Beloved Liberal Historian Is 'Austin Powers, International Man of History'?
The Washington Post lovingly remembered liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr in Friday’s editions, including a front-page obituary by Adam Bernstein. But the most notable line came in the Linton Weeks appreciation on the front of the Style section, where his article carried the gooey headline "A Historian Who Made the Ivory Tower Glisten." Weeks declared the historian had an air of timelessness: "He was, in a way, frozen in time, like Austin Powers – International Man of History!" (Exclamation point is the writer’s.) He added: "This analogy came to me in late November 2000" after Schlesinger was "quietly outrageous" in a lunch meeting with the reporter. Yes, he used it in that article, too, right down to the "yeah, baby!"
Unlike Bernstein, who didn’t mention Schlesinger was a liberal until paragraph 19 (although his lede noted he was JFK’s "court philosopher"), Weeks was up front with a royal We: "Seeing him with his bow tie and his Harvard University credentials, we had the reassuring feeling that a smart guy was doing some heavy thinking about this country’s most serious problems. He was an unapologetic liberal, able to articulate the lefty perspective as the country move more and more to the right."
Weeks applauded Schlesinger as America’s ideological guide: "To a nation, he was a compass point. Adore him or disagree with him, he spoke with a historian’s worldview. The architects of the war in Iraq, he told C-SPAN in an interview that will be aired on Saturday, "do not know enough history, and they duplicated the stupidity of the Vietnam War."
Bernstein’s obituary on the front page also carried a headline that touted Schlesinger as an opinion leader: "Author Shaped Lens For Viewing U.S. History." The most annoying line in it came when he arrived at a liberal label, noting Schlesinger helped start Americans for Democratic Action, a group "made up of a range of New Deal liberals" to "counter the influence of the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace, which they saw as Communist-dominated." This is ridiculous, like writing that someone "saw Cuba as Communist-dominated."
(For the record, the Post also put its obituary for revered libertarian economist Milton Friedman also on the front page.)