Writes Kevin Gutzman:
A year ago, I spoke at the annual Hannah Arendt Conference at Bard College. The conference’s subject was presidential leadership. I expressed skepticism at the idea that I should be “led” by a politician. Most other panel participants — politicians, political scientists, museum staffers, et al. — bought the implicit premise. One fellow averred that Lyndon Johnson should have a higher reputation, and then catalogued a long list of programs Johnson had initiated. His sole basis of evaluating each program was its stated purpose.
In 1971, Chinese statesman Zhou Enlai said of the French Revolution that it was “too soon to tell” whether it had been a positive or a negative event. As Detroit collapses under the weight of its labor unions, forced-busing decrees, federal highway spending, and other mid-20th-century liberal policies, and as the fiscal condition of America’s other city, state, and federal governments grows increasingly parlous, the time when we can evaluate Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and the like with more perspective approaches quickly. My prediction: it’s not going to be pretty. Le déluge approche.