THE COLONEL OF CHICAGO by Joseph Gies

THE COLONEL OF CHICAGO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A crude attempt to polish up the image of the Chicago Tribune's fire-breathing Colonel McCormick--which, ironically, runs a poor second to Frank Waldrop's sympathetic and knowledgeable McCormick of Chicago (1966) in extricating the man from the anecdotes and legends. The point needs making at the outset because Gies presents us with a McCormick damned as an isolationist, falsely tagged ""anti-British,"" and caricatured as an ""eccentric""--as if no other portrait existed. His aim, in fact, is not so much to prove the Colonel worthy as to prove him more often right than wrong (or, if wrong, not alone). And, because McCormick drew the most fire for his opposition to American entry into World War II, he dwells on this episode. The spotty account of ""Bertie"" McCormick's private life and family relations is oversimplified and insensitive (his mother dies--""drunk and disorderly to the last""). The recap of Tribune history--McCormick's coup in securing a Canadian pulp-and-paper base, the cutthroat Hearst-Tribune circulation battles, the anti-Capone crusade--is stiff, dry, nitpicky; and withal over-reliant, as Waldrop's careful examination demonstrates, on the elderly Colonel's blinkered recollections (which Gies tends throughout to take at face value). But it's the sweeping historical judgments by which Gies means to justify McCormick's extreme positions that are most suspect. Anti-Semitism--manifest in McCormick, blatant in his then-ally Lindbergh? ""America in 1941 was a distinctly anti-Semitic country."" And, on the world scene: ""Had America pursued the policies advocated by Colonel McCormick, would Pearl Harbor have happened?"" No. ""Could America have pursued a policy that would have resulted in decisive aid to the Allies without active American participation?"" Quite possibly yes. McCormick, of course, was not always mistaken--but he won't wash as a foreign-policy expert.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1979
Publisher: Dutton