It’s almost Bush Library Eve, and the witches are emerging to cast their spells, trying to persuade a reluctant public that it really wasn’t as bad as all that. Part of the coven is Stephen F. Knott, author of “Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror and His Critics.”
Knott is a long time fan of executive action, weeping for presidential powers lost when the Supreme Court pointed out that Bush couldn’t just wing it at Guantanamo. He dismisses criticism of Bush era torture by pointing [pg 125] to the Truman administration’s wholesale mobilization of ex-Nazis to fight the Commies, so Hitler!
He whines about pundits ganging up on poor George in the pages of the Washington Post, whose editorial page is adorned with not one but two former Bush speech writers – Michael Gerson, the nice one, and the unspeakable Mark Theeson, portly torture enthusiast.
Knott goes after historians sullying themselves as pundits, calling for careful archival research in the long twilight of power. He’s a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, but he’s more then just an intellectual adornment of the Navy’s White Walkers. Among Knott’s achievements is a stint co-directing the University of Virginia’s Reagan administration oral history project, where the grizzled veterans whiled away the hours not answering toothless questions. [see bottom graphs]
Knott quotes Sean Wilentz’s claim for Bush’s uniqueness:
“No other U.S. president “failed to embrace the opposing political party” in wartime, Wilentz claimed, despite numerous examples to the contrary, such as when Franklin D. Roosevelt compared his Republican opponents to fascists in 1944.”
Roosevelt had Republican Secretaries of the Navy and of War, and Knott doesn’t specify where FDR made these shameful claims, but I have an idea where he’s coming from.
Not Roosevelt, but his supporters, engaged in a lot of war and election melding, with domestic enemies denouncing “Roosevelt’s War” morphing into Hitler, and cartoon workingmen called on to ” sidetrack defeatist limited.”
The ’44 Dewey campaign made an early run at what would soon become a Republican perennial, charging that the Democrats were but a front for the Reds. Dewey elaborated on the theme in a Boston speech, with the added frisson of Jew baiting in the form of that year’s “You Didn’t Build That.” Much of the GOP campaign was built around a Roosevelt quote from the smoke filled rooms birthing Harry Truman. FDR had his minions feel out CIO union leader Sidney Hillman about dumping Vice President Henry Wallace for James F. Brynes, Hillman wouldn’t go along, and somehow Harry Truman emerged, along with the immortal phrase “Clear It With Sidney”
Republicans had great fun with “Sidney”, a clear marker for Jews. The comment sections of World Net Daily were sadly not yet available, so their mouth breathing followers entertained themselves scribbling laughtastic limerick suggestions:
Dewey was called out by Roosevelt’s Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, accusing the Governor of toying with red baiting, fascism and “desperate, contemptible fanning of the flames of religious hatred.“
One president did flat out Nazi bait Dewey, that nice Harry Truman in a 1948 episode of “feistiness.”
Resolute Or Haunted?
Gawker historian in residence John Cook has fun poking the National Archives for their deference to former greats.
The George W. Bush administration’s papers are squirrelled away, and no, you can’t see them till Bush is done with them. Bush left office having made a hash of his electronic records, resisting disclosure to the end despite estimates millions of emails had gone missing. In retirement only Bush and Ghost Who Walks Cheney have access to the goods until 2014, so Cook has been mischievously asking what our betters have been asking the National Archives for, FOIA-ing the records of their document requests.
The Archives will have none of that nonsense. They’ve denied his request for what are clearly public records, showing a tender concern for Bush’s privacy not demonstrated by the man himself.
Archives have had a pattern of hiding their dealings with past greats, refusing historian Anthony Clark‘s requests for records on the foundations all the Presidential Libraries run to keep their guy’s image ever shinier.
Deference to greatness reached it’s apogee under the last Archivist of the United States. Bush appointee Alan Weinstein remained mute over the Bush email destruction by deed or sloth, and reacted to Bush’s grabbing censorship rights for ex Presidents and their decendants by inventing the happy club of “presidential families” who he hoped and prayed would do right by history and release the stranglehold on facts Bush granted them.
And then retired. Good to see the current team is upholding the tradition of cringing deference.
Tall Tales Trashed
From the wilds of academe comes the shattering of yet another right wing Barack Obama trope, his frequently complained about tendency to first-person pronounce himself into every occasion.
Except he doesn’t.
So we learn in Ben Zimmer’s New York Times review of social psychologist James W. Pennebaker’s “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us.” In fact, “Obama has distinguished himself as the lowest I-word user of any of the modern presidents.”