Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy birthday, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
It is the birthday of historian and author Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917), who won Pulitzer Prizes for his books The Age of Jackson (1945) and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965). The Kennedy book also won the National Book Award in 1966.

Schlesinger served in the Kennedy White House as special assistant to the President. He took notes during that time for Kennedy to use in writing his own history of his time in office but after the assassination they became material for Schlesinger's book.

Schlesinger was an early supporter of Kennedy, backing the Massachusetts senator to be Adlai Stevenson's running mate in the 1956 election but Kennedy lost out to Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Schlesinger had known Kennedy since they attended Harvard University together. He socialized with Jack and Jacqueline in the 1950s.

The New York Times said Schlesinger "saw life as a walk through history. He wrote that he could not stroll down Fifth Avenue without wondering how the street and the people on it would have looked a hundred years ago."

He was a fierce liberal partisan who denounced Richard Nixon and led anti-Communist liberals in the McCarthy era. During the 1960 campaign he published a book Kennedy or Nixon: Does it Make Any Difference? It was an unabashedly political piece in which he praised Kennedy's abilities and criticized Nixon for having "no ideas, only methods … He cares about winning."

Schlesinger vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq, calling it "a ghastly mess" and challenging the basis of President George W. Bush's foreign policy in his last book, War and the American Presidency (2004). Schlesinger died in 2007 at the age of 89.

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