Friday, March 02, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger (1917-2007)

Another great old Liberal is gone. There will be more words written about Schlisinger than anyone can summarize in a blog post, but here are two brief snips that caught my eye.

Arianna Huffington's remembrance underscores Arthur Schlesinger's full embodiment of that old cliche gentleman and scholar.

So the very first person I approached about blogging for HuffPost was Arthur.

He invited me to lunch at the venerable Century Club to discuss it. I arrived to find Arthur and his wonderful wife, Alexandra, already seated at the table.

"What is a blog?" he asked. "And what is blogging?"

So in this bastion of the Old Guard, I found myself explaining to a man who didn't do e-mail, and who considered his fax machine a revolutionary way to communicate, what blogging is. Of course, he got itinstantly -- and almost as quickly agreed. With one proviso: "Can I fax you my blogs?" he said.

"Of course," I replied, since I've never agreed with the purists that it ain't blogging if it's not done on Moveable Type.

And, indeed, his first faxed blog post arrived -- and was posted -- on May 9, 2005, the day HuffPost launched. There was the President of the United States, deriding the Yalta conference as "one of the greatest wrongs of history." -- part and parcel of his ongoing derision of negotiations, diplomacy, and anything but unilateral cowboyism.

Writing in The American Prospect in December, 2004, Arthur Schlesinger showed the firm grasp he had of contemporary events all the way to the end.

In the longer run, the problem is to deal with Ronald Reagan’s excommunication of affirmative government. "Government is not the solution to our problem," Reagan said in his first inaugural address. "Government is the problem." Reaganism rested on two propositions: that government was the root of evil and that, once government was “off the people’s backs,” the free market would solve our problems.

Now it is evident that the free market does not provide health care for millions of our people, does not ensure full employment, does not protect the natural environment, does not improve our schools, does not clean up our inner cities, and does not stop global warming. The very character of these problems calls for a larger measure of public action. This is the intellectual and political challenge that Democratic brain trusters must meet.

The last seventy-two hours have seen global markets shudder, George Soros buying up shares of Halliburton, and the unbelievably tardy beginnings of diplomatic initiatives about Iraq only after the profit margins of Big Oil get put on paper. The so-called "free market" appears to be anything but.

The NY Times obit is a balanced read. It has this cute little snip...

Mr. Schlesinger never stopped seeming like the brightest student in every class, “the eternal Quiz Kid,” in Time magazine’s phrase. He had no advanced degrees, but his scholarly output, not to mention reams of articles for popular publications like TV Guide and Ladies Home Journal, dwarfed those who did. Even as a child he felt a duty to manage conversations, not to say monopolize them.

An article in The New York Times magazine in 1965 told of his mother asking him to be quiet so she could make her point.

“Mother, how can I be quiet if you insist upon making statements that are not factually accurate,” the boy, then 11 or 12, replied.

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