Saturday, June 30, 2007

Two books

I'm reading two books right now, which have cut into blogging time a little. I'm not finished with either one, but I'll share some initial thoughts.
Both books (Commander in Chief by Geoffrey Perret and A Tragic Legacy by Glenn Greenwald) are about the disastrous Bush presidency. My initial impression of the Greenwald book is that it's the superior one of the two -- an easier read and a better-argued case. Perret is primarily a historian, and when a historical becomes a polemicist his work usually suffers. His book is largely an attempt to draw parallels between Truman, LBJ and Bush. I've gotten as far as Johnson's initial days in office, but the Truman portion of the book seemed a bit over-wrought to me. Clearly Perret feels a certain amount of contempt for Truman, but I think a more restrained style that allowed the facts to speak for themselves would be more effective. For example, Perret makes a point of calling Truman "Colonel Truman" at various points, especially when trying to make Truman's military acumen suspect.
Now, I don't believe that Truman was some kind of military genius, but calling him "Colonel Truman" seems like a cheap shot when he was acting as president. Truman did serve honorably as a field grade officer in the Great War, but he made no pretensions of being some kind of military strategist. Reading about "Colonel Truman" helps bring the author's prejudices to the fore, but it didn't make me think less of Truman.
More later on these two books.

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