Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Arthur Schlesinger and Journal

Just completed reading Arthur Schlesinger's Journals, 1952-2000. I'd recommend the book for anyone who lived through the period with an interest in politics, at least liberal politics, or in the American social/political establishment.

As a country boy, I'm amazed by the extent to which social and political circles overlapped, often through the beds of the "pretty girls" for whom Schlesinger had a weakness. Shocking. A handful of reflections sparked by the book:

  • some women attack Hillary Clinton for staying with her errant husband. This book reminds one that Happy Rockefeller stayed with Nelson, Lady Bird with Lyndon, Eleanor with FDR, Jackie with JFK, etc.
  • speaking of Hillary--Arthur is very impressed with her, intelligence, charm, and humor, finding the humor unexpected. Of course the book ends when she had just won the Senate seat, but she, and Kay Bailey Hutcheson, are the two women politicians he praises.
  • while a liberal, civil rights wasn't high on his mind in the 50's. The politician for whom he wrote many speeches, Adlai Stevenson, is quoted as arguing the Negroes should be quiet and not demonstrate.
  • he has some self-knowledge, enough to be interesting, but he remained a Kennedy die-hard, without any real reflection on the dynamics of the dynasty.
  • his reflections on the relationship between history and reality are interesting, but too few. Towards the end he takes a rather cynical tack, saying people use history to justify what they want to do.
Most of all, it's the gossip that's interesting, and often frightening when you remember that these are people of power.

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