Echoes of George Washington in Joe Biden?

Our current president has never been confused with the nearly mythical figure who first occupied that office more than 230 years ago.  Not ever.  Yet there are striking parallels between the challenges both leaders faced, and between the qualities they embodied. Both took office in times of crisis.  The economic condition of the United States…

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Two Peas in a Pod: Trump and Andrew Johnson

Two Peas in a Pod:  Trump and Andrew Johnson With the announcement that he will not attend the inauguration of President Joseph Biden, outgoing President Donald Trump cemented the connection between himself and another one-term president who refused to attend the inauguration of his successor:  Andrew Johnson. For a century and a half, no president…

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Madness at the U.S. Capitol

In the aftermath of yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, a history publication posed provocative questions to me.  These are my responses:  What is your view of what happened at the Capitol yesterday? Was this an attempted coup d’etat, or peaceful demonstration gone wrong? Neither.  The attack on the Capitol was not a true coup…

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It Matters How You Leave!

Harrassed by a clown car of irresponsible lawyers, our political life today is a mind-warping coda to a four-year period of smashed behavioral norms and personal vituperation, all in service to a corrosive cult of personality.  For those who pine for sanity and integrity in our public sphere, there is no better era to consider…

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The Virtual Author Talk: How to, and How Not To

Sure, the times are weird in CovidWorld, but we’re all making the best of it.  One of those make-the-best-of-it structures is the virtual author talk.  I’ve done a few virtual author events so far, and attended quite a few more, and have some thoughts about them.  I won’t talk about choice of digital platform, since…

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What Happens When the President Gets Sick?

The recent news of positive COVID-19 tests for a valet for President Trump and an aide to Vice President Pence revive a thorny question:  What happens if the president gets sick?  As shown by the corona-related illness of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the virus can incapacitate those in high office.  What happens if we…

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April 24, 8 p.m.: DC Virtual Noir at the Bar

In many cities, like Washington, DC, “Noir at the Bar” has swiftly become an institution.  The elements are predictable, atmospheric: Crime, mystery and thriller writers take over the back room of a bar, preferably a seedy one in an iffy neighborhood. Someone arranges for a scratchy sound system. Recognized and not-yet-recognized writers read short-ish passages…

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Newsletter, Spring 2019!

THE POWER AND THE STORY The top news:  (i) Rating the presidents with C-SPAN, and (ii) my month at Mount Vernon with the people who know George Washington best. Also: Talking about the Constitution and presidential impeachment.   Hidden figures of history and the books you must read before you die The Bookshelf — great books, both new…

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The Framers knew more words than we do

Maybe I should say that eighteenth-century Americans knew and used very different words.  Because my current book project plunges me into a seemingly endless supply of George Washington’s correspondence and other records of the time, I bump into lots of surprising words. Even when the words are new to me, sometimes their meanings are clear…

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Adventures in Bookland: Bookstores Spring to Life in DC Area!

Today, before the heavens poured more rain on us, I conducted a quick tour of four new bookstores in the Washington area. While Barnes & Noble’s retailing strategy in the area involves closing its stores in an agonizingly slow decline to full corporate disappearance, other book retailers are jumping into the market — a heartening…

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