History Buzz January 17, 2013: JFK White House staffers reunite

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JFK White House staffers reunite

Source: Boston.com, 1-17-13

Some arrived in the afternoon drizzle with the aid of canes. Others steadied themselves on the arm of a spouse. But they were as determined as half a century ago when they were the foot soldiers of President John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier.

A handful of surviving members of the 35th president’s White House staff came together Wednesday to relive those heady times that have long since passed for American myth. They were invited for a private tour of the exhibit, “To The Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” on display at the National Archives….READ MORE

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History Buzz January 17, 2013: Inauguration 2013: The stormy history of Inauguration Day weather

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The stormy history of Inauguration Day weather

Source: USA Today, 1-17-13

Temperatures in the 30s are likely for President Obama’s inauguration.

inauguration 00003
William Howard Taft, center, watches the parade after his inauguration as the 27th president March 4, 1909.(Photo: AP)

Story Highlights

  • In 1985, the coldest Inauguration Day in history forced President Reagan’s ceremony inside
  • President William Harrison died a month after an outdoor Inauguration Day in miserable weather in 1841
  • Heavy snow fell for President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961

So what does the weather have in store for President Obama’s second inauguration Monday, which will occur at noon on the steps of the U.S. Capitol? Most likely, chilly, windy conditions, thanks to a cold front barreling through the eastern U.S. that should put an end to the relatively mild weekend weather….READ MORE

Here are the records for inaugural weather since 1937, the first January Inauguration Day, according to the National Weather Service:

  • Warmest: 1981. President Reagan’s first inauguration. Noon temperature: 55 degrees.
  • Coldest: 1985: Reagan’s second inauguration. Noon temperature: 7 degrees. The inauguration was moved indoors.
  • Rainiest: 1937. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, when 1.77 inches of rain fell.
  • Snowiest: 1961. Eight inches of snow fell the night before John F. Kennedy was sworn in.
  • Warmest non-traditional date: (Aug. 9, 1974) – Gerald Ford; 89 degrees, with partly cloudy skies and hazy conditions.

History Buzz January 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address: Can Obama Speak to History?

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Can Obama Speak to History?

Source: New Yorker, 1-17-13

packer-comment-inaugurals.jpgWhy are so few inaugural addresses memorable? This American-history junkie can immediately call to mind phrases from fewer than ten: Jefferson’s first (“We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists”); Lincoln’s first (“When again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature”) and second (the entire speech glows transcendently); F.D.R.’s first (“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”) and second (“I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished”); Kennedy’s (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”); and Reagan’s first (“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”). I also remember George W. Bush’s second inaugural (“When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you”), only because it made promises and claims that exploded in his face before he had left the podium.

I also remember five words from Obama’s first: “A new era of responsibility.” If his 2009 inaugural had a theme, that was it. And it was a good theme, coming at the depths of the recession, amid the ruins of an era of profligacy and “I want it now.” But I doubt that its signature phrase will enter the ages. Obama isn’t a phrasemaker….READ MORE

History Buzz January 17, 2013: Michael Kazin: A Short History of Meaningless Inauguration Speeches

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A Short History of Meaningless Inauguration Speeches

Source: TNR, 1-17-13 

Here’s a bit of advice when considering Barack Obama second inaugural address on January 21: Don’t take anything he says very seriously.

For all the hype they receive, inaugural addresses rarely foretell what a president will accomplish in office. In fact, the men who utter grand principles and make big promises every four years often contradict them, willingly or not, soon after they begin their terms. Take a few of the more celebrated quotations:

We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” — Thomas Jefferson

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” — Abraham Lincoln

First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy

READ MORE

History Buzz January 16, 2013: Martha Joynt Kumar: Historian Says President Barack Obama Held Less Press Conferences in First Term than Most of Previous Presidents

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Press Conferences Not Obama’s Cup of Tea

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to presidential scholar Martha Joynt Kumar, Obama has given 79 pressers during his first term in office.  Obama said that his press conference on Jan. 14 was the last one he’ll do until after his second inauguration on Monday.

How does the president stack up against the three previous commanders in chief?  He certainly wasn’t as anxious to meet the press in Term One as George W. Bush, who appeared 89 times, Bill Clinton, who held 133 pressers and the all-time winner, George H.W. Bush, with 142 press conferences….READ MORE

History Buzz January 18, 2013: President Barack Obama gets a second chance at Inaugural address for the ages

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Obama gets a second chance at speech for the ages

Source: AP, 1-15-13

Sixteen presidents before Barack Obama got a second chance at giving an inaugural address for the ages. Most didn’t make much of it….

Indeed, expectations for inaugural eloquence are low these days, giving Obama some breathing room as he prepares for Monday.

“Most inaugural addresses are just pedestrian,” said Martin J. Medhurst, a professor of politics and rhetoric at Baylor University. Their function is ceremonial; they lack emotion and urgency.

After reading all 56 inaugural addresses to date, presidential historian Charles O. Jones found: “A lot of them, frankly, are highly forgettable.”

And second inaugurals? Even worse.

“Reality has set in,” Medhurst said. “You don’t have these grand visions for change you had when you were first coming into office.”…READ MORE

History Buzz January 14, 2013: Douglas Brinkley Hails ‘Warm and Engaging’ President Barack Obama

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Douglas Brinkley Hails ‘Warm and Engaging’ Obama

Source: Newsbusters.org, 1-14-13

After President Obama’s Monday press conference, liberal historian Douglas Brinkley fawned over him on CNN as a “warm and engaging man,” pitted against Republicans who “don’t want to be in a photo-op with him.”

“I don’t think we can blame the President for his style. I think it’s just another part of this terrible political gridlock we have. President Obama is a warm and engaging man,” Brinkley complimented the President. [Video below the break. Audio here.]

Brinkley laughably added that “he [Obama] is plenty friendly to everybody he meets, including reporters.” Did he miss the President’s testy exchange with Major Garrett of CBS News, where Obama lectured Garrett that “This is the United States of America, Major”? Perhaps Obama is “friendly” only to the reporters who don’t ask him tough questions….READ MORE

History Buzz December 5, 2012: Washington Post’s List of Best Presidential Biographies

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The Fix’s list of best presidential biographies

Source: WaPo, 12-5-12

* George Washington: Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow; His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph J. Ellis.

* John Adams: John Adams, by David McCullough; Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, by Joseph J. Ellis.

* Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson and His Time, by Dumas Malone; American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, by Joseph J. Ellis; Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham.

* James Madison: James Madison: A Biography, by Ralph Ketchem.

* James Monroe: The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness, by Harlow Giles Unger.

* John Quincy Adams: John Quincy Adams (The American Presidents Series), by Robert V. Remini.

* Andrew Jackson: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham; The Life of Andrew Jackson, by Robert V. Remini.

* Martin Van Buren: Martin Van Buren (The American Presidents Series), by Ted Widmer; Martin Van Buren : The Romantic Age of American Politics, by John Niven.

* William Henry Harrison: William Henry Harrison (The American Presidents Series) by Gail Collins; Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Times, by Freeman Cleaves.

* John Tyler: John Tyler (The American Presidents Series), by Gary May; John Tyler: Champion of the Old South, by Oliver P. Chitwood.

* James K. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, by Walter R. Borneman.

* Zachary Taylor: Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest, by K. Jack Bauer.

* Millard Fillmore: Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President, by Robert J. Rayback

* Franklin Pierce: Franklin Pierce (The American Presidents Series), by Michael Holt.

* James Buchanan: President James Buchanan: A Biography, by Philip S. Klein.

* Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald; Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin; With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen B. Oates; Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years, by Carl Sandburg; Abraham Lincoln, by Lord Charnwood.

* Andrew Johnson: Andrew Johnson (The American Presidents Series), by Annette Gordon-Reed.

* Ulysses S. Grant: Grant, by Jean Edward Smith; Grant: A Biography, by William S. McFeeley.

* Rutherford B. Hayes: Rutherford B. Hayes, by Hans Trefousse (The American Presidents Series); Rutherford B. Hayes, and his America, by Harry Barnard.

* James Garfield: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard.

*Chester Arthur: Chester Alan Arthur (The American Presidents Series), by Zachary Karabell; Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, by Thomas C. Reeves.

* Grover Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th president): Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character, by Alyn Brodsky; Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series), by Henry F. Graff.

* Benjamin Harrison: Benjamin Harrison (The American Presidents Series), by Charles W. Calhoun; Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier statesman, by Harry Joseph Sievers.

* William McKinley: Presidency of William McKinley, by Lewis. L. Gould.

* Theodore Roosevelt: Edmund Morris’s Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy; Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, by David McCullough.

* William Howard Taft: The Life & Times of William Howard Taft, by Harry F. Pringle.

* Woodrow Wilson: Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, by John Milton Cooper Jr.

* Warren G. Harding: The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times, by Francis Russell; Warren G. Harding (The American Presidents Series), by John W. Dean.

* Calvin Coolidge: Coolidge, An American Enigma, by Robert Sobel.

* Herbert Hoover: Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents Series), by William E. Leuchtenburg.

*Franklin Roosevelt: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, by Conrad Black; No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

*Harry S. Truman: Truman, by David McCullough; Harry S. Truman (The American Presidents Series), by Robert Dallek.

*Dwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower: Soldier and President, by Stephen E. Ambrose; Eisenhower in War and Peace, by Jean Edward Smith.

*John F. Kennedy: A Thousand Days, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; An Unfinished Life, by Robert Dallek.

*Lyndon B. Johnson: Robert Caro‘s multi-volume set; Robert Dallek‘s two-volume set.

*Richard Nixon: The three-volume set by Steven Ambrose; Nixonland, by Richard Perlstein.

*Gerald Ford: Gerald R. Ford (The American Presidents Series) by Douglas Brinkley.

*Jimmy Carter:  Jimmy Carter, by Julian E. Zelizer (The American Presidents Series).

*Ronald Reagan: President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon; My Father at 100, by Ron Reagan, Jr.

*George H.W. Bush: George H.W. Bush (The American Presidents Series), by Timothy Naftali.

*Bill Clinton: First in His Class, by David Maraniss; The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House, by John F. Harris.

*George W. Bush: Decision Points (Bush’s memoir); Peter Baker’s forthcoming Bush book.

*Barack Obama: Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss; The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, by David Remnick.

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day Quiz: How well do you know our chief executives?

 

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

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Presidents’ Day: How well do you know our chief executives?

Source: LAT, Chicago Tribune, 2-20-12

At the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994, from left: Then-President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton; former presidents and first ladies George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan,  Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Gerald and Betty Ford.

At the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994, from left: Then-President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton; former presidents and first ladies George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and Gerald and Betty Ford. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Happy Presidents’ Day. This holiday, which dates to 1971, originally was meant to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) but it’s also meant to honor all presidents. In the spirit, we offer you this quiz. How well do you know our chief executives? You’ll learn lots from visiting the 13 presidential libraries. Forty-four presidents have been installed in office, but there are only 43 people who have been president. Why? Take the quiz below and find out:

1. Barack Obama was the first sitting senator to win election to the presidency since what man?

2. Who was the first president to be impeached?

3. To what party did John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, belong?  Extra credit: Who was his father and when was he president?

4. Name another father-son presidential pair.

5. Who were the vice presidents of that father-son presidential pair in Question 4?

6. Who was the first president to die in office?

7. Who was the last president born under British rule?8. Whose grandson became president of the United States four dozen years after he was president?

9. What president was born in Iowa but orphaned at age 9 and sent to live in Oregon?

10. What president and his wife were Stanford graduates?

11. Which president graduated in 1809 from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania?

12. What president refused renomination in 1880 and thus served only one term?

13. Who was elected president after Rutherford Hayes?

14. How long did James Garfield remain in office?

15. Who served as James Garfield’s secretary of War?

16. Who succeeded James Garfield and how many terms did he serve?

17. What president suffered what was then called Bright’s disease?

18. Who is the only president to serve two terms that weren’t consecutive?

19. Who was the last Civil War general to serve as president?

20. William McKinley was shot and killed in September 1901. He was succeeded by a man his campaign manager called “that damned cowboy.” Who was that?

21. What president frequently declared, “Politics makes me sick”?

22. What president died in 1923 in San Francisco?

23. What president died 10 months after his wife died of lung cancer? (He was out of office when he died.)

24. This president graduated from West Point in the class that was called “the class the stars fell on” because it produced 59 generals. Who was that and what year?

25. Which former president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002?Answers:

1. John Kennedy

2. Andrew Johnson

3. National Republican. John Q. was the oldest son of the second president, John Adams, 1797-1801.

4. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush

5. Dan Quayle for George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney for George W. Bush.

6. William Henry Harrison, who died just a month after taking office.

7. William Henry Harrison.

8. William Henry Harrison.

9. Herbert Hoover.

10. Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou.

11. James Buchanan

12. Rutherford Hayes

13. James Garfield

14. Four months. He was shot July 2 and died Sept. 19, 1881.

15. Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln.

16. Chester Arthur. One term.

17. Chester Arthur. He lost the nomination for a second term, even though he knew he had Bright’s, a kidney disease. He died a year after leaving office.

18. Grover Cleveland

19. Benjamin Harrison

20. Theodore Roosevelt

21. William Howard Taft

22. Warren G. Harding

23. Richard Nixon

24. Dwight D. Eisenhower. 1915.

25. Jimmy Carter

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day Gallup Poll: Americans rate Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton best of recent presidents — Richard Nixon & George W. Bush rated worst

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Presidents’ Day Gallup Poll: Americans rate Reagan, Clinton best of recent presidents

Source: LAT, 2-20-12

Reagan & Clinton

Former President Ronald Reagan presents then-President-elect Clinton with a jar of red, white and blue jelly beans in November 1992. (Paul Richards / AFP)

Presidents Day — or Washington’s Birthday, if you prefer — is a time to celebrate all of America’s past commanders in chief. Among the nation’s most recent leaders, two are celebrated far more than others: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

That’s the finding of Gallup, at least, which recently asked Americans to judge how the last eight presidents will go down in history.

Sixty-nine percent said Reagan would go down as “outstanding” or “above average,” compared to just 10% who said “below average” or “poor.” Clinton was rated favorably by 60% of those surveyed, a 10-point improvement from the last time Gallup asked the question in early 2009. Twelve percent rated him negatively, down from 20% three years ago….READ MORE

How do you think each of the following presidents will go down in history -- as an outstanding president, above average, average, below average, or poor?

Americans Judge Reagan, Clinton Best of Recent Presidents

Public split on whether Obama will be judged positively or negatively

Source: Gallup, 2-17-12

Americans believe history will judge Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as the best among recent U.S. presidents, with at least 6 in 10 saying each will go down in history as an above-average or outstanding president. Only about 1 in 10 say each will be remembered as below average or poor. Three years into Barack Obama’s presidency, Americans are divided in their views of how he will be regarded, with 38% guessing he will be remembered as above average or outstanding and 35% as below average or poor….READ MORE

Gallup: Reagan and Clinton are favorite presidents

Source: USA Today, 2-20-12

Americans say Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton will be judged the best presidents of the past four decades, the Gallup Poll reports.

At least six in 10 respondents say Reagan and Clinton will be considered an above average or outstanding president, Gallup said.

“Three years into Barack Obama’s presidency,” Gallup said. “Americans are divided in their views of how he will be regarded, with 38% guessing he will be remembered as above average or outstanding and 35% as below average or poor.”

The poll said, “Aside from Clinton and Reagan, only George H.W. Bush gets significantly more positive than negative ratings. (Richard) Nixon and George W. Bush are rated as the worst, with roughly half of Americans believing each will be judged negatively.”

The key to the popularity of Reagan and Clinton: They governed during good economies and got credit for improving them.

It’s worth nothing that Reagan and Clinton also survived scandals during their tenures: Reagan, the Iran-Contra imbroglio; Clinton, impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky matter.

Presidential ratings change over time, the pollsters noted…..READ MORE

Presidential Report Card: How Will Recent Presidents Go Down in History?—PICTURES

Source: National Journal, 2-17-12

Asked in a recent Presidents Day Gallup poll to rank eight modern presidents, respondents said Ronald Reagan and then Bill Clinton will go down in history as outstanding or above-average presidents. We take a look at how the rankings panned out….READ MORE

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day: Take the presidential history quiz!

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Presidents’ Day: The quiz

It’s Presidents’ Day Monday, but whom the holiday is meant to honor depends on whom you ask. Even the placement of the apostrophe is open to question!…

The most recent results of students’ performance on civics exams on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card, revealed a continuing lack of knowledge about the nation’s past: On the 2010 test, only 2 percent of fourth-graders, 1 percent of eighth-graders and 4 percent of 12th-graders performed at the advanced level, which represents superior performance.

See how well you can do on the Washington Post’s Presidents’ Day quiz. If you don’t do well, it’s time to hit the history books! Here are some Web sites that can help….TAKE THE QUIZ!

History Q&A February 20, 2012: What is Presidents’ Day Officially Called? Washington’s Birthday — A Brief History of (What You Think Is) Presidents’ Day

HISTORY Q&A:

A Brief History of (What You Think Is) Presidents’ Day

The first thing to know: it’s not officially called Presidents’ Day

Source: Time, 2-20-12

Roger Viollet Collection / Getty Images

Roger Viollet Collection / Getty Images

To set the record straight, today isn’t actually Presidents’ Day. It is still known as Washington’s Birthday, according to the federal government and section 6103(a) of title 5 of the U.S. Code.

Give George Washington the credit he’s due, since this whole holiday thing started in 1796 when people began celebrating him during his final year as President. But even then, his Feb. 22 birthday wasn’t a clear-cut date. At that time, there was still a bit of confusion over the change in calendar systems, especially considering Washington’s birthday dated back to 1732. For those still using the old-school Julian-style calendar, which was in use in England until 1752, Washington’s birthday was Feb. 11. The Gregorian calendar, which took over for the Julian style, however, had his birthday as Feb. 22. That led to some confusion in the 1700s.

But our forefathers worked through their differences and landed on honoring Washington annually on Feb. 22, often with galas in Washington, D.C., and the tried and true U.S. pastime of drinking. The tradition of celebrating Washington continued for the next 90 or so years, and Congress made the holiday a law, giving Washington the first federal holiday to honor a person when they made it official in 1880….READ MORE

The use of Presidents’ Day as the name continued to grow in popularity, gaining widespread acceptance by the 1980s. Then, in 1999, due to Presidents’ Day having taken over as the accepted name, a pair of bills tried to force the official use of Washington’s Birthday for the holiday (Ronald Reagan’s birthday on Feb. 6 has added a fourth presidential birthday to the month of February). But there wasn’t much support for that, in essence offering Presidents’ Day a chance to celebrate not only Washington and Lincoln, but also all other presidents. Even Harrison.

Featured Historians Julian E. Zelizer: Americans want security for 2012

FEATURED HISTORIANS

Julian E. Zelizer: Americans want security for 2012

tzleft.zelizer_newpic.jpg
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Julian Zelizer: Economic security is going to be defining theme of 2012 race
  • Americans want to know jobs are safe and available, he says
  • Zelizer: Neither party has done a good job developing policies for economic security
  • He says FDR provided security to U.S., while Ford and Carter didn’t

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” (Times Books) and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush’s administration, published by Princeton University Press.

Just as the 2004 presidential election was all about the concept of security, the same term will shape the campaigns of 2012.

But this time around, the issue is not national security and the threat of terrorists but the search for security amid the ongoing struggles that Americans have faced with the economy.

High unemployment, laggard economic growth and a turbulent stock market have left many middle class Americans terrified about what comes next. Almost three-quarters of Americans, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, said that the country is moving in the wrong direction.

During the 2012 election, voters will be looking for a candidate who can restore some sense of economic security: a candidate who can provide them with confidence that their jobs won’t disappear (and that new jobs will emerge for those without them) and that their income will remain steady….

Republicans have not provided much of a vision of how they would restore economic security for the middle class. They have focused on the traditional conservative magic bullet solutions of deficit reduction and government spending cuts — without tax increases — neither of which would have any major impact on the current unemployment rates or address the underlying challenges that the economy has been facing for over a decade.

Today’s candidates from both parties are closer to their predecessors in the 1970s than the 1930s. Political leaders are having trouble providing guidance and hope as a devastating economy has turned life into a constant struggle for many Americans. In 2012, the nation will have a chance to hear what each party plans to do to turn things around. The candidate who can offer a more compelling case is likely to end up in the White House.

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

First-Hand Interviews Make for Good History

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

 

Source: SFGate, 3-25-11

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

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

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

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

Laurence Reisman: Q&A with historian, presidential biographer Douglas Brinkley

Historian Brinkley uses research to opine on political questions such as did Reagan have Alzheimer’s while in the White House?

Source: TC Palm, 2-1-11

Douglas Brinkley, editor of the 'The Reagan Diaries,' looks on during a book signing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library May 21, 2007, in Simi Valley, Calif. The library was the first location in the nation to sell copies of the book that contains President Reagan's innermost thoughts and observations from his personal diaries. Brinkley will speak in Vero Beach Saturday on the eve of Reagan's 100th birthday.      (AP Photo/Ventura County Star, Eric Parsons) ** LA TIMES OUT, LA DAILY NEWS OUT, MAGS OUT NO SALES **

Eric Parsons

Douglas Brinkley, editor of the “The Reagan Diaries,” looks on during a book signing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library May 21, 2007, in Simi Valley, Calif. The library was the first location in the nation to sell copies of the book that contains President Reagan’s innermost thoughts and observations from his personal diaries. Brinkley will speak in Vero Beach Saturday on the eve of Reagan’s 100th birthday. (AP Photo/Ventura County Star, Eric Parsons)
Perhaps it’s sheer coincidence that presidential author and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley will pinch-hit for the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan Saturday night as part of The Emerson Center’s Celebrated Speakers Series. But timeliness is everything. Brinkley, author of two books on late President Ronald Reagan, will speak on the eve of the 40th president’s 100th birthday. Brinkley’s interests and expertise are varied. He’s written numerous books on presidents, and about all sorts of other Amertican history, from Rosa Parks and Hurricane Katrina to Hunter S. Thompson and Dean Acheson. He’s even taught college history classes by taking students cross-country on buses….READ MORE

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