Saturday, July 23, 2011

Newt Gingrich, America's worst historian

Newt Gingrich, America's Worst Historian is the title of this article by historian Michael Kazin in The New Republic. Wow! Worse than Sarah Palin? Worse than Michele Bachmann? Worse than David Barton???

Gingrich does seem to be trying to show that he's America's worst politician, but now he's working on the worst historian label as well?

Here's an excerpt:
I am not qualified to judge Gingrich’s knowledge of pterodactyls or the merits of establishing a colony on Mars. However, I have just completed his latest book of history: A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. And I can say, with absolute confidence, that it may be the most inaccurate, least intellectual book about our nation’s past I have ever read. ...

Gingrich makes some statements that anyone who’s read a high-school history textbook could easily refute. In his view, the Civil War “initially centered around constitutional questions,” none of which he mentions. This is a deeply flawed, and bizarrely mild, way to describe the passions that accompanied debates over the Fugitive Slave Act, expanding slavery into the territories, and accepting Lincoln’s victory in the 1860 election.

And how can one respond to the statement, “Every time America has strayed from the proposition that all men are created by God, and that they are therefore equal, great suffering and turmoil has ensued”? As usual, Gingrich declines to offer any examples of such “times.” The fact that, as Lincoln put it, the partisans of the Union and those of the Confederacy “[b]oth read the same Bible, and pray[ed] to the same God; and each invoke[d] His aid against the other” might have given Gingrich pause. But he does not allow facts to get in the way of his dogma.

Gingrich is also fond of making contradictory assertions that seem designed to give the writers for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert an easy day at the office. The welfare state, he announces, “is incompatible with human nature because it does not view American citizens as individuals with inherent dignity and rights.” This comes several pages after the author has praised Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the conservative justice defended a law that forbade any individual in the Lone Star State from having gay sex.

The right-wing has decided that it doesn't like our real history, so it just makes up its own. Well, that's what it's been doing with science for some time. And we all know about "voodoo economics," right? Republicans are faith-based, so they think if they just believe hard enough, they can make a new reality.

And politically, they can. That's the scary thing. All too many Americans are both ignorant enough and gullible enough to believe them.


Jim Harris said...

When I was young I read a lot of biographies about Samuel Clemens. I was fascinated by how he became a bitter old man and how his latter stories and essays became more and more vicious in attacking human stupidity. At the time I told myself I wanted to avoid becoming a bitter old man at all costs. But I don't think I'm going to make it, not with this political and religious climate.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I took a wrong turn and found myself in this cesspool. I need a shower and you suck.

WCG said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. But maybe if you pointed out what, exactly, you found disagreeable, and why...? Or is that too rational for you?

Jim, yeah, I'm getting bitter as I get older. I think it's because America has gone completely off the rails in recent years. But maybe I'm just getting old.

I suppose I just accepted things when I was young, because that's what I grew up with. Now, however, I see what horrible mistakes we've been making - and continue to make. I just can't view that with equanimity.