Professional Historians and Bush Derangement Syndrome
This summer's edition of the Claremont Review of Books is out. Yours truly has a piece reviewing a book by Steve Knott -- Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics -- that details how the historical profession went crazy in its opposition to the Bush Administration.
Here are the first few paragraphs of my review, to tempt the interested reader:
President Barack Obama has many supporters, but none more fervent than academics. Professors' donations to political campaigns run about three or four to one in favor of Democrats. According to a recent study, the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley (where I teach), is 17 to 1 in the humanities and 21 to 1 in the social sciences. Apparently, the figure is only 4 to 1 in the professional schools, which leads me to wonder: where are they all hiding?
According to Naval War College professor Stephen F. Knott, this radical and unhealthy imbalance does not just register in voting rolls, but has infected the substance of presidential studies. In Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics, Knott shows that the Bush Administration could claim constitutional support for its controversial terrorism policies from Franklin Roosevelt to Abraham Lincoln back to Alexander Hamilton. But he goes further. He also calls to account the many historians, both professional and popular, whose criticism of the 43rd president "bordered on the unprofessional and made a mockery of the principle of academic objectivity."
These are not just obscure academic historians who are screaming as loudly as possible in order to get noticed. Rather, Knott reproduces embarrassingly biased statements from some of the leading lights of the profession, such as Sean Wilentz (Princeton), Eric Foner (Columbia), Robert Dallek (Boston University), Joyce Appleby (UCLA), Joseph Ellis (Mount Holyoke), Douglas Brinkley (Rice), H.W. Brands (Texas), Garry Wills (Northwestern), Jack Rakove (Stanford), and, of course, the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Knott, in other words, names names. He lets their own words display the "visceral animus some American historians felt toward the Bush-Cheney ‘regime.'"
I think the CRB should be in every conservative's inbox -- it's a measured view of books in politics, philosophy, history, the classics, and constitutional law. This issue features articles by Charles Kesler, Mark Helperin, Jonah Goldberg, Steve Hayward, Ramesh Ponnuru, Claire Berlinski, Joe Epstein, and Harvey Mansfield, among others.