I’ve just heard, on the car radio, Bill O’Reilly discussing a book that he and his staff are working on, to be released next year. The working title is “Confronting the Presidents”–in which every president will be “confronted.”
With what? I gather from what O’Reilly said that this’ll cover the presidents’ failings, sins, quirks, skeletons in the family closet–everything bad. Everything that makes you wonder how any of them ever could have wound up being president.
We don’t like to think we’re handing over the nuclear launch codes to criminals, idiots, or lunatics. And who in his right mind can argue that we’ve never had anybody really bad as president?
But all of them? They were all wastes of space?
(Proof that God’s divine providence holds us up when we ought to be face-down on the asphalt…)
What profit is there in this exercise? We hope our constitutional and legal safeguards will protect us from any Bad Guy who slithered into the White House. But is this the kind of history we really want? This kind of scrutiny? Never mind presidents–who, including our own selves, can come out smelling like a rose?
Classical historians, like Plutarch and Livy, thought we should read history to learn what good works to emulate and what evil works to avoid. I don’t think they’d agree that everyone whose life they studied and wrote about was a bad egg.
We need to think harder about what use we make of history.