Historically minded readers will enjoy the opportunity argument. Non-Reaganites, though, will have trouble with its premises...

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GREATNESS

REAGAN, CHURCHILL AND THE MAKING OF EXTRAORDINARY LEADERS

Accept that Ronald Reagan was a genius, and the Great Communicator suddenly finds himself in august company.

In this light, American Enterprise Institute thinktanker Hayward writes, “Pondering the cases of Churchill and Reagan side by side opens a window onto critical aspects of political genius, and political greatness, at the highest level.” Conveniently, he adds, intelligence and greatness are not the same thing, which helps the argument inestimably. Now, the hardhearted may wonder at the view that Reagan won the Cold War without firing a single shot (does no one remember, say, Grenada?) or the datum that both Reagan and Churchill loved “vigorous outdoor labor,” which seems intended to plant the idea that, say, clearing brush in Texas is a sign of greatness. Other readers may wonder, too, whether the parallels Hayward draws between Churchill and Reagan could not be applied to just about any other president in recent memory. After all, Jimmy Carter liked working outdoors, had strong moral leanings, was an anticommunist and had a tough spouse. Just so, Reagan lacked Churchill’s fondness for drink, and whereas Churchill micromanaged to the tiniest detail, Reagan delegated tasks and took naps; great or no, British voters turned Churchill out of office as soon as the bombs stopped falling, while Reagan seemed bewildered at the fuss when he was caught joking before the camera that the bombs would start falling on Moscow in five minutes. But never mind: Hayward has a fluid sense of what constitutes greatness, one that includes Ronald Reagan (and perhaps the current president, who keeps a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office) but that presumably does not embrace Bill Clinton, who, after all, failed to make many rhetorical references to Churchill in his eight years in office, which fact alone sets him apart from most other presidents.

Historically minded readers will enjoy the opportunity argument. Non-Reaganites, though, will have trouble with its premises from the outset.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-307-23715-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Crown Forum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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