Archive for Monday, November 11, 2002

Biographer personalizes historic lives

November 11, 2002


Word has it Michael Beschlossâ most recent book can be found on many a Capitol Hill nightstand.

And if thereâÂÂs one lesson the presidential historian hopes AmericaâÂÂs powerful learn, it is this: Finish the job.

Beschloss details AmericaâÂÂs destroy-and-rebuild approach during World War II in âÂÂThe Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of HitlerâÂÂs Germany 1941-1945.âÂÂ

Franklin D. Roosevelt made sure that America not only won the war but also that Germany did not rise again, and the Bush administration would be wise to use similar methods with Iraq, Beschloss said in an interview Sunday.

âÂÂWe really do have to fight this war to absolute victory and topple Iraq,â he said.

Then, he said, the administration has to be prepared - just as America was after World War II - to keep troops stationed in the country where they can build a free press, fix the educational system and establish democracy.

Beschloss spoke Sunday evening at the Lied Center, where a nearly full-house crowd had assembled for the second installment of The Presidential Lecture Series.

But not all of his comments were so serious. In fact, his anecdotes - including many from Lyndon B. JohnsonâÂÂs secret White House tapes - drew several bursts of laughter.

âÂÂYou learn the way that a president acts in private when you do this kind of work,â Beschloss said.

He described one conversation Johnson had with a department store manager regarding the purchase of some tailor-made slacks.

The store-bought ones just wouldnâÂÂt work, Johnson was recorded as saying. Instead, they felt as if he were âÂÂriding a wire fence.âÂÂ

In his introduction, Richard Norton Smith commended Beschloss for getting a sense for the nonpublic lives of presidents.

âÂÂThis is fly-on-the-wall history,â said Smith, director of the Dole Institute of Politics, which sponsors the lecture series.

And audience members, many of whom were in the over-50 crowd, seemed to enjoy the stories as well.

âÂÂHeâÂÂs talking about history that weâÂÂve lived through,â said Emmett Mitchell, Lecompton. âÂÂHe has a balanced view, and he can tell you things that make some of these people real characters.âÂÂ

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