpose of the book? How do you feel the book will impact the historiography of race relations, civil rights and constitutional history?

The purpose of the book is to use the race context to show how judges decide cases and to assess the consequences of those decisions. One of my main targets is the myth that the Court has played an heroic role in protecting the rights of racial minorities. I don’t think the justices have either the inclination or the capacity to contravene dominant public opinion in the way that would be necessary to protect a truly oppressed group. When blacks were most oppressed, the Court did not intervene in any significant way to alleviate that oppression. The Court only began to protect the rights of African Americans after they had begun to exercise some political, economic and social power.

I’m also very interested in the consequences of Court decisions. Many of the Court’s early race rulings were circumvented without great difficulty by white southerners. For example, the Court said as early as 1880 that it violated the Constitution to exclude blacks from juries because of their race, yet almost no blacks served on juries in the South until the 1960s. The Court declared in 1917 that it violated the Constitution to segregate the races in neighborhoods by law, but segregated housing patterns became more prevalent after the ruling.

I’m trying to convince lawyers that the Supreme Court may be somewhat less important than they think. There are still lots of people in the legal academy–fewer I believe in history departments–who think Brown v. Board created the civil rights movement. The justices themselves knew better. They were all struck by how dramatically racial attitudes and practices were changing after World War II.
This is not to say that Brown wasn’t important–I think that it was–but it didn’t create a movement for racial reform because one was already well under way.

As to the impact on the historiography, I’d like to convince legal historians that it’s worth looking at other constitutional developments in a similar framework. Most large scale shifts in constitutional law over time, it seems to me, are ripe for explaining in terms of political and social history. For example, changes in Establishment Clause doctrine, which have been enormous in the last half-century, almost surely are best explained in terms of growing religious pluralism, shifting political alliances among religious groups, and so forth. Constitutional lawyers get fixated on the doctrine, but the doctrine isn’t autonomous. It’s responsive to shifting cultural attitudes about Catholicism, to the appropriate role of religion in public life, to concerns about domestic subversion and the importance of religion in the battle against communism, to the increasing political role played by Christian evangelicals in the last quarter century, etc.

Why in your opinion when lynchings of African Americans were at an all time high did the justices wait until the interwar period to intervene “against the worst abuses of Jim Crow”?

The cases the justices saw where the abuses were greatest tended to be criminal prosecutions of African Americans by southern states in circumstances that precluded fair trials. Scottsboro is a good example–8 death sentences for 9 African Americans charged with rape in mob-dominated trials with a defense lawyer appointed the morning of trial. My guess is that the Court didn’t see such cases in earlier decades because such defendants would simply have been lynched. So, somewhat ironically, the Court intervened against a racial injustice only as the situation in the South improved somewhat. But this wasn’t an isolated instance of the Court intervening only after conditions had been somewhat ameliorated. The Court in Sweatt in 1950 ordered the admission of a black man to a white law school on the ground that a separate black school established overnight couldn’t possibly be equal. Ironically, before the 1920s southern states had provided nothing at all for blacks seeking professional and graduate education without prompting even a lawsuit challenging that obvious inequality. It turns out that it’s possible to be so oppressed that litigation can’t do much to help. A group needs to have access to lawyers, some financial resources, some security from physical violence for legal rights to matter.

How much do you believe post World War II Supreme Court decisions had to do with “the Cold War imperative for racial change” as opposed to national sentiment which seems to be emphasized throughout your book?

It’s always hard to know for sure which of the broader forces for racial change were most important. So many different forces were at work in the post-World War II period–black migration to northern cities leading to greater black political power; the democratic ideology of the war; the greater militancy shown by blacks as a result of the war, growing levels of black and white education, the increasing urbanization and industrialization of the South. I think the so-called Cold War imperative for racial change was another important factor. The Justice Department’s brief urging the Court to strike down school segregation in Brown put that Cold War imperative front and center. And justices such as Minton and Burton, who easily voted to invalidate school segregation despite conservative voting patterns on many civil liberties issues, may well have been influenced by the Cold War imperative. So I think that factor mattered, but it’s impossible to know whether it mattered more or less than any of the other factors that were conducive to progressive racial change at this point in time.

You claim that “Only the violence that resulted from Browns radicalization of southern politics enabled transformative racial change to occur as rapidly as it did.” Does this not undermine the direct importance of the decision rendered in Brown vs. the Board of Education had for the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation?

I think Brown mattered in a variety of ways: it gave much greater salience to the school segregation issue; it gave blacks reason to be hopeful about the future; it motivated blacks in the South to litigate against school segregation; and it mobilized southern whites to resist progressive racial change. I think that most whites outside of the South agreed with Brown in the abstract from the very beginning. What changed between the mid 1950s and the early 1960s was their willingness to actually do something to implement that abstract commitment. It seems pretty clear that what finally motivated northerners to demand civil rights legislation was the violence used to suppress civil rights demonstrations at places like Birmingham and Selma.

What I’ve tried to do in the last chapter of my book is to show a direct connection between Brown , the radicalization of southern politics, and the resort to such violence. I don’t think this minimizes the importance of Brown . It simply shows that the consequences of Court decisions are often complicated and unpredictable. And I don’t buy the argument that Brown mattered greatly in educating white Americans to condemn racial segregation. There is ample evidence that Americans don’t take moral instruction very well from the Supreme Court. For example, consider the popular reactions to Court decisions threatening to invalidate the death penalty or condemning school prayer (or, even more pertinently today, the reaction to the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in November 2003 protecting a right to same-sex marriage). There’s little reason to believe those rulings educated many people to agree with the Court. I don’t see much evidence that Brown was any different in this regard.

In your conclusion you write, “The antimajoritarianism of the Senate raises the interesting possibility that the Court’s race decisions from the 1920s onward may have reflected national opinion better than did Congress’s (in)action.” Why do you believe that the Senate was more antimajoritarian than both the Supreme Court and the House, when especially in the latter part of this time period approximately half the coutry supported desegregation?

The House passed antilynching legislation in the 1920s and 1930s and opinion polls demonstrate that a majority of the public supported such legislation. The House passed anti-poll tax laws every two years in the 1940s, and opinion polls showed about 70 percent of the public supported such legislation. The Senate refused to pass either sort of civil rights legislation. The Supreme Court in 1944 invalidated the white primary at pretty much the same time that the Senate was blocking passage of the anti-poll tax law. I think that’s pretty good evidence that the Court actually was more reflective of popular majorities than was the Senate. The same is true in the 1950s when opinion polls show that half the country supported Brown, yet Congress wouldn’t have dreamed of passing civil rights legislation requiring school desegregation.

From your book it becomes clear that you believe that the justices’ views coincide with the changing views of the country. Do feel that the “social and political contexts of the times” that had affected the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Brown vs. Board of Education also affected its ruling in Roe vs. Wade? In your opinion, was the climate in the country right for this decision, especially since the country still remains divided in half on abortion?

Yes, I think my basic claims about the Court’s role in the race relations context are applicable in other areas as well. You mention abortion. I don’t think it’s any accident that the Court decided Roe v. Wade in the wake of the women’s movement rather than in anticipation of it. The justices wouldn’t have dreamed of invalidating restrictions on abortion ten years earlier, when even the ACLU was not challenging them. The Court just doesn’t play this vanguard role. It speaks volumes that by the time the Court decided Roe, half the country agreed with that decision, much as I argue was the case with Brown. There are a few occasions when the Court intervenes against majority opinion, as with school prayer, flag burning, and certain criminal procedure rulings. But even on those occasions, the Court usually has a good 30-40 percent of the country on its side.

The difference between Roe and Brown is that public opinion on the former really didn’t shift much after the Court’s ruling whereas with Brown, the country in the next couple of decades fell in line behind the Court. I think that pretty much explains why Brown is widely celebrated as a noble, visionary decision and Roe is still intensely controversial. Sometimes the justices do a better job of predicting the future than at other times.

Do you believe that the Supreme Court should have heard the Schiavo case? In general should the Supreme Court get involved in the right to life issue?

I don’t think there was any federal issue in the Schiavo case. More generally, the justices have been reluctant to get involved in the issue of assisted suicide because of their perception that in Roe they got involved too quickly, with the result that for the next 30 years they were the targets of extraordinary animosity from religious conservatives. In 1997 the Court was asked to declare a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, at a time when only one state–Oregon–had recognized such a right through the political system. It was clear from the oral argument in that case that the justices were determined not to repeat their “mistake” in Roe by preempting a popular debate on the issue.

Did you ever imagine the reception your book would have when you initially signed your book deal?

No, I was trying to write a book that would interest law professors, lawyers, and historians interested in legal issues. When I started the book, I had not thought of Brown ‘s 50th anniversary in 2004. Someone pointed out to me in early 2001 that this was an anniversary I should work hard to hit. Brown ‘s anniversary attracted extraordinary attention, not just in law schools but in the popular media. It was because of that anniversary that my book got reviewed in places like the New Republic and the New Yorker, that I was invited to contribute an essay to the Nation and an oped piece to the New York Times, and that I appeared on National Public Radio on the date of the Brown anniversary. I don’t think the book would have gotten nearly that much attention in the media had it not been for the Brown anniversary. And when I started the book I wasn’tthinking about such things at all.

Has winning the Bancroft Prize changed your life and how do you feel it will change your career?

I don’t know if winning the Bancroft has changed my life. I’ve tried to leverage the award into greater respect at home, but my wife and kids just aren’t that impressed. It’s a huge honor professionally, especially for a law professor. As far as I can tell, only one other law professor has ever won the award–Morty Horwitz at Harvard. It’s so hard appealing to such disparate audiences–law professors and historians. They are interested in different issues, employ different methodologies, and have very different expectations about scholarship. Winning the Bancroft tells me that I was more successful in bridging the divide between academic disciplines than I could reasonably have hoped. This is a huge source of satisfaction to me.

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What Historians Are Saying About the Pope: Excerpts



HNN, 4-06-05

What Historians Are Saying About the Pope: Excerpts

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.


• Pope John Paul II, the 264th Pope, was elected on October 16, 1978. He was the first-ever Slavic pope and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years, and was installed when he was 58 years old, on October 22 (Sunday), 1978.
• When Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, he was 84 years old, the third-longest reigning Pope, his pontifcate lasted 26 years, 5 months, and 17 days, or a total of 9,665 days.
• Historians rank John Paul as either the third or fourth longest-serving pope, depending on how many years they credit to St. Peter 2,000 years ago. (Knight Ridder News Service)
• Pope John Paul II appointed nearly all of the church’s top leaders, modernized and clarified the entire code of church laws, and supervised a complete revision of the catechism, the official summary of Catholic doctrine. (Knight Ridder News Service)
• In 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit a synagogue.
• In 2001. Pope John Paul II made the first pontifical visit to a mosque in Damascus, Syria and tried to improve relations with Islamic leaders.
• Pope John Paul II ‘s 104 apostolic voyages outside Italy brought him to 129 different countries, and covered more than 725,000 miles.


Note: All material on this page except that which is in italics was copied from media accounts.

The Pope’s Legacy

Mary Segers, an expert in religion and politics who heads the political science department at Rutgers University in Newark

• “His legacy is tremendous.” She also noted his quest for social justice in developing countries. “He has constantly reminded the more affluent nations about that.” “He kind of modernized the papacy, he modernized the dress . . . [and] used modern media and communication to the hilt.”

Sister Edwarda Barry, historian at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, an institution founded and sponsored by the Catholic order, the Sister of Mercy

• “It has changed the church in making it more open and making it more involved in social affairs and society in general. I think there is more outreach, much more [of an] attempt to dialogue with people of other faiths, to bring peace.”

George Weigel, papal biographer

• ” The cardinals didn‘t have geopolitics in mind when they chose John Paul. Rather, they found him an attractive candidate because he was one of the world‘s most effective bishops — “an energetic, brilliant, holy and compelling personality.”
• The pope gave more attention to Africa “than any other world leader, or five world leaders,” during a quarter-century when “much of the Western political leadership was resigned to simply letting Africa fall off the edge of history. He refused to believe this.”

Eamon Duffy, church historian, writing in the Tablet, the international Catholic weekly newspaper

• “The tireless journeys which have made him the best-known face on the planet seem to some the self-immolation of a man consumed with evangelistic zeal and pastoral concern for all mankind – Peter strengthening his brethren.”
• “To others, they have distorted a healthy church order by the cult of celebrity, focusing the church round a consummate populist, reviving an essentially 19th-century ultramontane understanding of the pope as absolute, and in the process infantilizing the laity and marginalizing the bishops.”

Clodovis Boff, theologian and historian

• “He was a pope who fought for democratic liberties in Latin America. When he came to power there were many dictatorships still and he helped precipitate the re-democratization of Brazil” and most of the region.

Bob Bast, University of Tennessee assistant professor of history and director of the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UT

• “In a TV era, where his strengths or weaknesses would be magnified around the world, he’s got a great many more strengths than weaknesses.”
• “More than any other pope he has tried to heal the wounds caused by centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.”
• “He is a fascinating mixture of what appear to me to be traditional, even sometimes medieval influences, and extremely modern ones, and I think the world will be very interested to see which of these two faces the Catholic church presents in the next pontificate.”

Philip Jenkins, historian whose book The Next Christendom tracks the southward population shift

• Catholic baptisms in the Philippines now exceed those of France, Italy, Poland and Spain combined and that baptisms in Nigeria outnumber the total in any single European nation.
• Jenkins thinks the pope‘s main accomplishment was to consolidate Second Vatican Council reforms without either reverting to the church of the 1950s or following the path European and American liberals wanted by loosening moral tenets and taking a softer line on doctrine. The developing world‘s leverage undergirded that policy, he says.”A lot of Europeans and Americans got this wrong and saw the pope as mindlessly reactionary, whereas he focused on the Southern Hemisphere,” Jenkins says, citing the 2000 Vatican declaration “Dominus Iesus” that proclaimed the uniqueness of salvation through Jesus.

R. Scott Appleby, historian at the University of Notre Dame

• “The pope’s stance on the world stage ensured that his would be seen as “one of the greatest pontificates.” But, he added, the strength and focused vision that made the pope prophetic on some matters made him unwilling to embrace positive developments among his own faithful, such as the rise of the laity’s involvement and activism in the church. “There will be, I think, a harsher or more critical judgment on his internal governance of the church.”

Garry Wills, historian and author of Why I Am a Catholic among many other books

• “I think he will be seen as a failure. In many ways he undermined, gradually at first, … the reforms of the Vatican Council.”

On the Pope’s Involvement in the Fall of Communism and Relation with U.S. Presidents

Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington

• It is only natural that U.S. presidents wanted to been seen with the globe-trotting pope from Poland. “He was a very charismatic, significant world figure with tens of millions of followers in the United States and hundreds of millions of followers worldwide.”
• Lichtman also said the magnetic appeal of John Paul II to U.S. presidents coincided with a lessening of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States. “When Reagan established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican, it was very controversial,” noting that Reagan sought the Rev. Billy Graham’s help in trying to smooth things over with evangelical leaders.

Timothy Garton Ash, an Oxford University historian

• “Without the pope, there probably would have been no peaceful end of communism as we saw it in 1989. Without the pope, there would have been no Solidarity movement; without Solidarity, there would have been no Gorbachev; without Gorbachev, there would have been no 1989. The pope was crucial at every stage.”

James Guth, a specialist in religion and politics at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

• “Every American president, whether Republican or Democrat, could find elements of John Paul II’s agenda to agree with.Conservative Republicans identified with his role in the downfall of the Soviet communism, his concern for moral issues like abortion and euthanasia that have become part of the Republican party platform. At the same time, Democrats recognized the pope’s travels throughout the Third World, his identification with the poor of the world.”

Gordon Bishop, national award-winning author, historian and syndicated columnist. He is the recipient of 8 Congressional Commendations, 12 National and 15 State Journalism Awards, including New Jersey’s first “Journalist-of-the-Year” — 1986/New Jersey Press Association

• “Pope John Paul will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest leaders and humanitarians. He was a brilliant communicator, speaking a dozen languages to audiences of a half-million at major cities throughout the world. He was the author of nine best-selling books from 1994 until his final publication, Memory & Identity, due out next month. A prolific writer, speaker and historian, Pope John Paul took 104 international trips to 129 counties, more than any other Pope. His visits to the United Nations, Yankee Stadium, Newark, NJ and other major venues gave him the stature beyond “Super Star!” He was perhaps the most recognized name and face in the world.
• “The Pope met four times with another victim of an attempted assassination that same year – President Ronald Reagan. They got together twice in the Vatican and twice in the United States. The Pope and the President had a lot in common. They both were actors and gifted communicators. They were both Christians. And they worked hand-in-hand to bring down Communism and to liberate the oppressed people ruled by dictators. And they did it ‘without firing a single shot,’ as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher noted. They stood up to the ‘Evil Empire’ – and won! Poland was liberated by the Polish Pope and the Solidarity workers union, whose leader, Lech Walesa, was given the Nobel Peace Prize. The Berlin Wall was torn down in Germany by freedom-fighting citizens. Reagan demanded that Soviet Leader Miguel Gorbachev ‘tear down this wall.’ And it fell. John Paul told Reagan in one of their meetings that “communism will fail in our time.”
• “Although the Pope was always opposed to war, John Paul did meet with President George W. Bush three times in Italy and the Vatican in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Bush declared war on Iraq after that country violated 17 United Nations’ resolutions in 13 years over the development and use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Jaroslav Pelikan, professor emeritus of history at Yale, is the author of the five-volume history The Christian Tradition, amomng other books

• “On June 3, 1979, a few months after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became the first Slavic pope, he set out as the vision of his pontificate ”that this Polish pope, this Slav pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe,” even though ”there are two great traditions, that of the West and that of the East,” with roots in Old Rome and ”in the New Rome, at Constantinople.””
•”He spoke these words at a time when all the Slavic peoples, whether Orthodox or Catholic (or Protestant) were subject to the atheist tyranny of Marxism-Leninism, and one of his principal contributions to the realization of that vision was, in his native Poland but with ripple effects throughout the Soviet empire, to help set in motion powerful impulses of the mind and spirit — and of the Spirit –that would bring down the walls and topple the regimes.”
• “The relative importance of that contribution in comparison with Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and Ronald Reagan’s defiance will continue to be debated by historians. But he did manage, by a curious form of divine irony, to answer the question attributed long before to Stalin: ‘How many divisions does the pope command?’ The spiritual rebirth of all the churches of Slavic Europe, which is going on even as we speak, is a major consequence of that revolution.”

Relations with the Jews

Sister Margherita Marchione is a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini and holds a Ph.D from Columbia University in History, was a Fulbright scholar, and is author of more than 50 books

• “No Pope throughout history did more than Pope John Paul II to create closer relations with the Jewish community, to oppose anti-Semitism, and to make certain that the evils of the Holocaust never occur again.”
• “Pope John Paul II visited the Chief Rabbi at the Synagogue in Rome in 1986 and declared that ‘the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers,’ and indeed ‘our elder brothers in faith.’ He requested forgiveness for past sins by Christians against Jews. He established full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. Relations between the Catholic Church and Jewish people are presently marked by mutual respect and understanding.”
• “‘Peace’ was the clear message John Paul II gave on March 25, 2000, the last day of his stay in Jerusalem: ‘The honor given to the “Just Gentiles” by the state of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.”

James Carroll, a Catholic and author of Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History, among other books

• “Despite [his] broad conservatism, he has … initiated the single most important change in the history of Christian religion, which is the reconciliation between Christians and Jews.”

On Mourning the Pope

Elena Aga Rossi, Rome historian

• “Already we can see a great mobilization of people unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I remember other funerals of other popes, but nothing like this. This is quite different.” She said the crowds already filling St. Peter’s Square are noteworthy because they represent all classes and all parts of the world. “I wouldn’t have imagined so many people all speaking about the pope. Nobody is talking about anything else. All other talk has stopped. This is quite exceptional.”

Father Paul Robicoht, a church historian, told CBS Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith

• “To walk through the piazza is an extraordinary experience because the whole world is down here. I would say half the people there are young.” “There are groups of young people singing, praying, leading chants. They’re still chanting his name. So there is a great sense of spirit and of energy in the piazza.”

On Choosing the Next Pope

Christopher Bellitto, assistant professor of history at Kean University and a church historian

• “It was Paul the Sixth, elected in 1963, who realized it is a brave new world and so we need a brave new college of cardinals.” So he began to appoint cardinals from countries that had never had cardinals before. And it is John Paul II who has turned that up to the tenth degree.”
• “About a quarter of the College of Cardinals are Curial cardinals, that is, they spend most of their time permanently appointed to some office in the Vatican,” he adds. “But many more of them are non-Italians, and that again dates back to Paul the Sixth. So saying someone’s a Curial cardinal is not the same thing as saying someone is Italian.”
• “History says that the opposite of what people are expecting is true. Whereas people are expecting a John Paul III or a John Paul II Jr., history says that the opposite will happen: There could be a reaction against the thrust of John Paul II’s papacy.”
• “Although the overwhelming majority of cardinals owe their red hats to John Paul II, they may be looking for a change. There is an expression in Rome that goes, ‘There is nothing deader than a dead pope.'”

James Hitchcock, a historian and church expert at Saint Louis University

• “Most cardinals don’t think a really long papacy will be a good idea, but with modern medicine if they elect a man who is 70, he could live until he was 95.”

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Why Is the OAH Moving Its Convention from San Francisco to San Jose?



HNN, 2-21-05

Why Is the OAH Moving Its Convention from San Francisco to San Jose?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On February 15th the Organization of American Historians issued a press release indicating that officials had finally decided to move the 98th annual conference to San Jose, California in light of the continuing labor troubles at the San Francisco Hilton, where the conference was originally scheduled. Lee Formwalt, the OAH’s association’s executive director, stated that remaining in San Francisco “would have destroyed the integrity of the meeting,” since many key scholars would choose not to attend on moral grounds. The Hilton is one of fourteen hotels boycotted by the union UNITE HERE. Local 2, the San Francisco hotel workers’ union, staged the boycott to put pressure on the hotels to negotiate new favorable contracts. The old contract expired on August 14, 2004.

The UNITE HERE Local 2 union includes 12,000 workers in the hospitality industries in San Francisco and San Mateo. According to the union’s website; “UNITE HERE!
is the newly-constituted union of workers in North America’s hotel, restaurant, laundry, and textile industries. It was formed in July 2004, from the merger of UNITE! (formerly the Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textiles Employees and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees), and represents over 440,000 active members in the US and Canada).”

In September, the three UNITE HERE! local’s contracts expired or were close to expiration, and the workers were looking for a far more favorable contract which would include wage and pension increases, and more health care coverage than the hotels have been willing to offer. But the major issue is the length of the contracts that the union workers desire. To give themselves greater leverage over the hotels nationwide, they want all North American Union hotel contracts to expire at the same time: 2006. The San Francisco hotels, worried about giving the unions added leverage and concerned with fresh labor demands in 2006, objected, preferring a longer five-year contract.

The union dispute is with an association of fourteen high-end San Francisco hotels that form the San Francisco Multi-Employer Group. These hotels include: the Hilton San Francisco, Argent Hotel, Crowne Plaza Union Square, Four Seasons, Fairmont, Grand Hyatt Union Square, Holiday Inn Civic Center, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf, Hyatt Regency Embarcadero Center, Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental, Omni Hotel, Sheraton Palace and the Westin St. Francis. On September 14 even with the contract negotiations still under way the union members decided to strike. USA Today reported that “Close to 97 percent of the 4,300 workers represented by Local 2 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union at 14 hotels voted to strike.”

On September 29, 2004 hotel employees and members of UNITE HERE launched a limited two-week strike against four hotels. The hotels then locked out workers from the ten remaining MEG hotels. The fourteen MEG hotels decided on October 12 to extend the lockout beyond the two-week strike. This prompted the union and their supporters to gather in Union Square for a unity rally in which the Rev. Jesse Jackson, San Francisco religious leaders, and elected officials attended. Later the same evening, Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator John Edwards, who was on the campaign trail, joined the picket line at the Sheraton Palace, to show his support for San Francisco’s hotel workers. The lockout finally ended on November 20. Near the end of November the mayor of San Francisco , Gavin Newsom, proposed a sixty-day cooling off period which both sides agreed to. During this time the union and MEG attempted to negotiate a new contract. However, the cooling-off period ended on January 23, 2005.

The union initiated a boycott of the hotels beginning in early September. Hotel union president Mike Casey claims that a boycott is “the only way to get a settlement here — when some bean-counter decides it’s better to settle with the union than to continue to lose millions of dollars in business.”‘ Union picketers have distributed leaflets to guests outlining their position. By the third week of the strike union members were asking organizers of upcoming conventions and trade shows to change their plans. Two weeks before the end of 60-day cooling-off period on January 23, union members had contacted over a dozen large convention groups and meeting planners urging them to avoid the hotels and move their business elsewhere, such as the hotels listed on the “safe” list on the UNITE HERE Local 2 website. In response, Matt Adams, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and a negotiator with the hotel coalition, stated that encouraging convention groups and meeting planners to boycott the hotels is tantamount to harassment. In a January 21, 2005 article in the San Francisco Business Times Adams claimed, “The harassing phone calls to meeting planners have increased dramatically. No one has canceled yet because of it, but it certainly leaves a bad taste in their mouth.”

No one may have cancelled at Adams’s hotel, the Hyatt Regency, but the union’s boycotting tactics convinced a number of academic associations to change the venue of their annual meetings. In October, 2004 the American Anthropological Association decided to relocate its November conference from the Hilton in San Francisco to December at the Hilton in Atlanta. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of theMLK Labor & Community Breakfast also decided to change its venue from the San Francisco Hilton because of the labor dispute. The chapter, with its 600 participants, held its event instead at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn, one of the hotels on UNITE HERE’s list of approved hotels. According to Millard Larkin, the event’s coordinator, the change was made “in response to concerns from participants, many of whom are union members, rather than in response to any outside lobbying by UNITE HERE.”

Some associations have declined to change venues. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) initially contemplated moving its November annual meeting from San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency. MESA then decided to have the conference there because the cooling-off period had been instituted, even though many members were not willing to attend the meeting if they had to cross picket lines. In the end 1,400 people attended the MESA meeting.

Other conferences and events that were planned in San Francisco and went off as scheduled despite the unions’ objections included LightShow/West, the inaugural Digital Retailing Expo, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Conference & Exhibition, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, a meeting of CTIA Wireless LT. & Entertainment, and a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

As late as January 28, 2005 the OAH was hoping to continue with the original plan to hold the conference in San Francisco, but steps were undertaken to develop a contingency plan. Many OAH members were reluctant to cross picket lines to attend the conference. Members who wanted to ensure that there would be a change in the convention’s venue circulated a petition among OAH members in an attempt to prod the OAH to accommodate union demands. 110 OAH members signed the petition. The OAH itself surveyed the members who had preregistered for the conference. Of 900 registrants, some 500 responded. Seventy-five percent indicated they would not cross a picket line.

In explaining its decision to relocate the conference, the OAH mainly cited practical considerations. If the OAH remained in San Francisco it risked losing up to $412,000 in attrition charges and $99,000 in revenue from registration fees. If the convention was cancelled outright the OAH would have lost in excess of $700,000. Moving the meeting to San Jose, the other closest viable city from San Francisco, is costing the OAH an unbudgeted additional expense of $60,000, plus the money owed to the Hilton San Francisco for previously booked rooms and meeting sites, which could cost as much as $390,000.

The American Anthropological Association also contemplated moving its meeting to San Jose, but decided not to because of the risk the change would have cost the organization up to $1.2 million. Instead, the AAA arranged to meet at the Atlanta Hilton. The AAA’s board approved $50,000 to help graduate students and some foreign scholars with the additional costs that would be incurred because of the change to Atlanta.

This past week, two days after the OAH made its decision to move to San Jose, the San Francisco Business Times’s fifth annual meeting of the Mayors’ Economic Forecast, featuring Mayor Newsom and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, decided to change its venue as well. Originally scheduled at the San Francisco Hilton for February 25, the meeting was moved to the Oakland Convention Center. The change in location was to accommodate Mayor Newsom, who has decided not attend events at the targeted hotels until the dispute is resolved and a contract negotiated. No hotel on the union’s safe list could accommodate the 1,000 people expected for the event. Publisher Mary Huss explained: “It was a business decision. I did not want to move the date for an economic forecast. I have sponsors. It’s a financial decision.”

OAH officials are now scrambling to organize the San Jose convention. This week the OAH will be posting on its website details to help members book hotel rooms in San Jose. Those who fly into San Francisco will be taken by shuttle to San Jose.

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Q & A: What Did Condi Rice’s Nomination in the 21st Century Have in Common with Henry Clay’s in the 19th?



HNN, 2-14-05

What Did Condi Rice’s Nomination in the 21st Century Have in Common with Henry Clay’s in the 19th?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On January 26, 2005 history was made when the Senate confirmed Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state by a vote of 85 to 13. No black woman had ever held the post. But the vote also made history in another, less fortunate way. As the Associated Press widely reported, more senators voted against Rice’s nomination than against any other secretary of state since 1825, when Henry Clay was up for the position and was confirmed by a vote of 27-14.

Even though Rice may have had the largest number of “no” votes for confirmation since Clay, in proportion to the total number of senators, she did better than he had. She received 13 “no” votes or 13 percent of the total; Clay received 14 “no” votes or 34 percent. Still the opposition they faced in the Senate shared remarkable similarities.

The fierce opposition in the Senate toward Henry Clay’s nomination as was a direct fallout from the 1824 presidential campaign and the “Corrupt Bargain” allegedly made between John Quincy Adams and Clay. In 1824, there were four candidates running for president; President Monroe’s secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, Senator Andrew Jackson, Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford, and the incumbent Speaker of the House, Henry Clay. All the candidates were members of the Republican-Democratic Party, and voting loyalties were sectional. In the election Jackson won the popular vote, and had a plurality of the electoral votes but not the necessary majority. The precise breakdown showed that Jackson had 99 Electoral College votes and polled 153,544 popular votes (43.1 percent); Adams had 84 and 108,740 (30.5 percent); Crawford had 41 and 46,618 (13.1 percent), and Clay had 37 votes and 47,136 (13.2 percent). (John C. Calhoun had a clear majority for the vice presidency.)

Because no one enjoyed a majority of electoral votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representative. As required under the Constitution, the House choose from the top three candidates, eliminating Clay, who’d come in fourth in electoral votes. The states that were up for grabs included Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio, which Clay had won, and the closely divided states of Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and New Jersey. Jackson seemed likely to win since he only needed the votes of two states in addition to those he had carried in the election. Adams, in contrast, needed six of the seven available states in addition to the six New England states he already had plus New York. In the end Adams won; according to Jackson and his supporters, Adams achieved victory by entering into a Corrupt Bargain with Clay, promising him the post of secretary of state in exchange for his support. Clay as Speaker of the House had the influence over congressional members to decide the outcome of the vote.

The position of secretary of state was at the time considered a stepping stone to the presidency; the last four secretaries of states in the country’s short history had risen to the presidency. The agreement was favorable to both parties; Adams would immediately get the presidency, and Clay would be the next in line. Clay a “typical Western gambler” gambled with his position as Speaker, and publicly supported Adams. Clay later wrote that Adams “was the best choice that I could practically make.” Clay delivered four Western states to Adams, including the three states he had won in the election: Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri. Adams also allegedly made an agreement with Daniel Webster to gain the vote of Maryland in exchange for the post of minister to Great Britain, but the appointment was never tendered. Adams was elected president by a vote of 13 to 11 states on the first ballot. (States voting for president in the House of Representatives vote as a group.)

Andrew Jackson vehemently opposed Clay, and the deal made with Adams that had cost him the election. It was a hatred that would resonate with Jackson until his death in 1845. Jackson swore he would do everything he could to thwart Clay’s presidential ambitions.

Jackson teamed up with John C. Calhoun, and William Crawford to create a Southern-Western axis in opposition to Clay. Clay nonetheless succeeded in lining up broad support for his nomination as secretary of state, but the “violent” friends of his enemies–Calhoun, Crawford and Jackson–remained opposed to his appointment. Clay persisted and his supporters argued that the West with a population of 3 million deserved representation, as they had not yet had a president or even a high level cabinet official. On February 17 Clay accepted President-Elect Adams’s offer of the position of secretary of state. The nomination increased Jackson’s fury. Fulminating, he raged: “So you see the Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive thirty pieces of silver. His end will be the same. Was there ever such a bare faced corruption in any other country before?”

After Adams’s inauguration on March 4, 1825 the president sent in three appointments for the Senate’s approval; at the top of the list was Clay’s nomination. Adams originally wanted to keep the Monroe Administration’s cabinet except for the admission of Clay, but Jackson’s opposition sabotaged Adams’s plan. When Clay’s nomination came up in the Senate, he believed that there would be little opposition to his appointment, with a maximum of 3 or 4 votes against him. He was shocked when 14 out of the 41 senators voted against him, thanks to Jackson’s opposition.

John Branch of North Carolina, voting against Clay, became the only senator to speak out in defense of his vote. He stated he opposed the nomination because of the “suspicion” of alleged wrong-doing. Jackson and two of his close partisans headed the campaign against Clay along with other Jackson followers who would go on to form the new Democratic Party. As Adams noted in his diary, “This was the first act of opposition from the stump which is to be carried on against the Administration under the banners of General Jackson.” The only Jackson follower that voted for Clay was Martin Van Buren, the leader in the Congress. On March 6 Clay resigned from his position in Congress and the next day signed his commission and was sworn in as secretary of state on March 8, 1825, amid a controversy that would haunt the one-term administration.

In the two elections–1824 and 2004–the losing presidential candidates in the Senate led the opposition to the appointment of a new secretary of state. In 1825 it was Andrew Jackson; this year it was John Kerry. In both cases the secretary of state faced questions that raised doubts about their character.

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Interview with Kevin Boyle, Winner of the National Book Award



HNN, 1-24-05

Interview with Kevin Boyle, Winner of the National Book Award

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

Kevin Boyle, a professor of history at Ohio State University, recently won the National Book Award (non-fiction) for Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. The book tells the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician who moved his family to an all-white neighborhood in 1920’s Detroit. When a white mob gathered to force Sweet back to the ghetto, Sweet gathered friends and acquaintances for protection. The confrontation ended in a murder indictment when a white man was killed. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took charge and ensured that famed attorney Clarence Darrow defended Sweet in a sensational trial that ended in Sweet’s acquittal.

HNN asked Mr. Boyle to discuss his book and the award. The interview was conducted by email.

What prompted you to write about Ossian Sweet’s story now, at this point in time, and in your career?

Civil rights history had slowly been pushing its way to the forefront of my work for years before I started Arc of Justice. The movement had been an important part of my first book, and I’d followed that with several articles on race and class in post-World War II Detroit. Civil rights had also become a larger part of my teaching. I think it was 1996 or 1997 when Patricia Sullivan and Waldo Martin first invited me to participate in an NEH Summer Seminar on teaching civil rights, which was just a fabulous experience. And in 1997-98 I taught a civil rights course at University College Dublin, where I was on a Fulbright. The students were so bright and so engaged — and I just loved it. The decision to work on the Sweet case came out of those experiences. I saw it as a way to talk about issues that really mattered to me and that I found absolutely compelling.

Do you feel that the fact that you are a native Detroiter affected you interest in Ossian Sweet? Did your personal life affect your choice of topic and insights?

Being from Detroit made all the difference. I wish I had a dramatic story of stumbling across the case while burrowing through moldering archives. But the truth is that a lot of Detroiters know of the case; it’s mentioned in the newspapers every so often; it’s told in local histories. The key was realizing that outside of Detroit it was virtually unknown.

Being from Detroit was important in another way as well. I grew up in a city profoundly divided by race. I saw those divisions play out in my neighborhood, in local schools — everywhere. Once you’ve seen how deep the racial divide is, it’s hard to let go of the issue. Detroit leaves its mark.

How well known in academia and to the public was Ossian Sweet’s story before your book was released and brought it to national attention again?

The Sweets’ story appears in various books. Sidney Fine’s magisterial biography of Frank Murphy devotes a chapter to the trial. It’s discussed in Philip Dray’s amazing At the Hands of Persons Unknown, Kenneth Jenken’s biography of Walter White, and Robert Schneider’s recent book on the NAACP. And as I said, folks in Detroit know it. When I’d tell people back home what I was working on, they’d give me a look that said, “Not again.” But the case didn’t have a book-length study until this year. And most Americans had never heard of it.

How did you research Arc of Justice? What kind of sources where used to construct this story so vividly?

I dug as deeply as I could into the primary sources. Some of the sources were pretty obvious. The NAACP’s records were fabulous, as they are for so many topics. There’s a trial transcript available at both the Burton Library in Detroit and the Bentley Library in Ann Arbor. Clarence Darrow’s papers are at the Library of Congress. The newspapers provide the trial plenty of coverage. And there are some terrific small collections in Michigan, including the diary of a woman who attended the trial and became an object of Darrow’s advances.

The real fun was pushing beyond those records, recreating the world of the Sweets. I spent a lot of time working through census records, insurance maps, and city directories. I still remember how exciting it was to find the record left by Ossian’s great-grandmother when she opened her account with the Freedman’s Bank just a few years after emancipation. I poked through official records that weren’t easily available: the land records for the homes on the Sweets’ block, for instance; the incorporation records for the improvement association that tried to drive the Sweets out; the death certificates for the Sweets’ children. Then there were the moments of pure luck. The family who live in the Sweets’ home invited me to visit, to walk around the house, to see the view of the street as Ossian would have seen it. A marvelously gifted actor who teaches theater at the University of Detroit Mercy gave me what I think is the only existing copy of the interrogation transcript made by the police on the night of the incident. I had two wonderful guides who took me all around the African-American neighborhood in Bartow, Dr. Sweet’s home town in Florida, and introduced me to people who knew Ossian, including his youngest brother, Sherman Sweet.

Reading this list, I realize that there isn’t anything extraordinary about the sources themselves. To make the story vivid just required reading the sources differently than I would have had I been writing another way. If the story comes alive, it’s because of the detail, the tiny bits of information that the sources contain but are easy to overlook. Let me give you an example. At one point I describe where Sweet first lived when he moved to Detroit. I wanted to make the point that the area wasn’t completely black but instead had a number of immigrants living on it. I could have just said that. Instead I went down the block, giving the neighbors’ names: Joseph Saprenza, the Catalanos, Frank Gidzie, Sam Monecato. The names themselves don’t advance the story. But they give the reader a sense of intimacy, a connection to real people.

How do you feel your recounting of Ossian Sweet’s story differs from Phyllis Vine’s One Man’s Castle, which was also released this past year?

I haven’t read Ms. Vine’s book. I’m sure it’s a very good piece of work.

You told Barnes and Noble: “Here was someone writing history the way I wanted it to be written. More importantly, here was a book that captured the enormous complexity and profound tragedy of modern American race relations. It’s taken years, but with Arc of Justice I feel as if I have confronted the ghosts of Detroit in the way Lukas taught me.” What was so inspiring in your opinion in the method J. Anthony Lukas chose to write Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families? Why did you choose to write Arc of Justice in a similar style?

Lukas did so many things in that book, it’s hard to know where to start. He gave his readers real, complex people. He showed how those people were caught up in — and how they shaped — extraordinary events. He fashioned riveting scenes. He avoided easy answers, instead embracing moral ambiguity. And by doing those things, he wrote the finest book available on the racial tensions that beset American cities in the 1960s and 1970s. It was an absolutely stunning achievement. I’m not the sort of person who stays up late into the night reading, but Common Ground made me lose a lot of sleep.

Besides Anthony Lukas, who else do you find has influenced your writing of history? Who were your mentors? Did they have any impact on your writing of your book?

I did my doctoral work under the direction of Sidney Fine at the University of Michigan. It’s no exaggeration to say that he taught me how to be an historian. He stressed immersing yourself in the research, and he certainly made me a better, more precise writer. I also learned a great deal from the eight years I spent working in the history department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The department had an ethos that its faculty should want to write for the public, and a number of my colleagues — Steve Nissenbaum, Kathy Peiss, Gerry McFarland, Dick Minear, Carl Nightingale, and others — did that so well. I’ve tried to follow their lead.

As to other influences, I live in awe of David Levering Lewis, both for the brilliance of his work and the beauty of his prose. Taylor Branch’s epic story-telling is a great inspiration. The analytical insights of David Roediger, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Tom Sugrue shaped a great deal of the book.

And I absolutely love the masterpieces of micro-history: Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre; Carlo Ginsberg’s The Cheese and the Worms; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale. Getting that intimate sense of people’s lives — feeling for a moment what it meant to live in another time and place — that’s the history I want to tell, although I’ll never do it as well as those people have done it.

Do you think that writing Arc of Justice in a rather poetic style where one feels that they are reading a book of historical fiction, although it is accurate history is a more effective style than the traditional academic approach to writing history?

I’m really honored when someone says the book has a poetic style. But I don’t think there’s one way to write history. We’ve all read absolutely brilliant histories that aren’t done as stories. There’s room for many approaches, many styles, many experiments.

You mentioned in you acceptance speech for the National Book Award that there were many titles to the book before you decided on Arc of Justice. What were some of them? What prompted you to choose Arc of Justice, which comes from a quote often used by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.? (“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”)

I’m embarrassed to tell you some of them, they were so bad. It started out as “The People v. Sweet,” a truly boring idea. For a long time it was “Sweet Justice,” but my editor decided, rightly, that it was too cutesy a title. I originally used “Arc of Justice” for the title of a job talk, of all things, and I wanted it to make precisely the opposite point that Martin Luther King made. I ended the talk, as I ended the acceptance speech, by saying that the Sweet story shows that the arc of the moral universe is very, very long, but it does not always bend toward justice. When we decided to use the phrase for the tile, I worried that the point might be lost. So I put the quote at the opening of the book, then balanced it with a very dark Langston Hughes poem: “That justice is a blind godess / Is a thing to which we blacks are wise. / Her bandage hides two festering sores / That once perhaps were eyes.”

Why did you choose to begin with the actual shooting that took place at the Garland Avenue house, and then go back to lay the foundation and recount Sweet’s background and the situation in Detroit at the time, and then continue on with Sweet’s trial?

That decision came straight from the classroom. When I give lectures in big survey classes, I like to begin with a dramatic story, because it grabs the students’ attention and sets the scene for the analysis to follow. Doing the same thing with the book just seemed obvious to me.

In you opinion how much did Ossian Sweet’s trial bring the plight and treatment of African Americans to the forefront nationally? If so was this only because a high-profile white lawyer, Clarence Darrow, took on the case? Was there any change in their conditions, if only fleetingly as a result of the trial? Did it have an effect on the later Civil Rights Movement?

That was one of the hardest questions for me to tackle. Most historians, I guess, want to be able to say that their topics made a fundamental change. I wish I could have claimed that, too. But the truth is, the Sweet case only brought attention for a short time, and then, as you say, because Clarence Darrow had such star power. But the case didn’t stop the march of segregation in the urban north. In that important sense, the story is a tragedy, not a triumph.

In your talk on Arc of Justice for C-Span’s History on Book TV you mentioned that you the situation changed in the South for African Americans, but not in the North “American cities remain divided places, they remain segregated Black and White, and of all the cities in America none is more segregated than Detroit.” Do you believe that segregation is at the same magnitude as it was in the 1920’s, even after the Civil Rights Movement?

No, I don’t. Obviously the Civil Rights Movement accomplished great things. It wiped out the most terrible of Jim Crow’s abuses. And it made racism disreputable. Of course racism persists; I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. But it’s no longer reputable for whites to express the sort of venom that was perfectly acceptable in the dominant society earlier in the century. But the segregation of cities is persistent, and strikingly so. Every ten years the Census Bureau publishes its measurements of segregation for the major metropolitan areas. And while the indexes have shown improvement over the decades, it’s incredibly slow improvement. For the Detroit metropolitan area to be truly integrated, according to the 2000 census, 84 percent of African-Americans would have to move. That’s better than the 90 percent the number once was. But it’s not much better. And the remarkable thing is that there’s no public discussion of the issue, no outrage. Just this week the newspapers reported that race may have been behind the torching of a housing development in Maryland. Is that so different than the Sweets’ story?

Did you ever imagine the reception your book would have when you initially began working on the topic?

The events of the past few months have caught me completely off guard. I’ve been very, very lucky.

How has winning the National Book Award changed your life and how do you feel it will change your career?

My life doesn’t feel different. The kids still head off to school at 8:20 every morning. The dog still gets her walk every evening. I still haven’t finished that book review I promised. But there’s a very nice award sitting on the sideboard in the dining room. And I’m really grateful for that.

What Historians Thought of President Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address: Excerpts



HNN, 1-22-05

What Historians Thought of President Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address: Excerpts

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

Allan Lichtman (Presidential Historian, Professor of History American University)

• “It’s one of the most ringing endorsements of American intervention in American history… There’s no limit to a subject so broadly defined, he set out, in broad thematic terms, a justification for a free hand.”

Thomas Cronin (President of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington)

• “Bush’s speech was messianic in many ways. He plainly wants to play an internationalist role, saying we’re going to fight on behalf of those who are fighting terrorism around the world. It was a proclamation of almost a crusade.”

John Lewis Gaddis (Professor of History, Yale University)

• “It’s very much in the tradition of great speeches of the past. This is where we want to be some distance from now. We understand we can’t get there tomorrow. But it’s important to have that destination described.”

Barbara Kellerman (Research Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University)

• “I would point to three things in particular. One is a statement of purpose where he says so it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements in every nation and culture. The ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Second, he makes the point of a clear comparison with communism. Very important. We’re in a multigenerational long-term fight here for peace and liberty around the world. And third, finally, for the moment, I was struck by the language, repeated use of the word slavery. Repeated use of the word tyranny. Reference to bullies. Particularly singling out women’s rights. So this first half of the speech was clear, moral, purpose and, make no mistake about it.”

Henry Graff (Emeritus Professor of History at Columbia University, on PBS)

• “This was a typical second term speech. It’s broad, there are no names aside from Lincoln’s. It reads better than it was delivered. I thought it was delivered without passion, I compare as I think most people will without the passion that went into a similar comparable salute to freedom that was delivered by Kennedy. I would also like to say that we ought to observe the high place that the Vice-President had in this ceremony. Vice-presidents have not had a place like this, most of them, almost all of them, sworn in the Senate chamber, and they come out sworn in to the session. Monroe was the only President in a long time that would even ride with with a Vice-President, and of course we know that Truman drove with Alben Barkley, but this was very special.”
• “I think the second speech that a president gives as an inaugural is one that he is looking for his place on postage stamps and coins at some future time.”
• “The agenda wasn’t stated. What are we to do, how are we going to achieve all of this in all parts of the world, how are we going to support for freedom elsewhere in the world. It is a wonderful statement, it is a salute to freedom, it will be quoted, but it will not be a major national document.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, on PBS)

• “From my point of view I think the most fascinating thing about it is that it is embedded itself in history. The introduction in particular, it frames all the rest of the inaugural in history, and it shares with other wartime inaugurals the fact that the place of our current war is not mentioned, the war in Iraq was never uttered. The first time the word Vietnam was uttered was in 1981 by Reagan, There were four inaugurals during the Vietnam War, the specifics of the war are not dwelt upon, and this speech was similar.”
•”I think it is an extraordinarily ambitous statement of American commitment surrounding the world. It actually broadens the Truman Doctrine; it reiterates and broadens it in talking about defending democratic movements in every nation and in every culture. And the speech also in characterizing recent history, the last fifty years or so …says that until the fall of Communism and until
9-11 we simply defended freedom. Watched on distant borders. Where is the Vietnam War, where are the billions of dollars, where are the 58,000 lives in that characterization of recent history. It is extraordinary I think. We defended our freedom by standing watch; I think that’s a puzzling charactistic to me of the last fifty years.”
• “It is interesting that the ownership society that he is mentions, the three programs that he refers to the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the G.I. Bill are three expansive uses of Federal power, if you had to go through all of American history they would be among them.”

Richard Norton Smith (Director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, on PBS)

• “I don’t think it is a typical inaugural address, because I don’t think these are typical times, and I think we saw that reflected in this. This is the speech that Woodrow Wilson could have given. This notion of America, this was a lay sermon that actually attempted to define both our international mission and our national character, and was a bit of a contradiction in this speech, the President said in the end that we do not consider ourselves a chosen nation, maybe so but if you listen to overwhelmingly in the rest of the speech he certainly thinks we have a special mission, a mission from history indeed, perhaps a mission from God. One final quote when he says ‘we will persistently clarify the choice before every war and every nation,’ if I was … in Tehran I would be paying careful attention to that sentence.”
• “Don’t overlook the domestic speech that will be overlooked, perhaps understandably. ‘We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance.’ Guess what folks– that is a very ambitious domestic agenda of reform that is bound to be enormously controversial.”
•”Freedom abroad and freedom at home, freedom is our civic religion, we salute it like the flag on the Fourth of July, the problem is no two people define it the same.”
•”The question that does arise is whether this is in many ways a very articulate, powerful assertion of American exceptionalism – which is nothing new. It goes back to the first inaugural address. George Washington spoke of the sacred fire of liberty…. Now you have George W. Bush restating the notion of America as missionary to the world. John Kennedy talked about defending liberty whenever it was in danger. George Bush is talking about extending liberty to wherever it doesn’t exist…. I think at one point he said it was an odd time for doubt. He clearly doesn’t entertain doubts.”

Julian Zelizer (Professor of History at Boston University, on “Here and Now”)

• “I think it is a great speech in terms of placing himself in terms of a broader context which is what a second term inauguration speech should do. I think by embracing Wilsonian goals he will also inherit Wilsonian problems. President Wilson’s second term was very tough and it goes down in many ways in defeat. Also I think there is a fundamental tension in his talk, which is a tension the Republicans are wrestling with. On foreign policy he is calling for an aggressive government that will do things that have not been done before, and on domestic policy he is saying we need private character over public interest which is a turn away from government and the two don’t necessarily jive.”
• “I do think though on domestic policy this whole idea of an ownership society of individual choice is some kind of a framework to sell conservatism to the center to Democrats who are unhappy with their party, and to moderate Republicans who have not heard their voice in the administration, and I think there is something there that needs to be looked at seriously.”
• “Presidential references to God are nothing new, there is a danger of making too much of Bush. The difference is the Christian movement that has surrounded him in this inauguration is much more powerful than it has ever been historically.”
• “It is not that uncommon in war time speeches to hear some kind of sabre rattling. In the third inauguration speech of Franklin Roosevelt, I am sure some of the same tone was there. The difference is there is very little talk of sacrifice, and I think that is something different that this administration has not stressed much. Meaning how citizens need to sacrifice something in a period of war that was the central theme of Franklin Roosevelt, and Bush has been much more about tax cuts and giving people ownership rather than asking people to give of themselves.”

Gil Troy (Professor of History, McGill University, author of Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s)

•”It’s striking — you could shuffle the text of George W. Bush’s inaugural address in a pile of high-minded, interventionist speeches given by FDR and JFK Democrats, and, except for his elliptical reference to the rights of the ‘unwanted’ — deem Bush a classic, post World War II, Four Freedoms, Pay any Price, Bear any Burden liberal. Clinton Rossiter talked about the Great Intellectual Train Robbery of American History occurring in the nineteenth century, when corporate America hijacked Jeffersonian, small government liberalism, to oppose government interventionism. Now, George W. Bush may be completing the 2nd Great Intellectual Train Robbery of American history — the first in Foreign Policy — begun by Ronald Reagan. Bush was not only challenging the world and the Democrats — he was also challenging the isolationist wing of his own party, with its venerable history of opposing interventionism. If Bush continues with his interventionist and freedom-spreading strategy, and if Democrats continue to be so infuriated with him that they sour on traditional liberal interventionism just because he’s supporting it, we could be in for some clarity on foreign policy within the parties and a further red-blue polarization on foreign policy lines.”
•”Of course, we need to inject a historical note of precaution in that inaugural addresses often become memorable — or eminently forgettable — only with the passage of time. The relationship between Bush’s rhetoric and his record of success or failure, will determine the true resonance of this address. But in the meantime, Bush has made it clear that he doesn’t buy all the post-election spinning about morality and values issues as that central; he’s continuing to see — as he said after 9/11 — that his presidency will be judged on the question of how he and America responded to the war on terror.”

George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address (Jan. 20, 2005)

• “For a half a century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical. And then there came a day of fire.”

• “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

• “The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.”

• “Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.”

•”The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

•”In America’s ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.”

• “From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?”

• “When our Founders declared a new order of the ages, when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty, when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner Freedom Now they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.”

• “When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, It rang as if it meant something. In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

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Q & A: How Have Wartime Inaugurations Been Handled in the Past?



HNN, 1-17-05

How Have Wartime Inaugurations Been Handled in the Past?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

Looking at earlier wartime inaugurations the trend was toward simple ceremonies such as James Madison’s in 1813, Abraham Lincoln’s in 1865, Woodrow Wilson’s in 1917, Franklin Roosevelt’s in 1945, and Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1953. The simplest of all was Roosevelt’s fourth inaugural in 1945 amidst World War II. However, the post World War II era saw inaugural ceremonies becoming increasingly more lavish affairs despite the fact that war or protest was ensuing. Lyndon Johnson’s in 1965, and Richard Nixon’s two inaugurations in 1969 and 1973 were large showcase affairs. The tradition continues this year with George W. Bush’s $40 million inaugural celebration.

James Madison

1813: The United States was at war with Great Britain when James Madison took the oath of office for the second time in 1813. The war was still confined to the sea and there were no physical reminders of war in Washington at the time of the inauguration. The theme of his inauguration was the nobility of the American people vs. the brutality of the British, and he called on the population to fight with dignity. Madison took the oath of office in the Hall of the House of Representatives, and it was administered by Chief Justice John Marshall. In the evening Madison attended an inaugural ball. (Dolley Madison had established the first inaugural ball in 1809.) The next year an invading British garrison burned the Capitol and executive mansion.

As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed.

The war has been waged on our part with scrupulous regard to all these obligations, and in a spirit of liberality which was never surpassed. How little has been the effect of this example on the conduct of the enemy! — James Madison, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1813

Abraham Lincoln

1861: Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural occurred at the country’s most desperate moment when seven southern states had already seceded from the union forming the Confederate States of America, and civil war seemed imminent. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy two weeks earlier. A somber mood prevailed at Lincoln’s inaugural. His safety was in danger, and he was guarded by General Winfield Scott’s soldiers, providing unprecedented protection for a president-elect. The United States Calvary that escorted Lincoln in the procession to the Capitol was heavily armed as he rode in an open carriage with President James Buchanan, and the military remained on alert throughout the ceremony. Judge Roger Taney administered the oath of office to Lincoln on the East Portico of the Capitol, then in the midst of renovation (the wooden dome was being replaced with an iron one).

In his inaugural address Lincoln claimed, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” The New York Times wrote that “from the fiery trial the loose federation emerged as a compact nation, which makes this the most significant inauguration after that of Washington.” President Lincoln then proceeded to the White House where he received the Diplomatic Corps and well wishers. The inaugural events concluded when Lincoln and the rest of the presidential party made their appearance at the inaugural ball that was held the same evening.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.— Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

1865: Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration came close to the end of the Civil War. Lincoln did not participate in the procession to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony since he had already gone there earlier in the morning to sign last-minute bills into law. For weeks preceding the inauguration Washington had been rainy, causing Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. The spectators stood in deep mud to see the president’s swearing-in ceremony. On the East Portico of the Capitol Chief Justice Salmon Chase administered the oath of office to Lincoln.

The inaugural ceremonies featured four companies of African American troops; a lodge of African American Odd Fellows. African American Masons joined the procession to the Capitol, and then back to the White House after the swearing-in ceremony. This was the first time that African Americans participated in the inaugural processions, thereby demonstrating the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation. There was constant music conducted by bands interspersed along the procession, which lasted an hour and was a mile long. Lincoln rode toward the White House in an open barouche and was escorted by the white and black troops for security purposes. In the evening following Lincoln’s swearing-in ceremony there was a public reception at the White House. The inaugural ball took place the night in the Patent Office; this was the first time a government building was used for the ball.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Woodrow Wilson

1917: As Woodrow Wilson prepared to take his second oath of office the rest of the world was embroiled in a war that was entering its third year with no end in sight. Although the United States had not entered the World War–Wilson had said during the campaign that there was such a thing as a nation too proud to fight– there was still an uproar about the pomp of the inauguration ceremonies. The inaugural ball was cancelled, though this may not have been because of the war. Wilson disliked balls and nixed plans for a ball during his first inaugural. Certain officials suggested that the public ceremonies be cancelled completely because of the international situation. However, tradition won out and a bill was signed allotting $30,000 for the inaugural ceremonies. Robert N. Harper chairman of the local Inaugural Committee, issued a statement discussing the direction the ceremonies would take:”I am pleased to announce that the inauguration ceremonies will be held. While the greatest possible simplicity will be observed, it is intended to make this inauguration unusually impressive in order to afford an opportunity for a perfectly spontaneous exhibition of the patriotic feeling of the country.”

The thing I shall count upon, the thing without which neither counsel nor action will avail, is the unity of America: an America united in feeling, in purpose and in its vision of duty, of opportunity and of service.– Woodrow Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, March 5, 1917

Franklin Roosevelt

1941: Franklin Roosevelt’s third inauguration was unprecedented in American history. The world was at war, but the United States still officially neutral.

Roosevelt was accompanied throughout inauguration day with an increasingly visible number of Secret Service guards. Roosevelt began the day by continuing the tradition he started in 1937 by attending church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, next to the White House prior to his swearing-in ceremony. Then the president went forth to the Capitol. Roosevelt’s inaugural address was shorter than usual, only twelve minutes long. Time magazine reported that “the speech was not in the President’s usual literary style. It was pseudo-poetic, full of little except generalities, as if it had been written for him by someone such as Playwright Robert E. Sherwood.”

The inaugural parade was designed to be shorter than usual. This corresponded with Roosevelt’s plan for simplicity. There was an air demonstration planned with Army, Navy and Marine Corps planes participating, which was a new addition to the inaugural parade. Roosevelt chose to watch the parade from an open stand. The parade at first featured the usual parade fare, but then the mood turned more solemn as a glimpse of what American involvement in the war would mean. For five minutes the parade route was dominated by armored cars, soldiers on motorcycles, tanks; light tanks, medium tanks, trucks carrying pontoon bridges, kitchen trucks, trucks drawing six-inch guns, eight truckloads of anti-aircraft guns–the machines of war. Roosevelt canceled the inaugural ball as he had in 1937 during the Depression. But an inaugural concert was staged at Constitution Hall; the performers included Charlie Chaplin, Raymond Massey and Ethel Barrymore.

If we lose that sacred fire–if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear–then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of national defense. In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America. — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, January 20, 1941

1944: Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration occurred at a time of world war, and the president’s increasingly failing health. Roosevelt decided upon a short and simple inaugural ceremony. The morning of his inauguration, instead of attending church services at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Roosevelt arranged for a private service at the White House East Room with 250 members of his official family. Instead of taking the oath at the Capitol, he took it on the South Portico of the White House. Immediately below the portico were 7,806 invited guests; on the Ellipse there were another 3,000 in attendance.

After taking the oath of office Roosevelt gave the shortest of his four inaugural addresses at 573 words. He did not once mention domestic affairs, but gave a passing remark about the war. The speech indicated the president’s mood and focused on the world after the end of the war. Afterwards, 2,000 invited guests streamed into the Red Room for the post-inaugural luncheon, which would be the last one of its kind. It was the largest affair held in the Roosevelt White House for years but it was also spare. The guests stood and the menu included; chicken salad, hard rolls without butter, unfrosted pound cake, and coffee. The First Lady hosted a tea for those who did not come to the luncheon. There was no parade or ball. The day’s events were capped off with a private dinner which included the Roosevelt family’s first rib roast in months.

In the days and the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace. . . . We shall strive for perfection. We shall not achieve it immediately–but we shall strive. . . . We have learned lessons–at a fearful cost–and we shall profit by them. We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace. . . . We have learned that we must live as men, and not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. . . . We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that “the only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, January 20, 1945

Dwight D. Eisenhower

1953: Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as president during the Korean War. Eisenhower broke precedent by beginning his inaugural address with a prayer. His address emphasized American leadership in the world, and focused on the challenge of establishing peace, freedom and unity in the free world. The swearing-in ceremony was followed by a ten division parade that was the longest and largest inaugural parade in history, lasting four hours and 39 minutes with 25,000 marchers, 73 bands, 59 floats, horses, elephants and civilian and military vehicles. As a tribute to those serving in Korea some of the servicemen fighting there were brought home to march in the parade. The salute to Eisenhower also included 1,000 military planes from jets to super bombers, which flew over the parade. The inaugural celebration was capped off with two inaugural balls at the National Armory and Georgetown University’s McDonough Hall. Approximately 75,000,000 people were able to watch the inaugural ceremonies on television.

No person, no home, no community can be beyond the reach of this call. We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience, to work with industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with conviction, to weigh our every deed with care and with compassion. For this truth must be clear before us: whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America. The peace we seek, then, is nothing less than the practice and fulfillment of our whole faith among ourselves and in our dealings with others. This signifies more than the stilling of guns, easing the sorrow of war. More than escape from death, it is a way of life. More than a haven for the weary, it is a hope for the brave. — Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

Lyndon B. Johnson

1965: Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration came at the beginning of America’s active military involvement in Vietnam. Johnson insisted that America’s involvement would be minimal, and the inauguration was planned as if it was not occurring at a time of war. Gone were the military pageantries that characterized earlier inaugurations, Johnson did not believe that the day should be used to glorify the military. The four-day celebration was extravagant, costing $1.5 million, and was an attempt to be “bigger and better” than any of the previous inaugurations. According to an account in the New York Times, Johnson wanted to “surmount tradition and make the hoopla of the inauguration a dramatic display of the highest aims and accomplishments of the entire nation.”

The first event was the Distinguished Ladies Reception held at the National Gallery of Art, which featured 5,000 guests. Throughout the inaugural’s first day of festivities there were receptions in honor of the president all around Washington. On the evening of the first day of events, the Inaugural Gala; a variety show was held at the National Guard Armory. The gala was sponsored by the National Democratic Committee for the party faithful and was a free event that included 8,000 guests. The four banquet dinners that preceded that gala were also free to Democrats who had contributed a minimum of $1,000 to the campaign. The gala included some of the most pre-eminent entertainers of the day; including Alfred Hitchcock as the master of ceremonies and Carol Channing as the mistress of ceremonies.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s procession to the Capitol in 1965 was marked by stringent security measures, including a bullet-proof limousine. The swearing-in ceremonies were described by the New York Times as both “a sermon and a circus; a prayer and a parade; the bible and the ballyhoo.” Lady Bird joined her husband as he took the oath of office, the first wife of a president to do so. Capping the festivities were four inaugural balls at the National Guard Armory, the Mayflower, Sheraton-Park Shoreham and the Statler Hilton.

The hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred: not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the Union for generations. — Lyndon B. Johnson, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965

Richard Nixon

1969: Richard Nixon’s first inauguration took place amidst the height of the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, racial tension and urban disintegration at home. The inauguration festivities were far more restrained than Johnson’s, yet still quite elaborate. The inauguration included four days of festivities, including an All-American Gala in the District of Columbia Armory produced by the “Tonight Show’s” Ed McMahon. With tickets reaching $100 the guest list included a variety of Hollywood entertainers. The night before the Inauguration there was a lavish concert for the Nixons and his vice president at Constitution Hall performed by Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir, among others. The concert’s tickets ranged in price from $5 to $500.

The swearing in ceremony was on a gloomy cold day, and along the parade route toward the White House 1,000 anti-war protesters gathered and shouted obscenities such as “Four more years of death!” In hopes of uniting a much divided country over the Vietnam War the inauguration’s theme was “bring us together again.” Nixon took the oath of office on two bibles; both family heirlooms. The inaugural parade was one of the shortest running just two hours but was filmed with color cameras and broadcast live on television. There were six inaugural balls, one of them at the Smithsonian Institution. They were formal white tie affairs; tickets were priced at $70 a couple. A box seat for eight cost $1,000. Approximately 30,000 attended the balls. The Nixons made appearances at all six of them.

The peace we seek to win is not victory over any other people, but the peace that comes “with healing in its wings”; with compassion for those who have suffered; with understanding for those who have opposed us; with the opportunity for all the peoples of this earth to choose their own destiny. — Richard M. Nixon, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1969

1973: Richard Nixon’s second inauguration occurred as negotiations to end the war in Vietnam were being renewed. The three day inauguration cost $4,000,000, and was such an extravaganza that Bob Hope, a Nixon supporter, joked that it commemorated “the time when Richard I becomes Richard II.” The inaugural ceremonies opened Thursday afternoon at the Smithsonian Museum with a reception honoring Vice President Agnew and his wife. The first glamour event of the inaugural was a “Salute to the States,” at the Kennedy Center which was held in honor of the nation’s governors; 40 of them attended the event along with 5,000 guests with Pat Nixon, daughter Julie, and Mamie Eisenhower. The two-hour show ran simultaneously in two separate halls to accomodate the large number of guests. Emcees Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope shuttled between the two rooms. The second day of the inaugural ceremonies included three concerts for the president at the Kennedy Center.

Throughout the inaugural festivities there were peaceful anti-war protests around Washington. In addition there was a counter-inaugural concert held at Washington Cathedral the same night as the Kennedy Center concerts for the president. The day of the inauguration 75,000 antiwar demonstrators gathered quietly at the Lincoln Memorial for a “March Against Death and for Peace.” There were a total of five balls on inaugural night “to celebrate the Inauguration of President Nixon in a festive, traditional manner,” as stated in the official press information kit. The inaugural balls were held at the Museum of National History, the Kennedy Center, the Pension Building, Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology, and Sheraton Park Hotel, scene of a ball expressly reserved for young people. The inaugural festivities finished on Sunday January 21, with an ecumenical worship service at the White House conducted by Billy Graham and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Let us be proud that by our bold, new initiatives, and by our steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a break-through toward creating in the world what the world has not known before–a structure of peace that can last, not merely for our time, but for generations to come. — Richard M. Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1973

George W. Bush

2005: This is the first inauguration since the September 11th, 2001 attacks, and is being held as the Iraq war enters its third year. This year’s inauguration will be by far the most ostentatious wartime inauguration. The $40 million event is funded with the donations of lobbyists and corporations. The inaugural events will include nine balls, three candlelight dinners, a presidential gala on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony, a brunch for dignitaries, and a youth rock concert hosted by the Bush twins. 250,000 spectators are expected to watch Bush get sworn in. He will be perched on a new, higher speaker’s podium. After his inaugural address Bush will stand as 400 service members from all branches pass in review and become his escorts for the parade. 11,000 people will take part in the 1.7-mile-long parade that includes 45 marching bands, and 5,000 men and women in uniform. The price for good seats at the events are expensive. Seats for the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue are $125, ball tickets are $150 and a chair at the swearing-in on the Capitol’s east front is approximately $250.

Some have criticized the scope of the festivities. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, D-N.Y., recently wrote in a letter to his colleagues that “Precedent suggests that inaugural festivities should be muted — if not canceled — in wartime, and stated that $40 million would buy armor for 690 Humvees or provide a $290 bonus for each service member stationed in Iraq.” Even a Bush supporter, Texas billionaire Mark Cuban, publicly suggested that the inaugural balls be canceled and the money donated to tsunami victims of South Asia. To counter the attacks President Bush and his supporters are presenting the quadrennial pageant as an opportunity to salute American troops — “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service” is the theme of this year’s inaugural ceremony. The events include the first Commander-In-Chief Ball for men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

We are a nation at war, and it is fitting that the inaugural events reflect not only the great sacrifices made by our troops everyday to protect our freedom, but also the cherished ideals that make our nation so unique. — Jeanne Johnson Phillips, Presidential Inaugural Committee Chairman, January 2005

The inauguration is a great festival of democracy, people are going to come from all over the country who are celebrating democracy and celebrating my victory, and I’m glad to celebrate with them. — George W. Bush responding to criticism about his inaugural festivities, January 2005

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Has Scandal Taken Its Toll on Joseph Ellis?



HNN, 11-21-04

Has Scandal Taken Its Toll on Joseph Ellis?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On October 26, 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis’s latest work, His Excellency, George Washington, was released. The book, which focuses on Washington’s flaws, is the first Ellis has written since his own flaws were revealed in 2001.

For nearly a decade, in his classes at Mount Holyoke on Vietnam and American culture, Ellis would enrich the course content by recounting his own experiences in the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement. In 2000, in an interview with the Boston Globe, he made a number of claims. He said that he had served in Vietnam in 1965 as a leader and paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. He said that he had worked on the staff of General William C. Westmoreland in Saigon. He said that he had been active in the civil rights movement and in the peace movement.

A little research subsequently revealed that he had lied. As an undergraduate he served in the R.O.T.C at William and Mary, emerging from the program in 1965 as a second lieutenant. Instead of serving in Vietnam, as claimed, he had attended graduate school at Yale. He was not active in either the civil rights movement or the peace movement. After he graduated with a doctorate in 1969, he began active duty, but he served not in Vietnam but as a history professor at West Point, where he remained until 1972, when he finished his duty as a captain.

To many it was a shock that Ellis would risk so much for so little. As Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University told the New York Times at the time the scandal broke, “one of the great things about his writing is that he recreates past situations with amazing vividness, maybe he has become a victim of his own ability to do that.” Many believed that Ellis was recreating a past more worthy of his present stature and position. The New York Times questioned his motives: “Why should a man as successful as Mr. Ellis, whose books are those rare creatures, best-selling works of history, feel compelled to reinvent his past? One might almost suppose that he was not so much reinventing his past as confirming his present, projecting his current degree of success backward in time, living up to a version of himself.”

Ellis’s mentor and advisor at Yale, Edmund S. Morgan, suggested a more sympathetic explanation: “I have been in close touch with Joe from the time he arrived at Yale, very uncertain of himself, as most graduate students are, sure that other graduate students were better than he was, as most graduate students think.” It was this uncertainty that might have lead Ellis to recreate a grander past than he actually had. Ellis seemed to agree with this theory. In an interview with the Associated Press he said that he believed he recounted those stories as a result of having a dysfunctional family and an alcoholic father, which leads to a “combination of great achievement and great doubt about yourself.”

Since he had shared so many of these fabricated experiences with his students Mount Holyoke was pressured to discipline him, requiring him to take a leave without pay for a year (though he retained his office and library privileges). Ellis returned to teaching in the fall of 2002. He remains a popular teacher held in high regard by his students. Recently, one student wrote on a professor rating site that Ellis is “a very interesting and intelligent man. He emphasizes multiple perspectives and brings the material to life. His classes draw people who tend to challenge him, but he’s a great professor.” Another student, Charli Lighty, told the Associated Press: “When I first heard about what happened, I thought, ‘Oh, wow! Scandal!’ But that was a long time ago; nobody really cares about that in this class.”

It was during his leave from Mount Holyoke that Ellis began working on his biography of George Washington. Although he had planned to write about Washington before the scandal, Ellis soon began making comparisons between his character and Washington’s. The Associated Press observed that “Ellis suddenly came to resemble one of his historical subjects, a man of high achievement shadowed by flaws in character.” Ellis in his interview with the Associated Press said “the notion that [Washington] could not tell a lie is itself an adolescent fable. But thinking about what right and wrong means, how you deal with your imperfections and how you learn from your mistakes is something Washington does speak to.” The book focuses on Washington’s character and “psychological chemistry,” in a “quest for the famously elusive personality of the mature man-who-became-a-monument,” as Ellis puts it.

Most of the book reviews for His Excellency have been favorable. Publishers Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Associated Press have given the book glowing reviews. Publishers Weekly called His Excellency “a magisterial account of the life and times of George Washington, celebrating the heroic image of the president whom peers like Jefferson and Madison recognized as ‘their unquestioned superior’ while acknowledging his all-too-human qualities.” Michiko Kakutani, writing in the New York Times, concluded that His Excellency “provides a lucid, often shrewd take on the man Mr.Ellis calls the ‘primus inter pares, the Foundingest Father of them all.’ And it does so with admirable grace and wit.”

Few reviews made much of Ellis’s scandal, and some did not mention it at all. The most critical review was probably David Hackett Fischer’s in the Boston Globe, which broke the story about Ellis’s scandal. Fischer complained that Ellis was unduly harsh, comparing Ellis’s account of Washington’s military leadership with the infamous debunking books that appeared in the 1920s. Fischer did not bring up Ellis’s past, however, declining to subject Ellis to the same psychological analysis to which Ellis subjected Washington. A review in the Seattle Times, alluding to Ellis’s scandal,concluded: “Ellis faces down a certain irony as Washington’s biographer: How to strip away myth from a venerated figure, yet reveal him still as an accomplished leader, a hero despite his human flaws?” The review itself however was mostly favorable. Ted Widmer’s review in the New York Observer took a light approach to Ellis’s scandal in a flattering review of His Excellency. Excusing Ellis, Widmer wrote: “And no accusation of plagiarism has ever tainted Mr.Ellis’ work (which includes important studies of Jefferson, Adams and the founders as a whole). But still, this Walter Mitty–ish episode was disturbing to his admirers and to generations of his students at Mount Holyoke, the tranquil college in Massachusetts where he teaches.”

The general tenor of the reviews mirrors the sympathetic approach most critics took after Ellis’s lies became known. At the time only a few people seemed willing to take Ellis sharply to task. This puzzled some, like Elliot J. Gorn, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “[M]any of the professors I’ve spoken with feel sympathy for Ellis: They’re afraid they may not be so different. That strikes me as wrongheaded…. the message seems to be that lying to students is less blameworthy than lying in print; that publications are our gods.” David Garrow, the distinguished professor of law at Emory University, also found fault with Ellis, writing: “Knowingly being dishonest in class is just as great an act of moral turpitude as being knowingly dishonest or inaccurate in your written work.” Subsequently, Garrow’s own character came under scrutiny when Gloria Mann, the Law School director of operations at Emory, accused Garrow of simple battery, which led to his own suspension from the university for six months.

The lack of outrage among the academic community and their apparent feeling that there is a difference between professional versus personal dishonesty, and dishonestly in publications versus teaching, has allowed Ellis to return to teaching and scholarly work. University of Georgia historian Peter Charles Hoffer, in his recent book, Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud, argued that Ellis’s own flaws may well have made him sympathetic in a way he otherwise couldn’t be with the heroes he has written about. “I believe that the lies he told about himself and the way he told them changed the way he wrote history,” Hoffer wrote.

In its first week on the New York Times Bestseller list, Ellis’s book reached number 6, suggesting that the scandal has not affected his book sales. The book has also been a main selection of the the Book-of-the-Month Club. Every indication is that readers are flocking to buy Ellis’s book, proving that even flawed characters still deserve a second chance.

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Highlights of Election Night 2004 (Featuring Historians’ Commentary)



HNN, 11-05-04

Highlights of Election Night (Featuring Historians’ Commentary)

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Electoral College

• George W. Bush: 286, Number of States: 31
• John F. Kerry: 252, Number of States: 20

The Popular Vote

• George W. Bush: 59,459,765 (51% total) with 3.5 million more votes than his opponent.
• John F. Kerry: 55,949,407 (48% total)

The Congressional Results

The Senate:

• Republican: 55, a gain of 4
• Democrat: 44, a loss of 4
• Independent: 1

The House of Representatives (218 needed for House majority, 435 at stake, 3 undecided)

• Republican: 231, a gain of 4
• Democrat: 200, a loss of 3
• Indepdendant: 1

Governors (11 at stake, 1 undecided)

• Republican: 28; 23 seats not up
• Democrat: 21; 16 seats not up

The Historians

Douglas Brinkley (Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, University of New Orleans, NBC)

• “I think it will be decided by midnight on Election Night. I think there’ll be a lot of court cases and a lot of rumbling about ballot boxes that didn’t work properly, and chads that were dangling, but I think by and large there will be a clear victor. I don’t think it will be like four years ago.”
• “There are three big swing states: Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Whoever gets two out of three will win. I think Kerry will win Pennsylvania, Bush will win Florida, and whoever wins Ohio gets to be president.”
• “It’s because he used to be a heavy drinker and he still gives the impression that he’s a pickup-truck-driving Texas rancher/ZZ Top-listening kind of dude, which plays very well in the red states of the South. And it’s amazing if you look at the electoral map right now, you can see that the Republicans control the entire South. Every state that had slavery is for George W. Bush.”

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

• “There is more skepticism about votes counting than in past presidential elections, because I think it is a belated reaction to the last presidential election. I don’t think the question of vote counting was raised in a massive way until 2000.”

Allan Lichtman (Presidential historian at American University)

• “Any election is a referendum on the party in power, and indeed the majority of Americans judge the record of the party in power…. including this president’s success in keeping America safe from terrorism over the last three years.”
• “This is the deepest cultural divide in the history of the country, with the exception of the Civil War.”
• “They (Democrats) need to rethink liberalism for the 21st century. They haven’t yet made the transition from Franklin Roosevelt. They’ve run from liberalism into empty space.”

Richard Norton Smith (Director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

• “It’s a long standing tradition, in the nineteenth century, Ohio was called the mother of presidents. They were mostly forgettable presidents but they were presidents never the less. More recently Ohio is a microcosm of America, it’s agricultural, it’s industrial, it’s old ethnic, it’s new ethnic, it’s a remarkable snapshot, and it’s right in the middle of the country. In 1976 Gerald Ford lost the presidency by a whisker, he lost it in Ohio by 11,000 votes to Jimmy Carter, who did well for a Democratic in conservative rural Ohio that is the pattern that the Kerry people hope to repeat tonight.”
• “We’ve heard it over and over again no Republican has ever won without Ohio.”
• “This is a latter-day Wilson presidency,” invoking Woodrow Wilson’s impassioned intervention in World War I to make the world “safe for democracy. It’s going to matter, it’s going to be pointed to – pro and con – for a long time.”

Roger Wilkins (Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, George Mason University, Virginia, on PBS)

• “You got Cleveland in the North, you got Columbus in the central part of the state, and then you got Cincinnati in the southern part of the state. Cincinnati is the home of the Tafts, the really royal dynasty of the state, President William Howard Taft, then the great Senator Robert Taft. The conservative part of the state is in the south where as the formally industrial parts of the state where you had a union stronghold, and Democrats did well, is much weaker now. Cleveland is not the industrial heart it was, but the state is big, its got lots of people, and the mix makes a very interesting kinda neutral test.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (Professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, on PBS)

• “It is interesting because Ohio has always been a tough one for the Democrats in many ways. When you think about the fate of Ohioans during theGreat Depression where you had unemployment rates of 80 percent in some cities in Ohio, terrible suffering, and the industrial workers of Ohio were reliable for the Democratic Party, but those days are long behind us, and part of it really reflects changes in the economy in the United States over the last thirty years. The Democratic Party cannot sincerely relay anymore on those kinds of votes in a place like Ohio, and we’ll see tonight.”

Michael Beschloss (Presidential historian, on ABC)

• “Well, you know the most fascinating thing in the ABC News exit polls I thought, was the number of people who voted for President Bush because of moral issues. I think the other thing is that when you have a president who is fighting a war that often times trumps everything else.”

Gil Troy (Presidential historian, professor of history, McGill University, on CTV)

• “The big headline from the 2004 election is that the essential dynamic from 2000 re-emerged. Once again, we have a near-deadlock. Once again, the future of the presidency hangs on a closely divided state, in a closely divided nation. Once again, we have a red-blue electoral equilibrium – the chardonnay sipping, quiche eating, New York Times-reading ‘blue states’ – and as the numbers suggest ‘blue people’ — balanced out by nearly equal numbers of the country-western listening, gun-toting, Bible-thumping ‘red states’ and red people – the colors have no inherent significance they just happened to have been used by the TV network mapmakers to signify Democratic and Republican states.”
•”The 2004 exit polls – which did a terrible job predicting state-by-state totals but do a good job reflecting attitudes – confirm this impression for today. Kerry proved most popular with women, the unmarried, Northeasterners, African-American,18 to 29 year-olds, gays and lesbians, first-time voters, and citizens most concerned with education, health care, and the economy. Bush proved most popular with men, married couples, Southerners, whites, the over-60-set, military veterans, evangelicals, gun-owners, and citizens most concerned with strong leadership and the fight against terror. Remarkably, this polarized nation produced a nasty campaign but a peaceful election day – a testament to a political maturity and a civic grandeur for which Americans rarely get credit these days.”
• “God bless America’s beautiful slogan, it’s not a real honeymoon, and I think the danger is that yes, he has 51 percent of the vote, which is relatively strong. Bill Clinton never broke 50 percent, he has the house, the Congress, he has a concentration of power, but not necessarily a broad mandate. He still has that electoral map of blue America and red America.”
• “Second term presidencies always promise a clean slate, a new start. The problem with second term presidencies is they often have emerged what I call the ‘the second term curse.’ Ronald Reagan ran into Iran-contra, Bill Clinton ran into Monica Lewinsky problems, Richard Nixon had Watergate. So what Bush wants to do is to a certain extant stay afloat, he has to watch the problem of becoming a lame duck.”

Stephen Hess (Brookings Institutution, interview with the Associated Press)

• “He may face a somewhat less contentious international community. They’re practical people. They may not like him, but if he’s the president, they have to figure out how to deal with him.”

Larry Sabato (Presidential historian, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia on CBS)

• “Just in recent times, I would say the 1964 Johnson/Goldwater race was one of the most negative presidential battles in all of American history, we’ve had a lot of negative races. We’re able to recover and go along a lot better and faster than we think.”
• “For one thing, every president in American history who had lost the popular vote had not been elected to a second term. The only other presidential father-son ticket, the Adams, both had one term.”

Eric Foner (DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University)

• “People who have power want to exercise it. He can do pretty much what he wants.”(On President Bush’s self-proclaimed mandate.)

Richard Reeves (Historian, on CBS)

• “Close to half the people in the country, maybe more, if you ask them what they are, they’re not gonna say either a truck driver, they’re gonna tell you ‘I’m a Christian. The Democratic Party has got to come to grips with that. It’s an important part of being an American, for at least half the country.”
• “I think that the country is divided, I think that the president is being given a chance to make good on his promise four years ago to be a uniter, not a divider. I think it’s a real tough job.”

President George W. Bush: Victory Address

• “We had a long night — and a great night. The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory.”
• “Earlier today, Senator Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious. Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts. America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.”
• “With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president. There’s an old saying, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks.” In four historic years, America has been given great tasks and faced them with strength and courage. Our people have restored the vigor of this economy and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy and honor to America. Our nation — our nation has defended itself and served the freedom of all mankind. I’m proud to lead such an amazing country, and I am proud to lead it forward.”
• “Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans, so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”
• “A campaign has ended, and the United States of America goes forward with confidence and faith. I see a great day coming for our country, and I am eager for the work ahead.”

Senator John F. Kerry: Concession

• “In America, it is vital that every vote count and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters and not by a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail. But it is now clear that when all the provisional ballots are counted — which they will be — there won’t be enough outstanding votes for us to win Ohio. And therefore we cannot win this election. I want to especially say to the American people you have given me an honour and gift, I will never forget you and I will never stop fighting for you.”
• “I did my best to express my vision and my hopes for America. We worked hard and we fought hard, and I wish that things had turned out a little differently. But in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. That is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on Earth. With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion. I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.
I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide.”

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Q & A: How Many October Surprises Have There Been?



HNN, 10-25-04

How Many October Surprises Have There Been?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The first election in which an “October Surprise” played a role in the campaign was in 1864. Thereafter it was a central concern in the campaigns of 1956, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1996, 2000, and 2004. The term “October Surprise” originated in the 1980 campaign, and was coined by then Republican vice presidential candidate, George H. W. Bush. The Reagan campaign was fearful that with the hostages still being held in Iran, that incumbent and Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter would negotiate their release just prior to the presidential election, thus ensuring he would win, hence the “October Surprise.

The term usually refers, as one website put it, to a “political revelation or dramatic policy move, made late in the campaign, designed to affect the outcome of a presidential election,” which is usually engineered by the party in power. Princeton political science professor Fred Greenstein describes it as “the notion is that the October surprise is a Halloween trick for politicians.” But it can also be defined loosely as an event taking place late in a campaign that dramatically affects the outcome. The capture of Osama bin Laden between now and the election would fit this definition.


In the spring of 1864 in the midst of the Civil War, Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln was worried that he would go down to defeat. Two events helped propel him to certain victory. First, the Democratic Convention, held in Chicago, nominated the former union general, George McClellan, and adopted a peace platform, which called for a negotiated end to the war, as well as a repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation. The second was the increase in decisive Union victories: Admiral G. Farragut captured Mobile; two days after the Democratic convention General Sherman took Atlanta and began marching through Georgia, Ulysses S. Grant made made progress at Petersburg, and General Philip Sheridan began his devastation of Virginia.

These victories were a turning point, which almost guaranteed an end to the war, and a Union victory. The Albany Journal wrote, “If you want to know who is going to vote for McClellan, mention Atlanta to them. The long face and the low muttered growl is sufficient. On the other hand, every Lincoln man bears a face every lineament of which is radiant with joy.” After these developments, the Radical Republican candidate, John C. Fremont, dropped out of the campaign, and the Radical Republicans supported Lincoln’s re-election. Lincoln won a decisive victory in the election. Referring to the 2004 election, historian David Herbert Donald recently wrote: “I fear an October surprise, which, of course, Lincoln was able to produce with Sherman’s help…. Then of course there’s the other side of it. Lincoln’s opponents in effect committed suicide. Put a general [George McClellan] on your ticket and a peace platform.”


In the midst of the final days of the campaign between the Republican incumbent Dwight Eisenhower and Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson two foreign developments dominated the news. The first was the Suez Canal crisis. Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal which prompted the canal’s stockholders, Britain and France, with the help of Israel to invade Egypt. They intended to get rid of Nasser and internationalize the canal. Their attack was kept secret from President Eisenhower, who saw this as a betrayal by America’s allies. Eisenhower joined with the United Nations and Russia in condemning the Anglo-French-Israeli action and pressured them to withdraw their troops. Eisenhower backed up his words by imposing economic sanctions on the three countries; soon after they withdrew their troops.

Almost simultaneously Eisenhower was confronted by another international crisis. The Soviet Union brutally invaded Hungary, in an attempt to suppress the Hungarian government’s threat to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Officials of the Eisenhower administration had previously shown support for liberating countries under Soviet domination. But Eisenhower chose not to come to the assistance of the Hungarian government, fearful that doing so might touch off a war with the Soviets. Instead, Eisenhower chose to condemn the invasion and to assist the Hungarian refugees. Although before these crises it was a forgone conclusion that Eisenhower would win his re-election bid, the events helped widen his margin of victory. The American people were not willing to change their president at a time of international uncertainty, and Eisenhower’s military record and leadership experience was deemed by the voters as assets in this climate.


On October 19, two days before the final debate between Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King was arrested. King was jailed along with 52 other blacks who were trying to desegregate a Georgia restaurant. He was sentenced to four months of hard labor based on breaking probation (King had previously been charged with driving without a license, when he actually had been driving with an Alabama license in Georgia). King’s wife, Coretta, was frantic and called Harris Wofford, a Kennedy campaign aide , claiming that “they are going to kill him [King].” Wofford contacted Sargent Shriver, who was married to Kennedy’s sister Eunice. Shriver convinced Kennedy that he should telephone King’s wife, which he did, expressing his concern. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s brother Robert negotiated with the judge and secured a promise that King would be released on bail.

In contrast, Nixon consulted with Eisenhower’s attorney general, who advised him not to intervene in the matter. The Kennedys’ intervention gained JFK support from blacks, including King’s father, an influential minister who had previously supported Nixon. The senior King told the press, “I’ve got a suitcase of votes, and I’m going to take them to Mr. Kennedy and dump them in his lap.” As Evan Thomas writes in Robert Kennedy: His Life, “Just two phone calls–one by JFK, one by RFK–decided the outcome of the election, and determined the course of racial politics for decades to come.” Kennedy won the close election, 49.7 percent to Nixon’s 49.5 percent.


On October 14, LBJ aide Walter Jenkins was arrested for disorderly conduct in a Washington YMCA under compromising circumstances. Jenkins, who held the position of special assistant to the president, was not only a close and loyal staffer but a family friend. Johnson campaign advisors believed that the incident would cause problems for Johnson’s campaign, and that Johnson should distance himself from Jenkins, and campaign with his wife and daughters during the last two weeks of the campaign. Johnson immediately released a statement that Jenkins had resigned from his position, but did not clarify what the position was. However, Johnson did not personally distance himself from Jenkins, offering Jenkins a position as the manager of the Johnson ranch, while the First Lady issued a statement stating, “My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the point of exhaustion in dedicated service to his country. Walter Jenkins has been carrying incredible hours and burdens since President Kennedy’s assassination. He is now receiving the medical attention that he needs.”

Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate believed that the arrest gave him the ammunition he needed to make the case of moral decline. Although no medical excuse could be found to cover the Jenkins story, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover decided to intervene, claiming that Barry Goldwater and his campaign had actually set-up Jenkins as part of a “Republican plot” to bring down Johnson. Hoover made this connection because Jenkins had served in the same Air Force unit which was commanded by Goldwater. In order to legitimize his claims, Hoover conducted an elaborate investigation. The Jenkins issue however, disappeared from the newspapers within days, and was eclipsed by foreign policy issues. Communist China successfully tested its first nuclear device and the Moscow politburo overthrew Nikita Khrushchev. The Jenkins issue became irrelevant in the campaign, and President Johnson won the election by a landslide.


In October, President Lyndon Johnson was attempting to reach an agreement with the North Vietnamese in the Paris peace talks. This would allow him to halt the bombing which would salvage Vice President and Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey’s campaign. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon realized that Johnson was attempting to use the power of the presidency to help Humphrey, and accused him of doing so. Johnson denounced such claims as “ugly and unfair.” However, five days before the election on October 31, President Johnson announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam, stating, “I have reached this decision on the basis of developments in the Paris talks, and I have reached the belief that this action will lead to progress for a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam War.” Humphrey of course said he was pleased: “I have been hoping for months that it would happen, for months.” The bombing halt allowed many people to conclude that the end of the war might be approaching, putting Humphrey in a favorable position. Humphrey went up in the polls, but when the South Vietnamese government indicated it would not negotiate, Humphrey’s ratings again slid. Nixon won the election by a slim margin.


In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign Nixon suspended bombing in Vietnam and engaged in secret negotiations with the National Liberation Front. Just before the election at an October 26 press conference, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced, “We did agree that we would make a major effort to conclude the negotiations by October 31. As far as Saigon is concerned, it is of course entitled to participate in the settlement of a war fought on its territory. Its people have suffered much and they will remain there after we leave. We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, It is inevitable that in a war of such complexity that there should be occasional difficulties in reaching a final solution.” Kissinger’s announcement convinced many voters that the Vietnam War would soon be over, helping Nixon win a landslide victory against his opponent, Democratic candidate George McGovern, who ran on a peace platform.


Republican candidate Ronald Reagan’s campaign strategists, fearful of a late-breaking deal ending the Iranian hostage crisis, warned the public about the possibility Jimmy Carter could use the presidency to manipulate events and win the election. To neutralize the effect on the country of an “October Surprise,” Reagan and his strategists continually mentioned the possibility of something happening at the last minute. They believed that by bringing up the issue in advance the voters would see it as a cynical bid for votes rather than as the product of careful statesmanship. As Reagan said on a Tampa Bay television station in early October: “Presidents can make things happen you know.” With the one year anniversary of the hostage taking approaching on Election Day, Reagan’s comments were intended to cause public cynicism. Reagan ended up winning the election by a narrow popular margin. The hostages were released within an hour of Reagan’s inauguration.

This was not however, the end of the story. Soon after Reagan was sworn into office there were theories that, as Gary Sick a former aide on the National Security Council staff for the Carter Administration wrote in a 1991 op-ed and later in a book, “individuals associated with the Reagan-Bush campaign of 1980 met secretly with Iranian officials to delay the release of the American hostages until after the U.S. election. For this favor, Iran was rewarded with a substantial supply of arms from Israel.” The agreement also supposedly included a $40 million bribe. Sick believed that George Bush was one of those Americans that were associated with the negotiations. William Casey, a campaign adviser who was appointed head of the CIA, was also linked to the negotiations. The theory gained credibility when the Iran-contra affair was revealed. In exchange for help in releasing the American hostages held in Lebanon, the United States sold Iran truckloads of weapons. Two congressional inquiries have concluded that there is no proof the Reagan campaign made a deal with Iran in 1980.


Going into the election, the Republican candidate and incumbent president, George H. W. Bush, hoped the GATT talks would result in a free trade deal. This would have given Bush an advantage over Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. Instead the Friday before the 1992 election, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who served in the Reagan administration, was indicted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh in connection with the Iran-contra affair. The indictment distracted Bush’s campaign and suggested to some that Bush, who had claimed he was “out of the loop,” had possibly not been honest about his own role in the scandal.


President Bill Clinton the incumbent Democratic candidate looked to create his own October Surprise in his re-election bid against Republican candidate Bob Dole. In June Clinton met with top FBI and CIA aides in hope of organizing a successful sting against the Russian Mafia, which had ben rumored to be interested in selling a nuclear missile. The operation failed to become a real October Surprise, however. Clinton also hoped he might be able to broker a last-minute deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. The two sides however only agreed to more talks. Clinton nonetheless won reelection, the first Democrat to do so since Franklin Roosevelt.


In early November, just days before the election, police documents were leaked revealing that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving in Kennebunkport, Maine in the mid 1970s. These revelations hurt Bush at the polls, and may have cost him a popular majority. Karl Rove, his chief political advisor, believes the news disillusioned millions of evangelical voters on whom Bush was counting. Bush of course won the election after the Supreme Court intervened.


In the presidential campaign’s closing weeks, Democrats have been bracing for an October surprise, an event so dramatic it could influence the outcome of the election. Neither Republican incumbent George W. Bush nor Democrat John Kerry has a comfortable enough lead in the polls to afford an October Surprise. Possible surprises that could alter the election’s outcome include: a major setback in the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, the capture of Osama bin Laden, a nuclear test by North Korea, an economic shock, or another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Campaign 2004: The Third Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights



HNN, 10-14-04

The Third Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Instant Polls

  • CNN-USA Today Gallup poll: John Kerry the winner 53 percent to George Bush’s 39 percent.
  • ABC News poll: 42 percent called Kerry the winner, 41 percent said Bush won; 14 per cent called it a tie.
  • Reuters/Zogby Poll: Bush has a one point lead 46-45 percent on Kerry in the campaign poll released Thursday, taken prior to the third debate.

Candidate Soundbites

John F. Kerry

  • “When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords and Osama bin Laden escaped. Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive this president was asked, where’s Osama bin Laden? And he said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t really think him about very much. I’m not that concerned.’ We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.
  • “The president has turned his back on the wellness of America, and there is no system and it’s starting to fall apart.”
  • “He’s the only president in 72 years to have lost jobs — 1.6 million jobs lost.”
  • ” He’s the only president to have incomes of families go down. The only president to see exports go down; the only president to see the lowest level of business investment in our country as it is today. Now I’m going to reverse that. I’m going to change that. We’re going to restore the fiscal discipline we had in the 1990s.”
  • “We’re all God’s children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she’s being who she was.”
  • “I believe that choice, a woman’s choice is between a woman, God and her doctor.”
  • “If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. The president has denied 9.2 million women $3,800 a year. But he doesn’t hesitate to fight for $136,000 to a millionaire.”
  • “Being lectured to by the president on fiscal sanity is kind of like being lectured to by Tony Soprano on law and order.”
  • “I regret to say that the president who called himself a uniter, not a divider, is now presiding over the most divided America in the recent memory of our country. I’ve never seen such ideological squabbles in the Congress of the United States. I’ve never seen members of a party locked out of meetings the way they’re locked out today ·Well, I guess the president and you and I are three examples of lucky people who married up. And some would say maybe me more so than others. But I can take it.”

George W. Bush

  • “My opponent just this weekend talked about how terrorism could be reduced to a nuisance, comparing it to prostitution, illegal gambling, I think that attitude and that point of view is dangerous.”
  • “If every family in America signed up it would cost the federal government $5 trillion over 10 years. It’s an empty promise. It’s called bait-and-switch.”
  • “Well his rhetoric doesn’t match his record. He’s been a senator for 20 years, he voted to increase taxes 98 times. When they’d try to reduce taxes he voted against that 127 times. He talks about being a fiscal conservative or fiscally sound but he voted 277 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost the taxpayers $4.2 trillion. He talks about pay-go. I’ll tell you what pay-go
    means: when you’re a senator from Massachusetts, when you’re a colleague of Ted Kennedy, pay-go means you pay and he goes ahead and spends.”
  • “There’s a mainstream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank. Your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.”
  • “What he’s asking me is will I have a litmus test for my judges. And the answer is no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution. But I’ll have no litmus tests.”
  • “Well first of all it’s – it is just not true that I haven’t met with the Black Congressional Caucus. I’ve met with the Black Congressional Caucus at the White House.”
  • “To listen to them. To stand up straight and not scowl. I love the strong women around me. I can’t tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters.”

Historians’ Comments

Gil Troy (presidential historian, professor of history, McGill University)

  • “The real winner of the debates was… the American people. I know it’s cheesy and a tad cliche, but during these times, when nerves are frayed and the conventional wisdom once again deems the campaign the ‘nastiest ever,’ I was impressed by the debates’ civility and substance. The very absence of over-the-top clashes, the great-defining gaffe which didn’t occur, meant that the candidates had an opportunity to be themselves, and millions of Americans could assess the candidates up close. John F. Kerry was John F. Kennedyesque, appearing smooth, poised, substantive and intelligent — although until his final statement, the closing statement of debate #3, he failed to offer an upbeat, inspiring vision. George W. Bush was more erratic and defensive. Defying the conventional wisdom, he was on firmer ground and far less jittery when discussing domestic issues rather than spewing out his robotic oversimplifications regarding the war on terror and Iraq. Stylistic considerations aside, the two candidates offered contrasting visions — Kerry the multilateralist v. Bush the unilateralist, Kerry the social liberal v. Bush the social conservative, Kerry the nuanced legislator adeptly juggling complex perspectives v. Bush the no-nonsense chief executive with a more black-and-white view. Yes, there were the usual obfuscations, soundbites, and postures, but, on the whole, the debates offered great political theatre and important policy instruction.”

Howard Zinn (at Democracy Now)

  • “Well, the contest, unfortunately, is not giving us any kind of fundamental reappraisal of American policy foreign and domestic. By a fundamental reappraisal, I mean we are dealing with a serious issue of the war in Iraq and we’re dealing with the serious issues of health and education, and what to do with the wealth of the United States to help people, and neither candidate is addressing the fundamentals. By that I mean, I heard them on the clip that you showed and talked about Osama bin Laden, they exchanged accusations about it. Bush denying, of course, as he denies everything, about what he said, and Kerry saying, no, you said that. It’s not important, really, about Osama bin Laden. They’re always trying to focus our attention on something that’s not fundamental. What’s fundamental is not one particular man. What’s fundamental is not even al-Qaeda. What’s fundamental, really, is American policy in the world, because if there is a root of terrorism, and that’s the problem, getting at the root of terrorism, the root of terrorism is not any one man, not any group of people in this country or that country. There are too many countries of where there’s anger against the United States, and where the anger against the United States can turn into fanaticism and into terrorism.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “One thing that strikes me more than anything else is this, if you think about the last five presidents before George W. Bush three of them were defeated before reelection, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, that is exactly within the period which we have had debates since 1976. And I think what has struck me more than anything else is the fact that this has changed our political system, it gives challengers a leg up against an incumbent president of a kind that we haven’t had in most of American History. If John Kerry is elected in three weeks I think many people will say he couldn’t have done it without the ability to debate George W. Bush.”
  • “I don’t think it has especially worked this year. I guess I disagree with Richard, I think the rules have been too confining, I think the two minutes answers end up being long soundbites, often times the candidates recycling languages that they have been using on the campaign trail that seem to work with audiences.”
  • “Actually, it has been different if you look at the texts of the debates before. I think this year you see language used over and over again from debate to debate. Sometimes within a debate you’ll hear the same thing said twice by the same candidates. You don’t really feel you are getting beyond the surface that was the point of these things to begin with, not just to give a big audience to a candidate to deliver his best lines.”
  • “It is a bitter atmosphere and I think it is another thing about these three debates between these Presidential candidates. These were icy debates, there was very little humor and there sure was very little humor between the two guys, and I think if you compare that to for instance to Reagan and Mondale, and even to moments of Carter and Reagan in 1980, it shows how much our political culture has changed to this take no prisoners attitudes on the two sides. In a way these debates are not a very good harbinger of this country getting a little more united as some of them talked about.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, on PBS)

  • “It’s pretty hard as an historian not to walk away from it without thinking its déjà vu all over again. If you take a really long view, and you take a look at 1960 when we had the beginning of these debates, the domestic issues for instance highlighted tonight are very much the same kinds of issues there were being debated by Kennedy and Nixon, healthcare, social provision, Kennedy and Nixon had a long discourse around the issue of providing health insurance for Americans, and Nixon portrayed Kennedy’s plan as extreme as an overreach of the Federal government. Kennedy defended it not as big government, but really as the nation taking responsibility for its citizens. What was the program that they were sparing about; Medicare. So it is really hard when you think of these debates all together, of course the foreign policy issues are different, there are different social, cultural, and value issues, the debate about abortion, gay rights those have changed I am not saying nothing’s changed, but so much of this is consistent minimum wage, jobs, education, for one thing it shows us how persistent these problems have been.”
  • “But it is still a question about what is the responsibility of the Federal government, and what is the responsibility of not only states and localities, but families and parents. I think you do have two very different visions here, even if Democrats since over the Reagan years have backed away enormously from the fundamental tenants of American liberalism and endorsing them in those terms. You notice how little we hear about the cities, about anti-poverty programs, it’s about the middle class now, and the way in which it is squeezed economically.”
  • “I think these debates continue on the John F. Kennedy comparison. One interesting thing I think, one thing Kerry did tonight which Kennedy did was Kennedy very explicitly in those debates spoke to the nation. He looked out at the camera and addressed his remarks to the American people, and Nixon was later criticized for being having a tendency to speak to his opponent more than to the nation. So Kerry capitalized on that tonight.”
  • “What I think is quite remarkable tonight is the emphasis on religion that is important. Both candidates took pains to tell their audience, to tell the American people they are deeply religious. Remember in 1960 when Kennedy was running as a Catholic, he took pains to say that his religion didn’t matter to the fact that he was running for president. These two candidates are taking pains to say it does matter, and so they are tapping into and I think shaping a very different cultural environment.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, on PBS)

  • “I think these three debates have been very substantive, they have been informative, we’ve seen big issues discussed, broad themes struck. I think they have been very informative debates. Michael’s point is well taken, there is this burden on the incumbent, in effect he is the defender of the status quo, and people in America love new. They may not always like the consequences of the new, but as a concept new is pretty attractive. And I thought you saw John Kerry in fact playing the John F. Kennedy role.”
  • “Because I think what John F. Kennedy did in 1960 it wasn’t a specific moment in those debates we look at gaps, we look at misstatements now, we zero in on those specific moments, and we think those are what actually swayed voters. What actually John Kennedy did in 1960 and I would argue what John Kerry is clearly trying to do is a cumulative process. Over three debates he is introducing himself carefully, incrementally establishing his credibility, his alternative philosophy, his style of leadership. He is getting the voters comfortable with who he is as a man, and as a president. That isn’t something that you do in a soundbite or a single debate. We’ll know in three weeks if it worked.”
  • “I was also I struck by something that this President Bush tried to do tonight, and tried to do in the last couple of debates was reminiscent of something his father did very effectively in 1988. It goes to these issues. Remember Michael Dukakis famously said that this was an election about competence, and not ideology. Ideology is a euphemism particularly for cultural values, and the first President Bush managed really to kind of turn the corner by really trying to use these words against Michael Dukakis. You see that in a repeated attempt by this President Bush to in affect turn Kerry’s own record as he defines it, against it.”
  • “I think it was a thoughtful, substantive, and heated discussion, that’s what democracy is all about.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin (on MSNBC’s “Imus In The Morning”)

  • “It is a pretty horrific process to go through month after month. It’s not normal. I mean, who is talking all day long, who is saying their same mantra over and over again where they have to repeat it and they have to pretend that they believe it after a while. So maybe the process is just too long and thank God for the debates. At least these debates show these guys under pressure. I mean think of the pressure these two were under last night, I mean President Bush knowing his whole legacy might depend on how well he did in these debates and Kerry knowing that hail to the chief might be sung to him one day or he is back being a Senator from Massachusetts having lost this enormous stand to make history. So they do stand up under pressure.”

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The Second Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights



HNN, 10-11-04

The Second Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Instant Polls

  • ABC News: Kerry was the winner 44 to 41 percent, with 13 percent declaring the debate a tie.
  • CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll: Kerry: 47 percent, Bush: 45 percent.
  • Reuters/Zogby poll: Kerry has a slim 46-45 percent lead on Bush in the campaign in the latest poll.

Candidate Soundbites

George W. Bush

  • At one point [George W. Bush] interrupted moderator Charles Gibson’s follow-up question after Kerry said he was “not going to go alone like this president did” in Iraq. “I’ve got to answer this,” Bush said, jumping off his stool.
  • “You tell Tony Blair we’re going alone,” he said, loudly. At other points, his voice was almost a yell. (CBS’s Dick Meyer’s account of an exchange during the debate)
  • Kerry has”been in the Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment he’s had on Medicare.” (Kerry: “Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare, and I was one of the people involved in it.”)
  • “I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons, but Saddam Hussein was a unique threat. And the world is better off without him in power. And my opponent’s plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be more dangerous [if Kerry had been president].”
  • “I can see why people think that he changes position quite often, because he does.”
  • “I don’t seen how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.”
  • “Uh, let me see where to start here. First, the National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all. And that’s saying something in that bunch. You might say that took a lot of hard work.” (Referring to Kerry as Kennedy.)
  • “Yeah, I mean he’s got a record. He’s been there for 20 years. You can run but you can’t hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean these aren’t made-up figures. And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look at the record of the man running for the president.”

John F. Kerry

  • “The president didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he has really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception, and the result is that you’ve been bombarded with advertisements suggesting that I’ve changed a position on this or that or the other.”
  • “The world is more dangerous today because the president didn’t make the right judgments. So what does he do? He’s trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can’t be president.”
  • “The president is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, ‘compassionate conservative,’ what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health care, running up the biggest deficits in American history. Mr. President, you’re batting 0 for 2.”
  • “Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don’t think is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.”

Historians’ Comments

Bruce Shulman (professor of History, Boston University, BU forum on presidential politics)

  • “I think if the president wins re-election, I think that’s going to be a pretty strong sign that the move towards conservatism and the growing influence of the sun belt and of religious conservatism in American life that we’ve seen in the past 25 years, that that is continuing and even strengthening.”

Alan Schroeder (presidential debate historian at Northeastern University, on CBS)

  • “Kerry was very aggressive in this debate. In some of those two-shots it looked like Kerry was the prosecutor and Bush was the defendant, Bush was better than last time but he seemed rather shrill to me and not terribly articulate.”

David Thomson (film historian on CBS)

  • “The great opportunity that this format gives is movement. A lot of speakers, like to move when talking, preachers, and Bush likes this. Bush gave off a signal right away that this is a format he was more comfortable in. But I think Kerry handled it equally well….I suspect that this is not a debate in which there will be a substantial change one way or another.”
  • “I think by the end of this debate there was a feeling that we’ve heard these guys say the same things too many times. We now know. It’s up to us. If we can’t make up our minds on what we see, then the worse for us.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

  • “Well you saw that definitely in ’92 the first time this format was tried out. I thought this is the third now, well yeah ’96 of course with Clinton and Dole. I thought it was by far the best. A lot of people have doubts about the format, the town hall format; they think it is overly theatrical, in some ways, not that modern politics has become theatre.
  • “I thought there was two questions in particular we would have not heard, perhaps from a panel of reporters; one was on abortion, a very pointedly phrased question on abortion directed to Senator Kerry, and one equally pointed directed to President Bush about the Patriot Act by someone who felt their liberties were being infringed.”
  • “It certainly felt different than last Friday night, the President showed up, was intensely engaged I think he more than held his own. Its interesting: John Edwards maybe the trial lawyer, but John Kerry is the prosecuting attorney, and I thought that he returned to that role over and over again tonight. I thought he was very aggressive, I though he was crisp, in command of his facts. But I also think its interesting I think he said a couple of times “labels don’t mean anything,” that reminds me of Michael Dukakis saying “this an election about competence, not values.” George Bush seemed to be saying labels mean everything, and I think there in a nutshell is perhaps one of the choices, the stark choices that they offer.

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire on PBS)

  • “I actually thought that there was a great deal more spontaneity because of the audience participation as your question suggests, but I also was also very struck at a difference in this town hall debate over previous town hall debates, and that was that the questions from the audience were pitched quite broadly In the past you had people standing up and saying I am a so and so, and I have an issue with X and Y.”
  • “It was really a kind of advancing, you had a collection of special interests especially coming from the citizenry, which is appropriate, people have their concerns and they look to politicians, and particularly the presidents to address those concerns. But this time I thought the questions, the quality of the questions were pitched, they were good quality questions were pitched broadly to national issues and concerns and I thought that was quite effective.”
  • “There’s a kind of solemnity that we are seeing in the debates all three of them now that reflect, in a way I feel it’s appropriate to the seriousness of the issues at hand. Every election year there are serious issues, but I do think that the post 9-11 environment that we are al now living in, the concerns that so many Americans have about security, the war on terror, the ongoing war in Iraq is lending a kind of solemnity to the proceedings that is very obvious, to me anyway.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “I didn’t think the format particularly worked, you know especially compared to earlier town meetings. I think there was a reason for this, because often times it does get into show business in a way that perhaps obscures the difference between the two candidates, but I thought the questioners look a little like props, and also there was none of the engagement you saw in previous debates. Part of that was the rules; there wasn’t much humor, these were not human beings who were really interacting with each other, and the result was that it was a rather an icy evening, a humorless evening for the most of it it recalled to some extent the relationship between George W. Bush and Al Gore four years ago.”
  • “You can have big differences but also have a little bit of humor and a more pleasant atmosphere. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, you can’t think of two candidates with probably more differences ideologically than those two, yet you look back at those two debates in 1984, there was humor when Reagan told a joke Mondale laughed. There was a sense that you know at the end of this evening these were not two men intensely antagonistic to each other. Mondale began his first debate by saying I like President Reagan, I respect the Presidency, I think he knows that. There wasn’t that element tonight, and I think I missed it.”
  • “I sure wish they had ten or eleven of these debates rather than three because when there are three there’s not enough time, because they can be affected by someone making a slip. We did not see that tonight, but often times there can be a moment that has inordinate impact. I would love to see a system where you have ten or eleven of these, not only because you get to discuss issues in greater length, depth, you get more of a sense of who these people are. I think one thing we saw this evening was that they both of these candidates knew there was such an enormous amount at stake, but they were a little bit sort of restrained and constrained that’s why we didn’t have that kind of engagement.”

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How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?



HNN, 10-04-04

How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

The first election in which the Vietnam War played a critical role came in 1964. Thereafter it was a central issue in the elections of 1968, 1972, 1988, 1992, and 2004. (In 1980 and 2000 it briefly became a subject of discussion.) Counting 1980 and 2000, Vietnam has been part of the quadrennial national debate in eight of the last eleven elections. Only the Civil War, of all our conflicts, figured in as many subsequent elections. And at the rate we are going, Vietnam may soon eclipse even the Civil War. (This is not to say that Vietnam had an equal impact on American history. Its impact has obviously been less. But for some reason–which historians must puzzle over–it is having a greater impact as an issue in ensuing campaigns.) These are the elections in which Vietnam has become an issue:


In the 1964 presidential campaign the incumbent, Democratic candidate Lyndon Johnson, repeatedly tried to convince voters that he had no intention of getting the United States involved in the conflict in Vietnam. However, according to historian John Morton Blum, Johnson “was already planning to expand that war.” Johnson maintained his non-intervention position on Vietnam even after August 2, 1964, when North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched a supposedly unprovoked and unequivocal attack against the U.S. destroyer Maddox, which was on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. When the ship was supposedly attacked two days later in the same vicinity, Johnson that evening announced that the U.S. would begin retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. Johnson subsequently asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which “supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”

As Daniel Ellsberg has recalled, LBJ misled the country in several ways. The attack was not unprovoked; the U.S. had recently shelled several of North Vietnam’s islands in an operation run by the United States, code named 34A. Nor was the attack unequivocal; there was no second attack–the ship’s radar had picked up false readings of torpedoes that had never been fired. Finally, the Maddox and a sister vessel, the Turner Joy, were operating in an area long claimed by North Vietnam. The ships were on a secret mission, code named DeSoto, designed to elicit intelligence about the North’s activities.

Unlike Johnson, the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater publicly argued in favor of intervention. He was deemed by many — including many Republicans — an extremist. Goldwater believed that whatever force was needed to defeat the communists in Vietnam should be used, including nuclear bombs. In response to this the Johnson campaign released a controversial television ad which portrayed a little girl picking and counting petals from a daisy in a field, which then dissolves into a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud. This ad, referred to as the “Daisy Girl,” was intended to highlight Goldwater’s alleged recklessness. In the end voters chose to elect President Johnson in a landslide victory. The following year LBJ began a massive build-up in Vietnam.

  • “Some are eager to enlarge the conflict. They call upon us to supply American boys to do the job that Asian boys should do. They ask us to take reckless action [such as bombing North Vietnam]….Such action would offer no solution at all to the real problems of Viet Nam.”Lyndon Johnson, October 1964
  • “use low yield nuclear bombs, if necessary, to fight communists in Vietnam and elsewhere”Barry Goldwater, 1964


In 1968, the presidential campaign’s main issue was the ongoing war in Vietnam. “Hawks” remained supportive of the Johnson Administration’s policy in Vietnam, but “doves” opposed the war, and college students by the thousands protested American involvement. With this in mind in October 1967, Eugene McCarthy decided to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination, running as an anti-war candidate. McCarthy, with the help of college students, won 42 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Shortly afterward Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy on a peace plank. Johnson, faced with declining poll ratings, decided to drop out of the race on March 31st. On June 6th, Kennedy won the California primary, but was assassinated. Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Presidential candidate amidst intense anti-war rioting in August at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The Republican candidate was former Vice President Richard Nixon. He spoke about his plans concerning the Vietnam War in generalities but promised to end it with honor. Humphrey, closely associated with Johnson’s Vietnam policy, was heckled wherever he went. After initial hesitating to break with the administration, Humphrey decided to assert his independence from Johnson, proclaiming his support for a bombing halt even without a goodwill gesture from the North Vietnamese (LBJ favored a gesture of goodwill prior to a halt). Humphrey gained momentum as he began to draw support from liberal Democrats and anti-war protesters. By October, as negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam took place, Humphrey came to wear the mantle of the peace candidate. Even Eugene McCarthy supported him. Nixon, however, believed that the prospect of peace was a campaign ploy. Despite the possibility of peace and Johnson’s decision to order a halt in the bombing, Humphrey lost to Nixon in a very close race.

  • “And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there — we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”Richard Nixon, Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention, August 8, 1968
  • “Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.”Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, August 29, 1968
  • “As president, I would stop the bombing of the North as an acceptable risk for peace because I believe it could lead to success in the negotiations and thereby shorten the war.”Hubert Humphrey, September 30, 1968
  • “In the last thirty-six hours, I have been advised of a flurry of meetings in the White House and elsewhere on Vietnam, I am told that the top officials in the administration have been driving hard for an agreement on a bombing halt, accompanied possibly by a cease-fire in the immediate future. I since learned that these reports are true. I am also told that this spurt of activity is a cynical last-minute attempt by President Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey. This I do not believe.”Richard Nixon, October 25, 1972


In 1972 American involvement in the Vietnam War still remained an important campaign issue. President Richard Nixon was running for re-election and hoped that he could present himself as a peace candidate and focus on his foreign policy achievements. Although he had not ended the war in Vietnam, he had been able to bring tens of thousands of American troops home. Through the process of “Vietnamization,” Nixon was gradually transferring the burden of the war to the South Vietnamese. However, he still heavily supplied the Vietnamese with military equipment, and authorized punishing bombing runs. An invasion of Cambodia had risked expanding the war.

The Democratic candidate was George McGovern, a South Dakota senator who was considered the spokesman for the anti-war movement. McGovern, a World War II bomber pilot, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam since 1963. The Democratic Party’s 1972 platform called for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam. The party also supported amnesty for draft resisters, as well as an offer of amnesty to deserters on a case by case basis. This would occur after all American troops and POWs returned home.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign Nixon suspended bombing in Vietnam, and negotiations began with the National Liberation Front. Just before the election Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that “peace was at hand.” Kissinger’s announcement helped propel Nixon to a landslide victory.

  • “We must have the courage to admit that however sincere our motives, we made a dreadful mistake in trying to settle the affairs of the Vietnamese people with American troops and bombers. . . . There is now no way to end it and to free our prisoners except to announce a definite, early date for the withdrawal of every American soldier. I make that pledge without reservation.”George McGovern, announcement of candidacy for the Presidency, 1972
  • “We believe that war is a waste of human life. We are determined to end forthwith a war which has cost 50,000 American lives, $150 billion of our resources, that has divided us from each other, drained our national will and inflicted incalculable damage to countless people. We will end that war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia.”1972 Democratic Party Platform
  • “We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, It is inevitable that in a war of such complexity that there should be occasional difficulties in reaching a final solution.”Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, October 1972


In the 1980 presidential campaign Republican candidate Ronald Reagan told the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that the Vietnam War was a “noble cause.” In 1980 the war was still an open wound and his comment became fodder for incumbent Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter. A desperate Carter, playing on Vietnam fears, claimed that Reagan would likely involve the United States in war. But Reagan was able to score a victory in November, helping sweep into power a Republican Senate, for the first time in decades.

  • “It’s time that we recognized that ours was in truth a noble cause.”Ronald Reagan, August, 1980


Accusations of draft evasion dogged vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle in the 1988 campaign. Quayle, an obscure senator from Indiana, had been virtually unknown to the nation when George H.W. Bush picked him as his running mate at the Republican convention. Wendell C. Phillippi immediately came forward to claim that he had helped Quayle get into to the National Guard to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Phillippi was a former senior editor at the Indianapolis News, which was owned by Quayle’s family, and also a major general in the Indiana National Guard.

Phillippi also claimed that there was nothing unusual in his intervention on Quayle’s behalf, as he had acted similarly for others as well. The revelation however cost Quayle, who had always assumed a pro-military posture, dearly. Despite calls to drop Quayle, Bush stuck to his decision and kept the senator on the ticket. The Bush/Quayle ticket won the election in November against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

  • “Exactly 20 years ago, who I said, ‘I’d like to get into the National Guard,’ phone calls were made, I can’t answer the – I don’t know the specifics of that. The only thing I know is I did want to get into the National Guard. I’m very proud of my service in the National Guard.”Senator Dan Quayle, 1988
  • “I got into the Guard fairly. There were no rules broken, to my knowledge… I, like many, many other Americans, had particular problems about the way the war was being fought. But yes, I supported my president and I supported the goal of fighting communism in Vietnam. “Vice President Dan Quayle 1992


Once again in the 1992 presidential campaign, the question of a candidate dodging the draft for the Vietnam War became an issue. Quayle’s service in the National Guard once again made headlines. So too did charges that Democrat Bill Clinton dodged the draft for the Vietnam War. The Republicans claimed that in order to get a draft deferment, Clinton had pledged that he would enter the University of Arkansas Law School and join the R.O.T.C after attending Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. Instead, he chose to be reclassified I-A, which would have sent him to war. After the draft lottery was instituted in November 1969, he drew too high a number to be drafted. Instead of going to Vietnam, Clinton attended Yale Law School.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary a letter Clinton wrote in 1969 to the R.O.T.C chief at the University of Arkansas surfaced. In the letter Clinton expressed his thanks for getting him out of the draft. Despite the controversy–and accusations that he had had affairs with women–Clinton, the “Comeback Kid,” came in second in New Hampshire. In November he won a three-way election against incumbent Republican, George Bush and independent Ross Perot.

  • “I was in the draft before the lottery came in. I gave up the deferment. I got a high lottery number and I wasn’t called. That’s what the record reflects. A Republican member of my draft board has given an affidavit in the last couple of days saying that I got no special treatment and nothing in the letter changes that, although it is a true reflection of a just-turned-twenty-three-year-old young man.Bill Clinton, 1992
  • “I want to thank you, for saving me from the draft…I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress.”Bill Clinton to R.O.T.C commander Col. Eugene Holmes on December 3, 1969
  • “The Vietnam War is not an issue in 1992 and should not be”Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Senator and Democratic Candidate, in 1992
  • “To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time.”John Kerry, on the Senate floor, February 27, 1992


Vietnam played a minor role in the election, but questions about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War damaged the Republican’s credibility. Records indicated that he had possibly skipped duty during 1972 when he left Texas to work on a Republican senatorial candidate’s campaign in Alabama. Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, had served in a non-combat position in Vietnam and escaped criticism on this score at least.


With the war in Iraq continuing, the Vietnam War again became a focus of the presidential campaign. John Kerry was attacked for allegedly “medal-shopping” while in Vietnam and for opposing the war after he returned home. The so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth assailed Kerry’s patriotism. For several weeks the newspapers were filled with stories about Vietnam. Democrats, reeling from the attacks, slowly responded by attacking George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. A Texas Democrat claimed he had helped Bush jump other candidates to get into the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. CBS claimed documents showed that Bush had directly disobeyed an order to take a physical. CBS later apologized, saying the documents may not be authentic.

  • “I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.”John Kerry, comments released ahead of a midnight speech in Springfield, Ohio, September 2, 2004
  • “Character counts. Especially in the president of the United States, character counts. And we want a president that will be truthful and honest and level with the American people. If the president will lie about this, will he lie about how we got into Iraq, for example?”Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, 2004
  • “Nineteen individuals have served both in the National Guard and as president of the United States, and I am proud to be one of them.”George W. Bush, September 14, 2004

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Campaign 2004: The First Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights



HNN, 10-01-04

The First Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

The Instant Polls

CBS: Kerry the winner by 44-26 percent.
ABC: Kerry the winner by 45-36 percent.
CNN/Gallup: Kerry the winner by 53-37 percent.

Candidate Soundbites

John F. Kerry

  • “This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the president of the United States of America.”
  • “Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?”
  • “This president, I don’t know if he really sees what’s happening over there.”

George W. Bush

  • “He voted to authorize the use of force and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time. . . . I don’t think you can lead if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send to our troops?”
  • “The only thing consistent about my opponent’s position is he’s been inconsistent.”

Historians’ Comments

Arthur Schlesinger Jr

  • “Foreign policy has always been on the margin,” but this time “it haunts the conscience of the American people — 9/11 and the question whether the war in Iraq is worth the cost.”

Henry Graff (Columbia University presidential historian)

  • “[Kerry] is going to have to tell us why he voted yes and no.” On Kerry’s changed position concerning the war in Iraq.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson (director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania)

  • “I see a clash, a rhetorical clash between a person whose strength was rhetorically as a governor and a person whose strength is as a senator — a businessman versus a lawyer.”

Stephen Hess (presidential historian and a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Brookings Institution, commenting on CBS)

  • “There may be some gain on the part of people who were not as familiar or aware particularly of Kerry who now get a sense of his seriousness and articulateness.”
  • “I think it was a reaffirming experience for listeners. People who went in intending to vote for Kerry will have thought that he did well, and the same will be true of those who were the Bush supporters. But if the status quo is maintained, that is actually good for the president, since he went into last night up in the polls.”
  • “The president had been so incredibly skillful up to this point in trying to make the campaign a referendum on the challenger, so to that degree Kerry righted the situation somewhat. So that was undoubtedly helpful. But still, I must say, I would be surprised if there were any major changes in the polls based on this.”
  • “My impression is that very few Americans are going to change their vote. They made their positions clear. They in a sense cancelled each other out.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

  • “This was a debate about large issues. You heard George Bush, the nationalist debating John Kerry, the globalist and I thought Kerry did, his initials are not JFK for nothing. He was [chair] with John F. Kennedy in 1960 ‘we can do better.'”
  • “I thought Bush took an almost Reaganesque approach when he was repeatedly coming back to his few basic defining differences between these two candidates.”
  • “Style does trump substance as history does teach that. I thought Kerry was the smartest kid in the class and I thought that the president was a slightly world weary teacher occasionally brushing him off.”
  • “No, and I’ll say that’s a good thing. We are always griping about the fact that soundbites have crowded out substance. I don’t think there are many sound bites from tonight, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire on PBS)

  • “I think it was a far more substantive debate that we have seen in American Political History in many, many, many a year, and I think it is extremely important to remember that the last time the United States was in a massive and extensive effort in nation building and the context of war with an ongoing insurgency was in Vietnam. The period of 1964 to 1972 when that war waged there were no presidential debates, that was a coincidence but we never had the opportunity to see this stark contrast drawn. The American people have been given that opportunity tonight.”
  • “It is extremely difficult in this instance when you have John Kerry saying this war was a mistake, but he is not saying, therefore he will withdraw. He is saying it is a mistake that now needs to be fixed. There he can’t draw as sharp a distinction with this president.”
  • “I thought that Kerry had close to a zinger when he said I may make a mistake in my words but you made a mistake in intervening in this war.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “I don’t think the debate was that decisive, I don’t think it was a debate that will change many minds, cause people to say gee I see all sorts of things in George Bush and John Kerry that I didn’t see before.”
  • “The one thing I really think it did was this, these debates really drew a contrast between temperaments that is at times what a debate does well, and I often time felt as if I was sort of watching Adlai Stevenson debate John Wayne.”
  • “And you also had two guys each trying to knock the other out. Kerry saying that any President that has made all these mistakes doesn’t deserve another term, and George Bush saying don’t you know John, you can’t be a president, you can’t be a commander in chief if you keep on changing your mind and changing your core convictions.”
  • “And it wasn’t very much show business, and I think it was wonderful because I think that tends to usually overwhelm everything that you hear. I think this was a debate that you can hear for 90 minutes and be proud to be an American.”

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The Face-Off: Bob Bateman Vs. the Associated Press



HNN, 9-09-04

The Face-Off: Bob Bateman Vs. the Associated Press

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

On Saturday, August 28, 2004, C-Span 2 Book TV presented a “Debate Over No Gun Ri” with AP Journalist Charles Hanley and historian Robert Bateman. Charles Hanley is the co-author of The Bridge at No Gun Ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War, and Robert L. Bateman is the author of No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident. The debate was moderated by freelance broadcast journalist, John Callaway, and held at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago on July 20, 2004. In 1999, the Associated Press won the Pulitzer Prize for their investigative report on the massacre at No Gun Ri, which occurred in July 1950, the first year of the Korean War. Critics then charged that the AP journalists’ evidence was weak. One of those who doubted the AP account was historian Robert Bateman, who then published his own historically researched book on the topic.

The ensuing controversy should have resulted in a bitter debate between Hanley and Bateman, but their debate was rather tame in comparison to the moderator’s attacks on Bateman. Callaway showed a very noticeable bias against Bateman that was visible in the tone of his voice as well as the type of questions he asked Bateman. Callaway’s questions to Bateman resembled more a man on trial for the crimes at No Gun Ri rather than a debate about them. The attacks seem to focus on the fact that Bateman was using historical methods and documents in writing his book on No Gun Ri, and did not use journalistic methods, such as having gone to South Korea and interviewed the people involved as Hanley and the other AP journalists did to write their book.

There were distinct moments within the debate that Callaway seemed to try to corner Bateman. This was the case when Callaway asked Bateman why he did not go to South Korea, and when Bateman responded that it was because he did not have the funds that the AP journalists had in when they wrote their story. Callaway’s remark was on the verge of badgering Bateman, when he questioned Bateman’s motivation for writing a book which he did not have the resources to research fully. Later, Callaway read a passage taken from Bateman’s book which mentioned a story from Life Magazine, dated August 20, 1950. Callaway then accused Bateman that he believed every other story written on No Gun Ri, including the Life Magazine one, with the exception of the AP story.

Callaway seemed to show his preference for journalists, which gave the viewer the impression that this is because he himself is one. This preference gave Hanley a distinct advantage in the debate, and made Hanley and the Associate Press journalists appear as the victims of Bateman’s continued attacks against their credibility. Callaway said that he was “playing devil’s advocate,” but he was far more critical of Bateman than Hanley. In comparison Callaway showed a calmer demeanor when asking Hanley questions, and the questions were far less accusatory than those Callaway posed to Bateman.

Bateman and Hanley seemed to be quite civil to each other considering the ongoing heated debate in the media. There were only mild jabs at each other’s methodology and sources used when they wrote the No Gun Ri story. The only major insults that went back and forth were Bateman’s accusation that Hanley could not understand the military having never been in it, as well as the lack of documentary evidence in Hanley’s No Gun Ri account. Hanley’s accusation was that Bateman could not truly understand what happened at No Gun Ri because he never went to South Korea to investigate it. The debate rehashed many of the issues the two authors have already fought in print about. The debate ended in a stalemate, neither side giving an inch–very much like the Korean War itself..

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Michael Beschloss & Richard Norton Smith: Their Commentary on the Republican Convention



HNN, 9-06-04

Michael Beschloss & Richard Norton Smith: Their Commentary on the Republican Convention

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

As part of PBS’s coverage of the Republican National Convention in New York last week, historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith provided historical perspective. The first day of the convention the discussion focused on war presidents, the second on party perspectives, the third on the effect of outside events on the course of the election, and the fourth on acceptance speeches. The following is a summary of their commentaries.

Day One: War Presidents

The discussion on the first day of the convention focused on war presidents, the advantages and disadvantages of being a war president. In their discussion on Abraham Lincoln’s re-election effort in 1864, Beschloss commented on Lincoln’s fear that he would lose the election because of the lack of decisive victories, but argued that “people were larger-minded enough to see he was doing it the right way.” Smith noted that the Republican Party this year is not attempting to broaden its appeal in the same dramatic ways the party undertook in 1864, when Lincoln insisted on running with a Southern Democrat.

Smith saw parallels between Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election and George W. Bush’s. Smith pointed out the various strategies that Nixon employed to change the subject from Vietnam. He brought hundreds of thousands of troops home, “casting himself as a peacemaker.” He opened up U.S. Soviet relations and U.S.
China relations. He proposed “ending the draft, which of course had been at the heart of much of the intense opposition to the war.”

Beschloss noted that Nixon had additionally distracted the public from the war by having his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, claim that “we believe that peace is at hand.” Beschloss said that this was “cheap politics that presidents should not follow.”

Another parallel the historians discussed was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s re-election campaign in 1944. Beschloss argued that the parallels were suggestive. Despite tangible successes in the war, Roosevelt was being scrutinized as officials probed the reason the nation had been caught sleeping when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Thomas Dewey in a speech “suggested that Roosevelt was in some way responsible for Pearl Harbor,” which Beschloss pointed out put Roosevelt in a “very risky situation.”

In commenting on the Vietnam War and the 1968 campaign Beschloss claimed that “Nixon was pretending that he was likelier than [Hubert] Humphrey to pull troops out of Vietnam if he was elected. A lot of peaceniks voted for Nixon, bizarrely enough, and Humphrey who would have really done that, was scared into suggesting in public that he followed Johnson on the war because Johnson called him up and said, ‘Hubert, you oppose me on Vietnam, I’m going to dry up every Democratic dollar from Maine to Hawaii.’ Humphrey was already broke, he couldn’t do it.”

Day 2: Party Perspectives

On the second day of the convention California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Laura Bush spoke. Both historians observed that Governor Schwarzenegger’s views on social issues do not resemble the positions of that other famous Republican actor turned governor of California, Ronald Reagan.
Beschloss said Schwarzenegger’s liberal social views most clearly reminded him of California Governor Earl Warren. Schwarzenegger, according to Smith, is “post ideological” and “transcend[s] party labels in a lot of ways.” But the governor also resembles Reagan in the way he can get away with such comments as “girley men.”

Beschloss argued that that there may be a future for Schwarzenegger in presidential politics “if the Constitution is amended some day and if the Republican Party does feel it wants to move back to the center.” They thought he might be particularly helpful winning the immigrant vote. Schwarzenegger is sponsored by Pete Wilson, who supported propositions in the 1990s that were considered hostile to immigrants. Smith said Schwarzenegger, an immigrant himself, could change the perception that party is anti-immigrant.

Also discussed was the issue of first ladies as a political asset in a campaign. Smith mentioned that after Betty Ford’s explosive “60 Minutes” interview, conservatives were concerned that she might cost Ford the presidency. But she may indeed have helped improve Ford’s support among women; “by 1976 there were buttons all over the country that read Betty’s husband for president.” In regard to the present first lady Beschloss commented that “Laura Bush speaks rarely on politics, so when she speaks people listen.” Some of her views differ with the president’s and may be more liberal, helping Bush win over centrists. Smith agreed that “a lot of people find it reassuring to think that someone that close to the president, maybe shares some of the concerns.” Lady Bird Johnson according to Smith also “managed to straddle the divide between a traditionalist and activist.”

Day 3: The Importance of Outside Events on the Course of the Election

On the third night the discussion focused on events outside the candidates’ control that can affect the election, including the possibility of an October Surprise.
According to Smith, Johnson’s 1964 campaign worried about Walter Jenkins, “who was a very close aide to President Johnson, [who] was arrested in a YMCA in Washington under compromising circumstances.” When news leaked out about the arrest the Goldwater conservatives believed they could make a strong case that the country faced moral decay under LBJ. But foreign issues quickly wiped the Jenkins story off the front pages. China, noted Smith, “successfully tested their first nuclear device; and in Moscow the politburo overthrew Nikita Khrushchev.” Beschloss added that the World Series and a change in government in London also helped Johnson.

Beschloss argued that for events like these to influence an election the contest has to be close “in those last weeks in October; and it also has to be an event that’s really at the center of the campaign.” Such was the case in 1968 when on October 31 Johnson halted bombing in the Vietnam with peace a possibility, “so for a couple of days, Humphrey zoomed in the polls, and then the South Vietnamese government said they would not negotiate, and Humphrey plunged,” and he lost the election. Beschloss said it was not clear if a terrorist attack on the United States in October would help or hurt President Bush.

Smith pointed out that events helped Lincoln in 1864. By August Lincoln did not believe he could win. However, when the Democratic Convention met and “they adopted a peace platform, calling for a negotiated end to the war and repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation, that shocked millions of voters. And then, two days after that convention, General Sherman took Atlanta.” Winning the war was possible and Lincoln’s “victory became almost a forgone conclusion.”

Beschloss observed that in 1992 Lawrence Walsh indicted members of the Bush administration in connection with the Iran-contra scandal, and suggested George H.W. Bush was more involved than originally believed. “Bush the elder had been getting traction on the issue of honesty and integrity against Bill Clinton. At that moment his polls began to go down, and there was not much chance that he would win.” In 2000 Bush’s son’s integrity was also cast in doubt at the last moment when it was revealed that he had been arrested for drunk driving in the mid-1970s.

Another case of a revelation in the last week prior to an election that hurt the candidate’s chance for winning according to Smith came in 1976, during the Ford-Carter race. By the last weekend of the campaign Ford had managed to turn a thirty-three point deficit in the polls into a one-point lead. Ford claimed there was an economic recovery, but when unemployment statistics came out that suggested otherwise, this “caused second thoughts in enough voters so that at the very last minute they moved back and Jimmy Carter narrowly won.”

Beschloss discussed the origin of the term October Surprise. He traced it back to the 1980 campaign and the Iran hostage crisis. “The Reagan people were worried that Jimmy Carter would commit some kind of October surprise, meaning something that would suddenly cause the hostages to be released and Carter to win the election against Ronald Reagan.” There was also suspicion that vice presidential candidate George Bush “flew to Paris in an SR-1 spy plane to have a secret meeting with some French people and some Iranians to try to foil this.”

Day 4: Acceptance Speeches

In anticipation of the President’s acceptance speech the discussion focused on “what makes a great re-nominating acceptance speech, or one a president or his campaign may come to regret.” In the last century the acceptance speech that has perhaps made the most lasting impression was Roosevelt’s in 1936, though Smith added that “that year FDR could have read the phone book and he would have carried every state but Maine and Vermont.” According to Smith “the incumbent has one advantage–they always go second. And the other advantage is, they’re an incumbent. Truman was able to use this advantage as to not run against “Tom Dewey, his nominal opponent, he ran against the so-called do-nothing 80th Congress. He said he was going to call them into session on what they called Turnip Day back in Missouri. He put the ball in their court knowing Congress would not adopt the liberal platform and then driving a wedge right down the middle between Dewey and his allies.”

Beschloss noted that Clinton’s 1996 speech, which “was 66 minutes, [was] one of the most boring speeches I have ever heard.” It was “this laundry list of proposals like cleaning up toxic waste dumps, it wasn’t very interesting.” But the purpose of the speech was to get the voters who would watch the speech for a couple of minutes to tune in, and hear a few proposals that would prompt them to vote for Clinton, and “the speech worked in that sense.” On the other hand Smith pointed out that Bush the elder failed to do the job in 1992. He had given his speech at a negative kind of convention, where “the economy was in the doldrums” and because of his foreign policy strengths he appeared disengaged on domestic policy. Smith commented that “he got up there and he had a speech that frankly was a bit of a mishmash, not very thematically coherent.”

Beschloss said that in Nixon’s speech in 1972 “the language was not memorable, but what he was conveying was with the I’m the guy who made the opening to China, who was doing diplomacy with Russia, on the verge of ending the Vietnam War. If you all want to throw that away, fine with me but I don’t think you should.” Smith brought up FDR’s speech in 1944. “FDR gave a war speech. He didn’t speak at the convention hall. It was announced he was speaking from an undisclosed location. A military installation on the West Coast.” In Beschloss’s opinion, “the one thing is that if a wartime president makes himself seem indispensable he can get Americans to vote for him even if they may not like his domestic policies.”


In his reaction to President Bush’s acceptance speech, Smith said it was “sort of a state of the union address, plus an inaugural address, it had a lot of policy but it was also very personal.” Bush’s speech focused on policy primarily, and was a “Reaganesque speech in the optimism, in looking to the future.” Smith “thought it was a very powerful speech. We won’t know for two months whether it worked or not, but it certainly worked tonight.”

Beschloss said it helped establish Bush’s position on issues: “there’s no chance that he’s going to be accused of having failed to present an agenda for the second term, a very long list of domestic proposals.” As for foreign policy, what Bush’s speech communicated was that “We’re staying on the offensive, striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.” The tone reminded Beschloss of offensive military policy harking back to the Cold War era Republican campaigns from 1972 to 1988, when the Republicans would stress that their party was tougher on communism and more trustworthy on defense than the Democrats. “We are in a war, a fight for our lives; I, George W. Bush, I’m the one who can keep you safe, John Kerry can’t for all sorts of reasons. And if people believe that they are likely to forgive a lot of things they don’t like about George Bush, even domestically. If people see it that way he’s going to win the election.”

Smith said that “much of that week you had a feeling that there was an attempt to blur” the differences with the Democrats by trotting out moderates. But Bush’s speech was “actually very ambitious, an attempt to recast the Republican Party and conservatism generally, almost along Thatcherite lines. You know, I think of Margaret Thatcher when you hear about the ‘ownership society.’ That’s more than a slogan, potentially. That’s a fairly radical redefinition of conservatism.”

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