Bachmann, Burr, and Patriotism


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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94 Responses

  1. Steven Donegal says:

    I just finished reading Henry Adams’ histories of the Jefferson and Madison administrations. Burr plays a fairly prominent part in the Jefferson administration and comes off in Adams’ history as one of the great political con men of the age. Granted, Adams had a few axes to grind with the Virginia republicans (and the Massachusetts Federalists), but about the only person who comes off looking generally capable during this period is Albert Gallatin (and JQ Adams, of course). I’m not sure what Bachmann would make of this version of history.Report

  2. Michael Drew says:

    I’m a nationalist, and love the thought of taking the Founders down a peg or three. I guess I’m not a nationalist *like Bachmann*. Thank Heaven for small favors.Report

  3. What’s left? Not gods or saints, but imperfect men who despite their flaws nevertheless make good role models, men who stretched themselves to do something great and did. Ambiguous people we can at once admire, criticize, and emulate.

    What Bachmann really can’t tolerate is ambiguity. You are enjoying the novel, Will, precisely because you can not only tolerate ambiguity but can relish in how it makes the good seem really good and does not conceal the bad. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a mature mind.Report

  4. trizzlor says:

    I think historical fiction can actually be quite shocking specifically because it carefully blends truth and lies. Reading a pure work of fiction gives you the option to put a barrier between yourself and the story, abstract it away. But historical fiction keeps trying to poke through that barrier.

    Personally, I remember reading some fantastically lurid medical fact in a Palahniuk novel and being honestly offended when I found it wasn’t true, as if the author had lied to me in his story. Even though the entire plot was some ridiculous escapade of Jesus’ modern-day offspring.Report

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    Burr is the first (chronologically) of seven historical novels in Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire” series. I read the whole thing over the past year. I’d highly recommend _Lincoln_ as well, and to a lesser extent _1876_, Empire_, and Hollywood. ) _Lincoln_ is the only other book in the series that’s mostly about historical, as opposed to wholly fictional, characters.)Report

  6. Rufus F. says:

    It’s funny- I’m really excited about all of this renewed fascination with history. Or, at least, it seems like there’s a lot of new interest in history. But I worry that people who are looking to the founding fathers are doing hagiography instead of history. Now, of course, none of that gets at how we should respond to historical fiction. I’ve gotten angry with historical fiction before, but usually for other reasons.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Rufus F. says:

      You might care to save a smattering of that righteous indignation for the day you read the tale of the bimbo that was elected to Congress, and then find out that all the stories you heard about Michelle Bachmann were all true.Report

  7. BlaiseP says:

    Michelle Bachmann is just having us on. Her quarrel was not with Burr but with Gore Vidal, then causing no end of consternation on the television, fighting with William F Buckley.Report

  8. Rtod says:

    Not to spoil the fun of a good post, Will. (Not to mention the fact that I am grateful anytime anyone takes the time to underline that not being nationalistic does not mean one is not a patriot.)

    But when I hear Michelle Bachmann say she is a conservative because of her critique of Burr, it strikes the same chord as when a pol says their favorite book is A Reagan biography, or the Federalist Papers, or a book about MLK. That is, it feels like a bullshit answer designed more to touch the crowd than anything else.

    I’m no fan of Bachmann. Indeed, I think she’s a bit foul. But some patriot reading a novel about the founders by a well known liberal, sensing a wrongness about it and not only changing her political philosophy but going forth on a divine missin to restore those founders vision… Just sounds more like a story you want to stick than something that actually happens to a person.Report

    • Rtod in reply to Rtod says:

      In fact, I’ll up that bet and go all in: I’d bet a dollar she’s never read it.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Rtod says:

      That makes sense. Have you ever noticed how people who are really committed to a political ideology inevitably have a conversion story? I’ve seen it with conservatives, liberals, socialists, anarchists- they all seem to have a story about when they suddenly saw things for what they really are.Report

      • Rtod in reply to Rufus F. says:

        And it’s never “everyone around me believed it, and I just got tired of arguing.”Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Rtod says:

          That’s true! I wonder what people do when they go from being one sort of die hard true believer to another. It seems like you’d have to have a really good explanation- “After I saw them eat the still-beating torn out heart of that logger they’d just killed, I knew that I could no longer be an environmentalist…”Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F. says:

            It’s a form of sublimation. Genuine faith always contains aspects of doubt. Zealotry never does.Report

          • Simon K in reply to Rufus F. says:

            There’s always another conversion story. When they go back to being sort-of-mainstream, as they sometimes do, interestingly there’s never a de-conversion story. Lady Mosley – the wife of Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader – was converted from her sisters communism to her husband’s fascism, but in her later years when she became a vaguely mainstream liberal, she had just sort of drifted back from the extreme.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

            “After I saw them eat the still-beating torn out heart of that logger they’d just killed, I knew that I could no longer be an environmentalist…”

            Really, Rufus. It has to be that shockingly dreadful? How about a person just learned more, experienced more, and saw the flaws in their world-view, then converted. Also, “die hard true believer” seems like a negative way to describe a set of accepted ideas. In many cases it’s not the ultimate goals that change in the conversion, just the methods to achieve the goals. Most people, whether they are conservative, libertarian, liberal or progressive, want the best for others and to live in a world that’s fair, honest and peaceful in which people can be comfortable, happy, healthy and can reach their highest potential. If we all begin accepting that we want basically the same things, then we can stop demonizing one another personally over disagreements in methods. Criticizing the methods gets us closer to real solutions. Being stuck on methods, because a person has personalized the methods as critical to who they are politically and group-wise, creates unintended consequences that are often denied in defense of the methods, then a person becomes an unwitting accomplice when people are harmed — everyone is responsible for re-evaluating methods and changing if the methods aren’t working or are doing harm, and this can require a deep conversion experience to sift all this out to determine if methods and group-identity are more important than the ultimate goals. If this is the case, that methods and group-identity are more important than achieving the goals, integrity is lost, and then a person deserves any criticism coming their way.Report

            • JosephFM in reply to MFarmer says:

              See, I definite can’t accept that “most people, whether they are conservative, libertarian, liberal or progressive, want the best for others and to live in a world that’s fair, honest and peaceful in which people can be comfortable, happy, healthy and can reach their highest potential.” I definitely see many people as far more concerned with group or individual identity or personal ego-stroking. In fact, in most arguments I assume this to be the case. I think this is why I’ve found your blog so infuriating, and why I had to take a break from this site.

              But in any case, what I think Rufus are people whose goals do a complete 180 but their methods don’t, hence the negativity.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to JosephFM says:

                We have a much different view of the average person. Yes, there are people who care only about the advancement of themselves or their “group” or race or religion or whatever, but they are not the majority. You certainly can’t say that all people on the Right don’t care about peace, fairness or what’s best for the American people, nor can you say it about the Left or independents. The argument is really over methods to create a better world in which to live peacefully and flourish, if people aren’t in dire need because of widespread economic hardships — then they might be more self-interested, or family-interested or group-interested, especially if group warfare is stoked by government policy — this is why methods are so important – we can create the world you imagine now where we’re pitted against one another due to government manipulation of resources and favors. But underneath the self-survival, I believe most people would still want to live in a fair, peaceful world in which we all flourish to the best of our abilities.Report

  9. tom van dyke says:

    A break from Obama’s mandate, but teabagging the Teabaggers never stops.

    The linked “news” story bagging on Bachmann contains its own historical errors and myths, of course.

    It does make me wonder just how many of even Vidal’s most sophisticated readers will be able to discern his facts from his fictions.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

      It does make me wonder just how many of even Vidal’s most sophisticated readers will be able to discern his facts from his fictions.

      Figuring that out is part of the fun. As Will points out, it’s quite clear early on that Vidal’s Burr is a rascal, not to be taken at face value, as well as the sort that can see other people’s faults but none of their virtues.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke says:

      The Tea Party is too pitiable a thing to scoff at, anymore. All that huffing and puffing and farts of indignation: no sooner did they get to Washington than they were led off like Pinocchio to the Field of Miracles to plant their gold.

      As Frank Zappa observed in Flakes, “You can stomp and shoot and spit / But they won’t be fixing it.”Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Oh pleez Blaise, either the Tea Party is successful or you’ll find yourself in a re-education camp.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Re-education? What a tiresome thing that would be. The more I learn, the less I feel I understand. Where do you think they would re-start?

          But it would be a relief, in a way, to be taught by folks who’ve come to grips with all those tiresome loose ends. The Spanish say “Si el diablo está en los detalles, en la coherencia el se pone sus botas”, if the devil is in the details, he frolics in consistency.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Where do you think they would re-start?

            How many lights are there?Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

              Only one at present. It’s a big one, coming through the clouds, with a soundtrack by Mahler. Bebby Jeezus is in the middle of it, and he’s telling me he’s Mighty Pissed. Some folks, it seems, ate up all the passenger pigeons and dodos and he was very fond of them.Report

            • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:

              I like that you and bob don’t fight turf wars.

              You do the hitler references, he does the commie ones. It is like a duet.Report

            • James K in reply to Jaybird says:

              There. Are. Four. Lights!!!Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

              I think it likely that it would require teams of re-educators to challenge your encyclopedic knowledge. Of course the black shirted thugs would begin at the ground to restore the individual order given over to sin and consequently lost among the ‘climate of opinion,’ assuming of course that the Jesuits take over the country.
              But know this, I’m assuming that you’re in the resistance, captured at the barricades, rather than a captain of the interrogators. It’s possible perhaps likely that you’ll be the one beseeching the unwashed with the delightful and melodic statist cant though I sense a numinous yearning in your rejection/mocking of the Christ and associated pneumopathologies.

              f course, assuming you’re not one of them.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                to restore the individual order given over to sin

                No, Bush can’t run for a third term.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                ….but Jeb’s out there!Report

              • dexter in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Bob old pal, Iwas having a good day. Why did you have to remind me?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                You think Jeb’s gung-ho on torture too? I’ll take your word for it.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I dunno but Barry’s still running Gitmo..whas up wid dat?Report

              • JosephFM in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Meh, Jeb’s busy pulling Rick Medicare Fraud Scott’s puppet strings down here.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Entire platoons of earnest young things would be wasted hectoring this old reprobate, lost to sin and error. The Jesuits will never take over this country: I once wrote a software package for Moreau Seminary, at the heart of Notre Dame University. Priest recruitment statistics are not good. The silly Catholics turned their altars around backward, preached weak-tea homilies, lost all sense of mystery and in the process forgot who they were.

                As for me having a little fun at the expense of the Infant Jesus of Prague, aka Bebby Jeezus, you can blame Winston Smith. Or Gogol. He’s probably more guilty.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BP, your critique of Catholicism is right on of course. Lost my Romanish ways following Vatican II and the above mentioned aftermath…alas, miss the mystery, as you say but continue to root for ND. BTW, you’re not the only disenchanted rev’s son on these pages…whas up wid dat?Report

              • What up with that indeed, Mr. Cheeks. The anti-confessionals pouring down hereabouts like rain, how i din’t find and indeed lost Jesus are of interest to the disinterested observer. An AA meeting instead of a revival. not Atheists Anonymous, but Anti-theists Anonymous. Oh, the anger. The horror.

                Did the guitar mass lose you yr Jesus? Yr Jehovah? David played and sang and wrote psalms, and I can’t imagine Jesus not liking “Day by Day.”

                Lotsa humbugs around here. League of Ordinary Humbugs.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Take a breath Tom, relax a bit. I’m not rejecting Christianity, the Christ, Logos, Word, rather explicating why I no longer practice my religion in the confines of the Roman Catholic Church.
                I left in ’66 for cryin’ out loud because they appeared to be acting like a bunch of Presbyterians. I figured if I wanted to be a Protestant, I’d join one of their churches.
                My faith in Christ is experiential not doctrinal.
                Let’s keep our guns trained on the enemy here and not shoot our fellow conservatives. No need to give the commie-dems a show.Report

              • Mr. Cheeks, You & I have no enemies here, except the humbugs.

                Humbugs are the enemies of man, mankind, their own humanity, and humanity itself, Men Without Chests.

                I’m chill, as much as a person with a chest can possibly be. Humbuggery is a denial of one’s own humanity, Dickens and Lewis in full agreement.

                Bob, join the group religio-therapy here if it feels right, reject what’s rejectable and there’s a lot. And you have. Good boy. Humbug.

                I like “Day By Day.” Disarms me everytime I listen to it, which I just did, again, since I spoke of it. Ain’t thought of it or listened to it in 20 years, until now, actually. It’s OK.

                I’ve been studying the Protestants lately, BTW, Calvinism and the American Founding. You’d be surprised. I was, and it would rock this libertarian world here. They have no idea.

                Oh no, I’ve said too much
                I haven’t said enough

  10. steve says:

    Bachmann? I have long advocated for bringing back the claymation series, Celebrity Death Match. My current leading contenders for the opening match would be Bachmann vs Maxine Waters. Both are so batsh*t crazy it would make for a great match.


  11. North says:

    Speaking as an immigrant Minnesotan; if Burr turned Bachman into a conservative then liberals everywhere (but especially in Minnesota) owe Burr a great debt.Report

  12. Nana Yabis says:

    As a Minnesotan, I apologize to the country for Michele Bachmann.
    I also think that those of you who are even dumber than her and voted for her should apologize the loudest.
    The country needs Jobs for the unemployed. Her slash and burn reduce spending is going to put more people out of work, that means less taxes being paid in. Will she then slash and burn the poor, disabled, and old even more? She won’t be happy until everyone under the age of twelve, anyone living below the poverty level, and anyone over 60 are dead from her slash and burn them first policy. While she still gets farm subsidies for what is NOT a farm by the farmers in MN. Again, I apologize that she is from MN. A great state and it will be even greater when she gets the hell out of here.Report

  13. Heidegger says:

    Okay, all you nattering nabobs of negativism, please give the honorable Ms. Bachmann her due respect! I happen to be very deeply in love with this utterly charming lass and plan, on Valentine’s Day, to fly my ultralight trike right on her front lawn and, on bended knee, propose to her. What a perfect name for such loveliness–Michelle, a cognate of Michael–of French and Hebrew origins meaning, “one seeking God” or “one who is like God”. And for all you Michaels out here, you do NOT want to be messing with this cat. Just ask Satan–the Archangel Michael, just happens to be the Field Marshall and Commandant of the Army of God, who is not known to take any prisoners!

    Are there really live, breathing, Gore Vidal fans on this site? This Gore Vidal? “I really don’t give a shit. Look am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s being taken advantage of?” This is in response to questioner regarding Roman Polanski being convicted of drugging and anally raping a thirteen year-old girl back in the 70s. Naturally, the Hollywood libs and lefties went berserk at this “gross miscarriage of justice” and saying Polanski has “paid” his dues. To whom? Where were the feminists? Probably on their way to Duke to get those three Dukle students who were falsely accused of rape, strung up and hung. And who can forget 88 members of Duke’s faculty signing that letter condemning the accused–” Last spring, 88 Duke faculty members signed a public statement stating unequivocally that something “happened” to the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case. They promised to “turn up the volume” regarding the “social disaster” the lacrosse players had unleashed. And the professors said “thank you” to widely publicized protesters who had put up “wanted” posters with the lacrosse players’ photos while carrying signs reading “Time to confess” and “Castrate” outside the lacrosse players’ house.” Naturally, the usual race-baiters–Sharpton, Jackson, The New Black Panthers couldn’t shutup. Remember Tawana Brawly?

    Any apologies? Condemnations? I never heard any kind of contrition or regret from any of them. Big surprise there.

    A young hooker?? Imagine if that was your sister or daughter.


    • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

      Uh-oh. Just realized my own little plagiarism. No quotes around “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

      Those were Spiro Agnew’s four words. Sorry.Report

    • Boonton in reply to Heidegger says:

      OK I apologize for Polanski raping a 13 yr old girl over 30 years ago. When will the right apologize for the TailHook scandal?Report

      • Heidegger in reply to Boonton says:

        Boonton writes:

        “OK I apologize for Polanski raping a 13 yr old girl over 30 years ago. When will the right apologize for the TailHook scandal?”

        A rather convoluted and abstruse application of logic, although I have to assume you’re probably kidding.

        In case I’m mistaken in my assumption, what in the world do “Tailhook”, and the “right” have to do with Polanski drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? And who, among the “right” do think needs to apologize? For what? The Tailhook incident happened 14 years after Polanski’s incident. What’s more, after Polanski’s release from the nuthouse wing of Chino State Prison, he entered a plea deal that would have dismissed 5 of the 6 charges, a deal that he later signed off on, and probably would have amounted to him spending no more than 6 months in the can. However, he became increasingly suspicious of the judge and decided he didn’t want to take the chance that he’d be locked up for any consider amount of time so he split. End of story. Viva la France! Do you think being on the lam for 30 years somehow ameliorates the crimes he committed? We’re not talking jaywalking here. He could have showed up for sentencing but decided he didn’t want to take the chance. Being on the lam is not doing time. Not usually. Also, he could have appealed any additional prison time if the judge had, in fact, changed his mind and decided Polanski needed more time to get his mind “right”.Report

        • Boonton in reply to Heidegger says:

          First, my ‘apology’ is, of course, sarcastic. I don’t really see why anyone on the left should feel the need to apologize for Polanski anymore than the right need apologize for anything they didn’t specifically do.

          Second, if you have a beef with specific people who have argued the case for Polanski then take it up with them. “Hollywood” and “Liberals” here exist here as props for your attempts to forment class warfare. And do we really need that?

          Third, to the degree that Polanski had a lot of defenders, I think the relevant factors at work ere:

          * Sympathy for him considering the horrible way he lost his first wife to Manson’s ‘family’.

          * A very different atmosphere in the 70’s where sex had been liberated but not women. Hence the very casual way underage sex was approached…note how light the original deal appears in today’s light. Most of us weren’t very mature then but you can get a sense of the different attitude by some movies from the period. Note, for example, Taxi Driver features Jodi Foster playing a 12 yr old prostitute! But even less artistic movies like Freebie and the Bean casually has a side character who has a 14 yr old ‘girlfriend’ in bed with him at his apartment. The cops let him go when he gives up some info, making the whole underage thing seem like some minor technicality.

          * Some people did get into the case and were honestly convinced the judge and prosecutor were not behaving correctly in the case. I can’t comment so much about that since it’s not anything I really care much about.

          Now what does this have to do with Vidal’s book? Not much that I can see. The one time I ever bothered to listen to Gore Vidal at length was when he was a guest on Bill Mahr’s show (I was aware of the famous blow up between him and Buckley). He seemed pretty pompous and uninteresting to me….that he might have been jumping to conclusions and being pompus 40 years ago isn’t very important. We could just as easily jump all over Bill Cosby for falling for Al Sharpton’s Twana Brawley case.Report

          • Heidegger in reply to Boonton says:

            Boonton, thank you so much for such a great and thoughtful reply, some of which I entirely agree with–
            you must understand this is not a case about underage sex–who would care about that? I’m sure it happens all the time with directors, actors, and the groupies that worship them.–the key factor in this situation is that he drugged this 13 year-old girl into a state of unconsciousness and then raped her. That’s just a whole nother ballgame and the entire equation changes. This is in no way, a case of consensual sex–forget the 30 year age difference factor, the girl was unconscious. That’s crossing a very disturbing and significant line.Report

        • Boonton in reply to Heidegger says:

          I should also add that quite frankly women were not taken seriously in the 70’s and before. This is pretty obvious when you look at a lot of the media from the time and before. Liberalism and Feminism were not one in the same despite what conservatives like to think. Many ‘good liberals’ in the era were had pretty crappy views as far as feminism was concerned and it took some serious culture wars into the 80’s before serious change happened.Report

    • Chris in reply to Heidegger says:

      I have to assume that you know that there were plenty on the left, especially among feminists, who were outraged at Polanski then and now. There were apologists on the left, of course. Then again, according to House Republicans, what he did wasn’t rape, at least not for the purposes of abortion access, because drugging someone is not using force. So maybe the Polanski apologists and the House Republicans can get together to work on Polanski’s legal defense.Report

      • Heidegger in reply to Chris says:

        Chris, my friend, great to hear from you! First of all, sorry for calling you a prick. You are not a prick–you just have a most interesting brain and I enjoy so much seeing it in action. Are you serious about House Republicans not considering drugging and having sex with and underage girl a crime? What is this, Caligula? It is quite a funny scenario imagining Republicans and Polinski apologists working together to spring this moral martyr, Polanski. Also, would you consider being my best man when I marry Michelle Bachmann?Report

  14. Boonton says:

    A good post, in fairness to Ms. Bachmann, I think we should take something into consideration that she may not be able to articulate.

    This ties in with (Freddie’s?) post on post-modern from a year or two ago. An idea that’s important in conservativism is that our biases and prejudices may be irrational in that they can’t be defended logically but they are nonetheless good because they have stood the test of time. (Or another way of looking at it is a type of social darwinism. Some of the prejudices we inherit may seem poorly thought out but they actually make a lot of sense, because of this they had an advantage that allowed them to survive over numerous generations).

    So one concept that has been around for quite a while has been a pseudo-deification of the Founding Fathers. This works for us in many ways. Since the Founders lived in very different times and had a diverse POV, viewing them as sacred today doesn’t force us into a single set of policies. During the Civil War, for example, both North and South referenced the Founders to try to enlist them to their sides. Afterwards left and right both sought to reference their positions in terms of the ideas expressed by the Founders. So in a sense the Founders give us a type of shared mythology that pushes us in our debates to a higher level but doesn’t suffocate us with dogmatism.

    From Bachmann’s perspective, though, this is a kind of ‘noble lie’. To work you have to think of the Founders as something more than human. Hence the problem with Vidal’s work is that it’s true. Not true in the sense that that he somehow got the Founders right (who knows what they were really like?) but true in that he’s making them look like people. If they are people they can’t serve as myths.

    But Bachmann is in a bind. As a conservative her agenda is like an environmentalist who seeks to protect endangered species. The problem is she seeks to protect endangered lies. Unlike the environmentalist, though, trying to protect a lie is tricky because you can’t really be honest about what you’re doing. As soon as you say “I’m defending a lie” you’ve given up your lie for dead unless you’re willing to venture into an odd post-modern territory where you argue that we should all play the role of ironists who will pretend to believe something without really believing it. So Bachmann can only defend a lie by being dishonest and treating the lie as the truth. The Founders were mythological, not regular people. Their disputes and disagreements were cosmically important, not petty politics.

    There is a point to this that Bachmann can’t discuss but we can. The lie has its merits and it’s not for sure the truth offers merits greater than the lie. Does it help to imagine Jefferson sitting on a crapper wiping his ass or Lincoln with a fetish for fat women? The first is almost certainly true, the second is a guess but let’s say its the truth. Does that truth help as much as the lie of those people being larger than life?Report

    • tom van dyke in reply to Boonton says:

      Perhaps you’ve bought into an ignoble lie—that the Founders should be dragged down to our modern level. Not that the Founders didn’t have the same weaknesses as us, surely they did. But that their strengths were perhaps greater than those of our feckless age.

      There’s a reason Ronald Reagan was loved, and so many of his contemporaries were not. He could not only appeal to our better angels, he knew what they were. It was not the generic fuzzy happy talk of his successors. Indeed, Jack Kennedy was a man of great personal weaknesses, but was able to better articulate these better angels of the American ideal than so many who have come after.

      As for Michelle Bachman, it’s said that smaller minds focus on people, better minds ideas, and this is certainly the case here. A passing smirk at a backbench opponent is one thing, but there are pages upon pages on Google trumpeting her “mistake.” But there are so few sentences to parse, it’s hard to tell what she knows and does not know. Her critics drew ridiculous reductions/conclusions, and made several errors on history themselves.

      Instead, it would better that these smugly people should spend the time parsing the Founders themselves, who almost to a man recognized the evil of slavery to a degree or a great degree. In the end, she was trying to say something no different than Frederick Douglass did, that the Founding ideals indeed held the doom of slavery within them and the promise of genuine liberty for all.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke says:

        Michelle my belle is smarter than Barry, of course.
        She’s way smarter than Algore and Sen. Kerry who served in Vietnam. She’s very much smarter than wacky Nancy Pelosi and she knows what the legislative, executive, and judical are. Michelle. I would think, gives every indication of being smarter than just about any commie-Dem given her political persuasion.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke says:

        The Founders were remarkable men caught up in feckful times. Ronald Reagan was decidedly not. It was Ronald Reagan who turned me against the Republican Party. While others may see the good in him, I was in uniform during his administration and got to see how he did things at closer range than some.

        Reagan was far too old for the Presidency when he took the oath. As a result, he took too many naps while less-honorable men did interesting things in the basement. They sold arms to our enemies and traded arms for hostages and he lied about all of it. When cornered and confronted with his lies, Reagan mildly replied in his heart he knew it was right.

        Reagan was not truly loved so much as he was adored from afar. To love someone, you must know that person. We never knew Ronald Reagan: we saw of him what he wanted us to see, though in his second term most of that scrim was pulled down and we did in fact see him for the wretched old impostor he was. Homines quod volunt credunt. If a man may be known by his friends, Reagan was a truly awful man. Bush41, his Vice President, was a better man by half and it would be Bush41 tasked with picking up the champagne bottles and scrubbing the vomit out of the carpet after Ronald Reagan’s colossal drunken toot.

        Be not too hasty to make a hero of a cardboard cutout like Ronald Reagan, who in the course of representing his union would inform to J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Nor, Liberals, be too fond of JFK, whose meddling would eventually lead us to the debacle of Vietnam and whose idiocy would bring us closer to the nuclear abyss than at any other time.

        A few stanzas of lying panegyric are worse for a man’s reputation than a boatload of slander. They certainly give the historians more trouble. The Founding Fathers put their breeches on one leg at a time. I am not sure you understand this Better Angels business or the dangers of appealing to them.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Well said, BlaiseP. Mythologizing our leaders is a foolish thing to begin with, but the way Reagan has been carved in ivory is absurd.Report

        • tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Thank you for your sliming of Ronald Reagan, BlaiseP. Your criticism was more about yourself than him. You are attracted not by the better angels than to the feet of clay—illustrating my core point. But I do appreciate that you ascribe the feet of clay more to his subordinates more than him. No man is perfect, not you or I, certainly.

          “Cardboard cutout?” It’s painful to learn that after all the time we’ve spent getting to know each other, BlaiseP, such brutalities are still considered necessary. I do love Ronald Reagan, RIP. I visited his grave and said a prayer for him. As men go, he was one of the better ones.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke says:

            Call me old-fashioned, Tom. Selling arms to Iran and trading for hostages was beyond the pale, but lying about it, well….. let me tell you a little story. It’s about a man I worked with a long time ago, happens to be a true story. His name was Col. Rich Higgins, USMC, a peacekeeper in Lebanon. Because Reagan had set the precedent for negotiating for hostages, Hizb’allah hauled him out of his Jeep, tried negotiating for him, tortured him, hanged him, took his picture and threw his body on the Baalbek road like a dog. I knew Rich Higgins. I saw what Reagan did and didn’t do in Lebanon.

            Those who continue to love Ronald Reagan, knowing these things to be true (and you haven’t contested them) remind of those battered women who won’t press charges against the men who batter them. Knowing the truth, you continue to live in denial.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

              BP, I do agree that Reagan f*cked up in Lebanon, though his f*ck up wasn’t anywhere near as horrific as Harry Truman’s in Korea, or JFK/LBJ’s in Vietnam…now was it?Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Reagan’s primary political achievement was his ability to illustrate just how absurd the leftist agenda is/was. He made it ok to embrace whatever ‘conservatism’ you’d care to by illustrating the superiority of American conservatism in general to an un-American, derailed, foreign ideology (commie-Dems)! He destroyed the Left in two elections by literally mocking the absurdity of their belief system.
          Reagan placed ‘conservatism’ on the same level as the commie-Dem’s socialism. Now most elections will be contested, assuming the stupid GOP has a candidate who isn’t Democrat-lite.
          And, he did this in an era when ‘welfare’ was a way of life.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

            The legacy of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy was the mistaken notion America was all bluster and wouldn’t fight. His disgraceful failure to respond to the Beirut barracks bombing, coupled with his treacherous dealings with Hizb’allah and Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime told the world he was a silly, sentimental old gentleman, completely incapable of operating in the real world.

            His only significant foreign policy successes were conducted with another leader of a failing dreamworld: Mikhail Gorbachev. The only difference between the two was this: Gorbachev knew his was a dreamworld. Reagan never did.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Pleeze, Ronnie cuts and runs, he’s an old man; Ronnie stays and fights and he’s a warmonger.
              Ronnie’s failure was that he couldn’t clean up all of Jimmy Carter’s foul ups particularly hanging the cancer ridden Shah out to dry for the Ayatollah.
              BTW that “..only significant foreign policy successe(s)..” was the destruction of the Soviet Union, and I remember when the commie-Dems kowtowed before Moscow Centre, warned us of their might and how we should kiss their ass..and old man Reagan stood up to the commie-rats and Democrats everywhere, particularly the congress, shook in fear and trembling and Ted Kennedy searched for a way to betray this nation by serving his Soviet betters.Report

      • Boonton in reply to tom van dyke says:

        Reagan was not ‘loved’ when he was in office. He was a politician like others, his approval rating went up and down and various people on the left and right sometimes supported him, other times didn’t. He became ‘loved’ in retrospect (Kennedy’s name went through something quite similiar).

        If you were alive in the Founders age, you’d probably see them as politicians with their agendas, flaws and all. All this petty stuff gets forgotten about with time and the mythic view takes hold. The premise of Vidal’s book and Bachmann’s issue with it appears to be that the book doesn’t celebrate the generation of the myth but instead tries to get at the truth. The problem with defending a lie, though, is that you can’t just say it point blank. You can’t just say “we are better off believing the myth than the truth” because once you say that you’re no longer believing the myth but just pretending too.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to Boonton says:

          Reagan had a gift for articulating certain principles which were hard to criticize, but, yes, he was hated by many. I used to wake up each morning to a local station I used as an alarm, and the hosts were liberal-types and they satirized every move Reagan made. When public support went Reagan’s way, politicians had to be careful, but there was much hatred of Reagan, especially from intellectuals. Even on the Right, there was disdain from certain factions. I choose to be inspired by ideas rather than depend on the perfect integrity of individuals — we continue to try the best we can. The result of Reagan’s presidency was a more powerful government, because in reality he operated in a statist system which forces compromise on pinciples, and a system that values realism in foreign affairs, therefore the revealed dirty dealings — these revelations will only become more frequent and transparent in the Information Age — no individual has yet survived this system with their integrity intact. All that said, Reagan was a unique figure in American politics — a large example of the contrast between stated principles and ultimate results in our political system.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to MFarmer says:

            As a communicator, Reagan was a lot like Robert Heinlein. He had a gift for describing complicated subjects in a way that made them seem simple with obvious answers, and this caused people who agreed with his general conclusions to worship him in ways that approach the unseemly, while developing amnesia regarding the areas where they disagree. [1]

            1. E.g. the recently concluded arms treaty with Russia was 100% in the Reagan tradition of bipartisan foreign policy, and anyone who opposed it for purely partisan gain was spitting in Reagan’s face.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              A recent comment somewhere (probably Hit and Run) said something to the effect of:

              I thought that Reagan was going to be okay on spending but lead us into WWIII. As it is, the USSR collapsed and “deficits don’t matter”.

              While we’re enjoying pointing out that he’s not as great as his admirers gush, it’s also fun to point out that he’s not as bad as his worst critics predicted he was going to be (indeed, he killed far fewer billions than I was told he would).Report

          • JosephFM in reply to MFarmer says:

            So, my parents kept the newspaper (the Miami Herald, which was still worth reading back then) from the day my sister was born.

            One of the headines was, I think, “Conservatives blast Reagan over Soviet arms deal”. It featured a pull quote from Richard Viguerie attacking Reagan as having “never been a true conservative”.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

        You would slime Frederick Douglass by comparing him to that?Report