June 22, 2012, 5:06 pm
Regular readers will know we frequently give time and attention to the best of presidents, with special regard to the underrated Franklin Roosevelt. But perhaps we should give equal time to the bad presidents whose badness goes insufficiently remarked – not just the mediocre presidents, but those whose harms go underappreciated.
Entirely coincidentally, I have an essay in the current Reviews in American History on Woodrow Wilson, apropos Cooper’s biography. Here’s the beginning of the essay, for the record:
In the 1912 election, the Democrats gained sixty-one seats to increase their majority in the House of Representatives and seven seats to get a majority in the Senate. Yet their presidential candidate, Woodrow Wilson, won fewer votes than William Jennings Bryan had in 1908, 1900, or 1896. Wilson also underperformed Democrats in Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, and elsewhere,…
June 20, 2012, 3:33 am
Silbey has explained the wonderful possibilities that await a technologically proficient historian who visits a technologically advanced archive.
I wish I could say that I only visit archives where my widely acknowledged technological prowess is encouraged and feted, but alas, this is not the case. There are still many archives in my world that remain firmly rooted in the twentieth century. For example, UCLA special collections has a number of manuscript collections I need, but does not allow cameras in the reading room. So I find myself spending much of my time in the basement of Young library, frantically taking notes while the non-historians above enjoy the sunshine.
Then there’s the copyright problem for anyone doing newspaper research after 1923. Thanks to the Sonny Bono copyright act of 1998, everything produced since 1922 is under copyright protection, which means…
June 12, 2012, 1:18 am
Not to pile on, but there’s also this, in the new Democracy. Unlike the aforementioned TLS essay, the whole thing is online; here’s a short excerpt:
The single moment that made postwar liberalism feel most like a cause worth fighting for came in the darkness of April 4, 1968, when an Indianapolis crowd, assembled to hear Robert F. Kennedy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, instead met a man obliged to tell them that Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. When Kennedy broke the news, a desperate wail burst from the throats of those gathered, a sound unlike any other, bespeaking the tide of anguish and anger about to rush over the republic, sweeping reason before it—but not yet, or not here, not if Kennedy had his way.
Speaking off the cuff, he claimed a shared sorrow—his own brother had been killed in the line of political duty, at a time when he had begun…
May 17, 2012, 12:06 am
Seems appropriate unto the day, or week anyway. Robert Henry Brand, of the UK Treasury delegation in Washington, to John Maynard Keynes, March 3, 1945, about Jean Monnet returning to France
to ‘think’. He is deeply interested in the future political organisation of Western Europe, having in my opinion some not very well-thought views, and wants to clear his thoughts on this subject with the object of exercising some influence with regard to it later. To find a solution will certainly test even his persuasive powers.
It’s easy to snark, and it’s hard to call your shots, but just at the moment it seems a sadly apt sentiment.
May 14, 2012, 10:00 pm
Ninety-nine years ago Louis Brandeis explained why letting investment bankers ru
in the country was a bad idea. Bankers were lousy managers; they ran companies with an eye to increasing the value of stock, rather than efficiently providing a service or product; they – contrary to stereotype – exhibited “financial recklessness.” By their very bigness alone they posed a threat to politics and the economy. Running his eye over and over the various problems with the money trust, he kept coming up with the name J.P. Morgan.
It is enough shame that we are facing the exact same problems the Progressives and the New Dealers laboriously fixed. But it adds an extra pain to the historically aware that we are dealing with zombie malefactors bearing the exact same names as their forebears.
May 14, 2012, 1:07 pm
As everyone knows, money is a medium of exchange as well as a store of value. Suppose Greece leaves the Euro: are there any drachmas around to serve as a medium of exchange? As of January, apparently, no. (Though rumors say otherwise.) Have some been printed or minted meanwhile? Probably not; it would create a panic.
“I don’t think you could do it much faster than four months,” says Mark Crickett, one of De La Rue’s consultants.
But a government could not commission and take delivery of a new currency without word leaking out and panic spreading.
It is much more likely that a withdrawal for the euro would be announced suddenly, and then there would be an interim period – those four months, say – during which a temporary national currency would be used.
Euro notes previously in circulation in a withdrawing country might be overprinted, or have special stickers added.
May 1, 2012, 8:34 pm
The New York Times, April 28, 2012:
Presidents running for re-election typically boast of programs they created, people they helped or laws they signed. They talk about rising test scores or falling deficits or expanding job rolls. President Obama is increasingly taking the unusual route of bragging about how he killed a man.
To be sure, that man was Osama bin Laden, and he is not mourned among either the president’s supporters or detractors. But in the days leading up to the first anniversary of the raid that finally caught up to the Qaeda mastermind, Mr. Obama has made a concerted, if to some indecorous, effort to trumpet the killing as perhaps the central accomplishment of his presidency.
The article does nod to previous Presidents running on their toughness, but then goes completely off the rails when talking about a recent Obama interview in the Situation Room:
Tony Fratto, …
April 17, 2012, 1:11 pm
Following up to this article, the Navy has continued its streak of not naming carriers after Democratic Presidents. LBJ now has a ship named after him, but a destroyer, rather than a carrier:
The Navy has named the third ship in its class of state-of-the-art destroyers after the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, who served as a naval officer during World War II, the service said in a press release Monday.
“I am pleased to honor President Johnson with the naming of this ship,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement. “His dedication to a life of public service included bravely stepping forward to fight for his country during our entry into World War II.”
No word on whether the ship would have a tendency to report attacks by imaginary torpedo boats, but some folks have been unable to avoid the sniggering locker room humor that the name might inspire:
That doesn’t mean it’s …
April 5, 2012, 4:43 pm
The Transportation Security Agency, in all its glory:
A spokesman said the agency has its reasons for still requiring that traditional laptops go through X-ray machines in a separate bin. But he declined to share them, saying the agency didn’t want to betray any secrets.
There are reasons, BUT WE CANNOT TELL THEM TO YOU OR THE TERRORISTS WIN.
March 28, 2012, 1:52 am
The incomparable Michelle Vaughan, who did the typography for this marvelous piece of work as well as 100 tweets has done a much more affordable limited run of Rupert Murdoch’s tweets. I recommend them to all discerning readers with a spare $30 (plus S&H) looking for some frameable wit. (Murdoch would surely like you to think of him as framed.)
March 26, 2012, 8:24 am
Leftover ordnance is one of the legacies that lasts generations after the war itself concluded. The phrase “Iron Harvest” comes from the annual crop of exploded shells and bombs that French farmers in northern France bring to the surface when plowing their fields. Farming is a dangerous occupation in France.
But the Iron Harvest is not limited to World War I. World War II era bombs are sometimes found, particularly in areas heavily bombed during that conflict. The city center of Rennes was evacuated within the last few years when a 550 lb British bomb was discovered and had to be disarmed. A similar discovery required the evacuation of the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt
Nor is the ordnance always found in an active war zone. Recently, in Washington, DC, a construction crew building a new supermarket was somewhat surprised to discover an unexploded 1,000 pound bomb. The…
March 25, 2012, 4:25 pm
A reader reports the below glitch displaying this blog on iPhones. I don’t get it with mine. Do any of you? If so, please report what model and OS, and we’ll see if we can sort it out.
March 23, 2012, 1:23 pm
I’ve probably never said this here before, but having finished my book on Sand Creek, I’m now co-authoring* a graphic history of the Civil War. As a consequence, I’ve been following this discussion with some interest. I don’t have much to add except this: I decided, very early in the process of writing the book, that we would NEVER put fictional words into the mouths of non-fictional historical figures. Which is to say, although my co-author badly wanted to insert a couple of gold bug stanzas into the Gettysburg Address, I put my foot down. On the one hand, this seems very much like what Silbey suggests should serve as best practices (both in literature and scholarship, if I understand him correctly). But on the other hand, I have to admit that we worked around the attendant problems by making up characters left and right to voice the dialogue and carry the weight of the story…