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Sunday, January 1, 2006
One of my Pet Peeves
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

Doris Kearns Goodwin was on MTP this morning, and did that thing that drives me nuts when historians do when they are on TV: and that is reduce analysis of the current era to quotations and anecdotes from presidents past. Today it has been Lincoln and FDR (oddly, not JFK refs of any significance today).

Usually the quotation is followed by a knowing smile about how cleverly the quotation explains how things are/how things should be.

Why is that TV chat shows have presidential historians on, rather than political scientists who specialize in the presidency? Surely the latter would have more useful things to say about the contemporary White House. It isn’t as if the institution really is the same today as it was in the 1860s-or even, for that matter, the 1940s.

Of course, I have griped about this before (here and here).

And while I often pick on DKG, I am sure she is a nice person and would be interesting to have a chat with, but enough with the analysis by historical analogy, already. (Although I have to say, I remain nonplussed over her plagiarism problem-and we all now how I feel about plagiarism).

Filed under: US Politics, Academia, MSM | |Send TrackBack


  1. The historians tell better stories. No worries about rational choice theories. (Present company excluded, of course). Americans are also in a mild history binge with the rise of the History Channel (even Tony Soprano watches it).

    Comment by Sean Hackbarth — Sunday, January 1, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  2. You make a legit point-that the historians probably make for better TV.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, January 1, 2006 @ 12:07 pm

  3. Well, Doris Kearns Goodwin is not exactly a great historian. But she did write a fantastic book, >i>Wait Till Next Year, about her own experiences growing up a Dodger fan in 1950s Brooklyn-the history that she lived. She really is a terrific writer, at least in that book (the only work of hers I have ever read).

    Comment by Matthew — Sunday, January 1, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  4. Assuming DKG *wrote* the book you cite. ;-)

    Comment by bryan — Sunday, January 1, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

  5. Of course, if MTP had a political scientist on, it’d be the discipline’s leading media whore, Larry Sabato. Give me Safire or Goodwin instead any day.

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Sunday, January 1, 2006 @ 8:33 pm

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