When the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with a victory for the United States, John Hay, U.S. ambassador in London, felt moved to celebrate. In a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, he described it as a war “begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave.” It was, in short, “a splendid little war.” The fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya has inclined many contemporary commentators to similarly effusive bursts of cheer. But does the war in Libya deserve all the praise being bestowed upon it?
Ross Douthat's column today makes a sharp point about the myth of the realigning election, and how this encourages partisans to dream of total victory: This “realignment theory” was embraced by many scholars because it fit the historical record so well.
If the mixed results in the early Republican primaries--a Huckabee here, a McCain or Romney there--portends a split between the GOP’s religious, fiscally conservative, and security-state wings, it won't be the first time a national American political coalition has failed. But it will be the third time in a hundred years an apparently strong Republican majority cracked up due to the party's inability to govern.
Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips (Broadway Books, 432 pp., $29.95) Stupid White Men ... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! by Michael Moore (ReganBooks, 304 pp., $24.95) I. As Lord Bryce noted in 1888 in The American Commonwealth, the American way of choosing presidents rarely produces politicians of quality. Subsequent events vindicated his point: in the half-century after his book appeared, Americans elected to the presidency such undistinguished men as William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G.
President Kennedy, we're reminded by his biographers, understood the need for politicians to maintain their public dignity at all costs. When Hugh Sidey of Time playfully reported that Kennedy had posed with his family for the cover of Gentleman's Quarterly, "modelling a trimly tailored dark gray suit," Kennedy became apoplectic at the thought that he might be considered frivolous or effeminate for appearing in a flashy men's fashion magazine. " Anybody who read this would think I was crazy," he raged at Sidey, according to Richard Reeves.