Ulysses S. Grant

The Collector

On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.

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Colonel Roosevelt By Edmund Morris (Random House, 766 pp., $35)  I. The reputation of Theodore Roosevelt has become as bloated as the man himself. No one of course can deny his fundamental significance in American history, as a central player in the transitions from republic to empire, laissez-faire to regulated capitalism, congressional government to imperial presidency. It should come as no surprise that professional historians still pay close attention to his career. What is surprising is the cult-like status that Roosevelt enjoys outside the academy, especially in Washington.

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Dancing In the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression By Morris Dickstein (W.W. Norton, 598 pp., $29.95) Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits By Linda Gordon (W.W. Norton, 536 pp., $35) American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty In U.S. Literature, 1840-1945 By Gavin Jones (Princeton University Press, 248 pp., $38.50)   “Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a story of 1926, at the height of the economic boom and his own creative powers.

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Death Defying

'This election," said John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, on the second day of the Republican convention, "is not about issues." And he meant it. The convention that Davis helped assemble devoted strikingly little time to policy. Instead, the focus was on McCain's biography. Fred Thompson set the tone early in the convention, using his address to recount McCain's life story, especially his stint as a prisoner of war. In state delegation meetings during the week, the campaign enlisted the candidate's fellow POWs to tell delegates of his experiences in Vietnam.

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Homegrown Terror

Redemptions: The Last Battle of the Civil War By Nicholas Lemann (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 257 pp., $24)   Colfax, Louisiana was scarcely a town in 1873. It was more a collection of buildings on a plantation owned by William Calhoun. As much as any site in the former Confederate South, however, Colfax came to embody the complex political dynamics of Reconstruction, and the troubling relation of terror and democracy in the history of the United States. Lying in the heart of the state's lush Red River Valley, Colfax was the newly designated seat of the newly created Grant Parish, carved out

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The Thinker

Jason Zengerle on Newt's flirtations with running for president in 2008.

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Officer Politics

Merrill "Tony" McPeak doesn't like George W. Bush. But it's more than that. McPeak has contempt for the president, which he freely expresses. Speaking from his home in Oregon, the John Kerry partisan describes Bush in terms usually employed by the likes of MoveOn.org. "Not even his best friends would accuse this president of having ideas," McPeak says. Mild stuff in the age of Michael Moore. Except that McPeak's first name is General. The former Air Force chief of staff is not the only general describing the president in such vivid terms.

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Fighting Words

The Language of War: Literature and Culture in the U.S. From the Civil War Through World War II by James Dawes (Harvard University Press, 300 pp., $39.95) "The real war," Walt Whitman wrote soon after Appomattox, "will never get in the books." In "The Wound Dresser" and other poems, Whitman tried to transcribe his Civil War experience in a Washington hospital, where he tended the dismembered and the dying. But he sensed that there was something new about the carnage of modern war, something that resisted literary convention and ultimately language itself. He was not alone.

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Race Against Himself

David Grann explores the psychology behind John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

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When 367 Republican House candidates signed the Contract with America on September 27, 1994, they pledged to create "a Congress that is doing what the American people want and doing it in a way that instills trust." As they stood on the steps of the Capitol, Texas Representative Dick Armey declared, "[W]e enter a new era in American government. Today one political party is listening to the concerns of the American people, and we are responding with specific legislation.

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