Monday, February 17, 2014
Team of Rivals is Not a Good Book
Whenever I see a list like this, I know there's going to be disappointment.
The inclusion of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is annoying. She is a celebrity historian with a history of getting away with plagiarism, and her work is fairly known to be tainted and lacking of academic credibility. If you flip to her bibliography, read those books instead.
I've never accepted her thesis about Lincoln having a team of rivals. Lincoln was weak politically and these were the men he drew into his fold in order to marginalize them. He used this strategy to get himself re-elected and accepted their counsel only when it conformed to his own needs. Lincoln was an intellectual who pretended to be less intelligent and sophisticated than he actually was in order to disarm his opponents and allow himself to drive his own agenda.
Goodwin worships at the altar of bipartisanship and the need for our political leaders to make deals with their opponents. This is what we called High Broderism in response to the many columns that the late David Broder would write about Democrats who just couldn't kneel before Republicans and beg for mercy (no one ever accuses a Republican of not being "bipartisan" enough because they're being "principled" instead of pragmatic).
Lincoln's 'team of rivals' were venal and corrupt men who did their level best to lose the Civil War. Their policies sentenced hundreds of thousands of men to death because of their incompetence. This was not a magic team of A-listers who helped save a country. The country wasn't saved by anything other than the fact that there were more boys in Blue from the Northeast and the Midwest who could walk long distances and not run away when shot at. They outlasted their opponents. The 100,000 southern men who deserted the Confederate Army had more of an impact on the direction of the war than anything decided in the White House. The war was not won with bipartisanship and friendly table banter between Salmon Chase and Edwin Stanton. It was won because there were more men on one side who carried rifles and stood where they were told.