Thanks to Bush Library Blog fan “Farinata X” for calling my attention to this article from the New Republic. Along with a 2000 article about Texas A & M faculty and entanglements with the Bush people, this is most helpful in suggesting the more unpleasant of possibilities if/when the Bush complex comes to SMU. One of the most frequently-made arguments by supporters of the Library and Instititute, including some of my good friends and respected colleagues, goes something like “if the Bush Institute is going to have any academic credibility, it will have to represent a range of intellectually serious views, articulated by respectable and even prominent journalists and academics in a range of fields.” This is probably true . . . but what if the Bush people don’t want the Institute to have academic credibility, but rather simply to burnish their now-bedraggled reputations? Read this article to find out what that might look like in terms of the writing of history.
Bush’s imperial historian: White Man for the Job
The New Republic
April 13, 2007
Last month, a little-known British historian named Andrew Roberts was swept into the White House for a three-hour-long hug. He lunched with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, huddled alone with the president in the Oval Office, and was rapturously lauded by him as “great.” Roberts was so fawned over that his wife, Susan Gilchrist, told the London Observer, “I thought I had a crush on him, but it’s nothing like the crush President Bush has on him.”
At first glance, this isn’t surprising. Roberts’s latest work–A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900–sounds like a standard-issue neocon narrative. As a sequel to Winston Churchill’s famous series, it purports to tell the story of how the “Anglosphere” (Great Britain, the United States, Australia, and friends) saved the world from a slew of totalitarian menaces, from the kaiser to the caliphate. It presents Bush as the logical successor to Churchill–only Bush is, of course, even better.
Yet, beyond this surface sycophancy, there is something darker and more fetid. Bush, Cheney, and–in a recent, glowing cover story–National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud Roberts provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.