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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
Impeachment and George Washington: When it rains, it pours
Back in April, I wrote two short pieces on history topics of interest to me — impeachment trials and George Washington. So, naturally enough, they both launched on the web this weekend, within 24 hours of each other. So I might as well promote them together, right? You can check out: My take that historians…Read More
Does Going There Matter?
Multi-prize-winning author T.J. Stiles (Custer’s Trials, The First Tycoon) recently posed this question on social media. “Do historians have to visit the sites in their books?” he asked. “I say no, no more than you have to have been alive in the times you write about.” Stiles contended that what is important is “personal experience,”…Read More
Misspelling: An American Tradition
Occasionally I despair over rampant, often intentional misspellings in the modern world. Doesn’t anyone, I rant inwardly, proofread any more? Was H&M being droll when it misspelled “genius” in the t-shirt on the left? I don’t think so. Perhaps that’s the correct spelling in Swedish. And in the billboard on the right, the Miller Brewing…Read More
Trump: Haunted Anew by the Ghost of Andrew Johnson
More echoes of the benighted Andrew Johnson Administration of 1865-69 reverberate around President Trump with the current logjam at the top of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Deputy Director Leandra English asserts the statutory right to direct the agency following the resignation of its director; claiming to act under a different law, President Trump has…Read More
Writing Great Characters Like Babe Ruth
Writing about familiar historical figures is a central challenge of writing historical fiction, and also a great joy. The writer, of course, has to replicate any widely-known qualities about the character. Abraham Lincoln, for example, has to be tall. Ulysses Grant really should chain-smoke cigars. But the novelist needs to tell us more, to lead…Read More
Babe Ruth Built the Best Brand Ever
Our digitized world is obsessed with branding. The road to success, we’re told, is to create a public image of a consistent experience/product/person that people will want to acquire or be exposed to. That’s why the trade association for accountants published “Five Tips to Branding Yourself” (how, in fact, do accountants brand themselves?). It’s why Success Magazine…Read More