Monday, January 22, 2018

This is how democracies die | Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt | Opinion | The Guardian

This is how democracies die | Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt | Opinion | The Guardian
Defending our constitution requires more than outrage
Blatant dictatorship – in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule – has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means.
Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves. Like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, elected leaders have subverted democratic institutions in Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine.
Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box. The electoral road to breakdown is dangerously deceptive. With a classic coup d’état, as in Pinochet’s Chile, the death of a democracy is immediate and evident to all. The presidential palace burns. The president is killed, imprisoned or shipped off into exile. The constitution is suspended or scrapped.
On the electoral road, none of these things happen. There are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance.
Many government efforts to subvert democracy are “legal”, in the sense that they are approved by the legislature or accepted by the courts. They may even be portrayed as efforts to improve democracy – making the judiciary more efficient, combating corruption or cleaning up the electoral process.
Newspapers still publish but are bought off or bullied into self-censorship. Citizens continue to criticize the government but often find themselves facing tax or other legal troubles. This sows public confusion. People do not immediately realize what is happening. Many continue to believe they are living under a democracy.
Because there is no single moment – no coup, declaration of martial law, or suspension of the constitution – in which the regime obviously “crosses the line” into dictatorship, nothing may set off society’s alarm bells. Those who denounce government abuse may be dismissed as exaggerating or crying wolf. Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.

A damage assessment at one year. Tom Nichols

Saturday, January 20, 2018

They Were Bad. He May Be Worse. - The New York Times

After his colossally bad first year (the "accomplishments" such as they are being the product of the right wing Republican majority)  Donald Trump has - in this persuasive historical comparison- locked in his place as the worst President in American history.

His first year is book-ended by massive protests against him - primarily by women.  As year 2 began the government was shut down due to his unwillingess to acquiesce in a Congressional compromise.  One in which the Democratic leadership offered to give him every penny he asked for to build border walls and other barriers and obstacles to entry.  But he could not bring himself to go along despite a plethora of pledges and assertions of readiness to "take the heat". 

It has been a year of utterly ignoring the advice of George Washington that the president cannot in any way “demean himself in his public character” and must act “in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of office.”
His year was characterized by abusive behavior, hair raising threats (such as to "totally destroy" North Korea), abuse of the press, and appeals to racial resentment..
Finally in the last week of his first year he was awash in the recoil from his labeling  African and Caribbean countries as "shitholes".  This was followed by disclosures that ten years ago shortly after the birth of his youngest son  he had carried on a sexual relationship with a hard-core porn `actress' known as Stormy Daniels.   The Wall Street Journal then reported that three weeks before his election Trump had paid the woman $130,00 for her silence.

Wilentz suggests the best way to evaluate Trump is to compare him to the worst Presidents.  He doesn't come across well. -  gwc 

They Were Bad. He May Be Worse. - The New York Times
by Sean Wilentz (Princeton University)

***What do these bad presidents’ first years tell us about Mr. Trump? Some performed reasonably well at first, only to slide into disaster later. Might Mr. Trump grow in the job, making us forget his rookie-season bumbling? Or should we expect more of the same through 2020?
I expect the latter. Mr. Trump’s first year has been an unremitting parade of disgraces that have demeaned him as well as the dignity of his office, and he has shown that this is exactly how he believes he should govern.
Most important, he is the first president to fail to defend the nation from an attack on our democracy by a hostile foreign power — and to resist the investigation of that attack. He is the first to enrich his private interests, and those of his family, directly and openly.
He is the first president to denounce the press not simply as unfair but as “the enemy of the American people.” He is the first to threaten his defeated political opponent with imprisonment. He is the first to have denigrated friendly countries and allies as well as a whole continent with racist vulgarities.
George Washington warned that the actions of a president “may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government.” If history is any guide — especially in light of the examples closest to his, of Buchanan and Andrew Johnson — Mr. Trump’s first year portends a very unhappy ending.

Hussein Ibish on the Israeli Palestinian morass

Thursday, January 18, 2018

FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump's campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau

FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump's campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau
January 18, 2018 05:00 AM
Updated 6 hours 56 minutes ago

The El Salvador Tragedy - The New York Times

The El Salvador Tragedy - The New York Times
by Linda Greenhouse
President Trump didn’t include El Salvador on his vulgar list of deplorables. But his forthcoming expulsion of nearly 200,000 Salvadorans will inflict more harm on that poor and violent country of 6.3 million people than any verbal assault. Actions speak louder than words. Haiti and the continent of Africa got off easy.
Although I usually devote this space to the Supreme Court and legal issues, this column is an exception. There is no legal issue, as far as I can tell, with the president’s cancellation of the “temporary protected status” that the George W. Bush administration granted the Salvadorans in 2001 after two devastating earthquakes. The shelter extended under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which currently covers citizens of 10 countries, is meant to be temporary, and the president can decide the time is up for any particular group.
But in the 10 days since President Trump announced his decision, I’ve been obsessed not with its legality but with its cruelty and self-defeating stupidity. I’ve seen the story fade under the crush of a relentless news cycle, where every “Have you heard the latest?” invites another scary excursion into the land of disbelief. So I will temporarily leave the Supreme Court to whatever mysterious inner struggles have limited the justices to deciding only one argued case since the current term began on Oct. 2. That solitary decision, a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on an obscure question of jurisdiction, was issued on Nov. 8. No court-watcher alive can recall such a slow start to a Supreme Court term, and it has become the subject of much head-scratching. The gates will burst open eventually, at which point the mystery may or may not be solved.
Expulsions on the scale the Trump administration envisions are hardly unknown to history. Even modern countries, within memory, have sought to rid themselves of entire populations. It tends neither to turn out well nor reflect well on the expelling country. Two hundred thousand people may not sound like a huge number on a historic scale. But the population of San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital, is only 280,000. Money sent home by Salvadorans living abroad, most in the United States, where protected status conveys work authorization, amounts to 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the country’s central bank. The destabilizing effect of cutting off this flow of capital is obvious. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can the same lawyer represent Bannon, Priebus & McGahn? – Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach

Can the same lawyer represent Bannon, Priebus & McGahn? – Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach
by Russell pearce (Fordham Law School)

A recent blog post asks whether William Burck of Quinn Emanuel can ethically represent Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Don McGahn in connection with the Mueller investigation.  The blog post identifies a number of important issues, but the analysis is incomplete.  Although Burck’s representation appears to create a conflict under Rule 1.7(a), Burck could continue the representation under Rule 1.7(b) if he “reasonably believes that [he] will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each” and each client provides informed consent.  

While the public does not — in my view — know sufficient facts to determine whether Burck can reasonably represent all three clients, a complicating factor is that McGahn appears to be giving Burck and Bannon direction as to whether executive privilege applies to Bannon’s testimony.

6 feet 3 inches 239 lbs

What a difference a pound makes.

<a href=
Kayode Oladele - 6' 3" 238 lbs

Sunstein: DACA judge got it right

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ambush: Inside the profane White House meeting on immigration - WaPo

Ambush: to cut to the chase:  Trump declares publicly he'll sign a bipartisan DACA bill.  On Thursday morning 

Durbin and Graham call to say they have such a deal. Trump seems amenable.  A meeting is set for noon.   Then the Senators arrive there is a phalanx of hardliners - including Senators Cotton and Perdue, amnesiac DHS Secretary Nielsen, Chief of Staff Kelly, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) 

Trump is fired up, blasting the deal.  Egged on by the pack Trump is soon talking shit, dreaming of a Viking migration, etc.

How does the fool back down now? - gwc

Ambush: Inside the profane White House meeting on immigration - WaPo

When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat’s efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides.
The president then asked if Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), his onetime foe turned ally, was on board, which Durbin affirmed. Trump invited the lawmakers to visit with him at noon, the people familiar with the call said.
But when they arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was “fired up” and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who seemed confident that the president was now aligned with them, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting.
Trump told the group he wasn’t interested in the terms of the bipartisan deal that Durbin and Graham had been putting together. And as he shrugged off suggestions from Durbin and others, the president called nations from Africa “shithole countries,” denigrated Haiti and grew angry. The meeting was short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing, according to Republicans and Democrats familiar with the meeting. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Supreme People’s Court & Supreme Court Justice Roberts’ 2017 year report | Supreme People's Court Monitor

Supreme People’s Court & Supreme Court Justice Roberts’ 2017 year report | Supreme People's Court Monitor
by Susan Finder

Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court may be surprised to learn that a translated version of his 2017 year-end report on the federal courts was recently published by the People’s Court Daily, as it has been for the past twelve years. It was republished by Wechat and Weibo sites affiliated with the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and other prominent legal websites. What significance does the report have?
The translators that bring the year-end reports to Chinese readers are Mr. Huang Bin (formerly of the SPC’s China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence and now of the National Judicial College, a former Yale Law School visiting scholar) and Ms. Yang Yi (China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence, a former Columbia Law School visiting scholar) are the ones who .
Two subjects in Justice Roberts’ report 2017 are likely to resonate with Chinese readers. The first is how the federal courts dealt with national disasters in 2017 (introductory comments in some of the Wechat versions mention that China has only scattered legislative provisions related to emergency measures for the courts). The second is sexual harassment and Justice Roberts’ request to the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to organize a working group to review the code of conduct for the federal judiciary, guidance to employees on issues of confidentiality and reporting of instances of misconduct, and rules for investigating and processing misconduct complaints.
The #Metoo movement has not yet explicitly affected the Chinese courts. However, it is likely that Chief Justice Roberts’ acknowledgment that existing rules and structures for dealing with sexual harassment complaints are inadequate that resonates with Chinese women judges and judicial support staff, who make an increasingly large percentage of the Chinese judiciary. It seems likely (confirmed by discrete inquiries) that sexual harassment occurs in Chinese courts as well.
More broadly, what relevance does Justice Robert’s report and others on the US federal and state judiciary have for the Chinese judiciary after the 19th Party Congress, when in October, 2017 Communist Party Central Committee policy on the training of judges and prosecutors lists first resolutely opposing erosion by the mistaken Western rule of law viewpoint” (坚决抵制西方错误法治观点侵蚀)? To the careful observer, the publication of these reports and other articles on specific issues in SPC publications means that the senior and lower levels of the Chinese courts have an ongoing interest in what the US federal and state courts are doing and look to commonalities and takeaways (despite the vast differences in the two systems).
Another example of the Chinese courts looking to commonalities with the US courts occurred earlier this month (January) when the China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence published a Chinese summary of the National Center for State Courts’ 2017 survey on public confidence in the state courts. The article appears to be a republication of an article previously published internally and reflects the concern of the Chinese judiciary with public trust.
The takeaways, that is referring to or borrowing foreign legal concepts or models to reform China’s judicial system remains politically sensitive. In Party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping’s 19th Party Congress speech, he called for the continuation of judicial reform:
We will carry out comprehensive and integrated reform of the judicial system and enforce judicial accountability in all respects, so that the people can see in every judicial case that justice is served.
 Earlier in 2017, when visiting the China University of Political Science and Law, Xi Jinping cautioned that Chinese legal reform does not mean wholesale adoption of foreign law and institutions:***

Thursday, January 11, 2018

An era ends at public defender's office | Di Ionno |

John McMahon was Chief Trial Attorney at the Newark office of the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. P.D.s have a wholly undeserved bad name. I tried cases part-time for the P.D. in Newark for four years. Lawyers like McMahon, his father, Dale Jones, Cathy Waldor, Jerry Soffer, Ollis Douglas, Michael Marucci, Verna Leath, and Denise Cobham  were among the best lawyers I met in my thirty year career practicing law in the county.
The Public Defender's office participated in every capital case in new Jersey from restoration in 1982 to repeal in 2017. 225 trials, 60 death sentences, no executions.
All this work by dedicated public servants who are not lionized on TV, but who see the humanity in their clients and uphold the highest standards of our profession. - gwc

Public Defender John McMahon compares a photo of the defendant Tariq Kyam, left, from 2009 and a police sketch of the robber during his closing statement. Tariq Kyam of Newark, formally known as Raymond Perry appears in Superior Court in Essex County for his robbery trial. Kyam, charged in an alleged 2009 crime spree appears before Judge Michael A. Petrolle on Wednesday. February 1, 2017
Newark Public Defender John McMahon is retiring after 27 years
An era ends at public defender's office | Di Ionno |

Disgrace the Nation: The Donald Trump Show

The President must declare before witnesses: 
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The Constitution of the United States bars discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or gender.  DJT neither understands nor honors that oath.  He has not faithfully executed the Office of the President.  His failures on many counts are impeachable offenses. - gwc

This Is Must Watch – Talking Points Memo (video)
Jim Acosta of CNN responds to today's grossly racist remarks by the "President", disparaging a proposal to allow immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa and the Caribbean.

Other comments:
Representative Mia Love, a Republican of Utah who is of Haitian descent, demanded an apology from the president, saying his comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”
“This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation,” Ms. Love went on in an emotional statement that noted her heritage and that her parents “never took a thing” from the government while achieving the American dream. “The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”
“As an American, I am ashamed of the president,” said Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois. “His comments are disappointing, unbelievable, but not surprising. We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors. We can now we say with 100 percent confidence that the president is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence.”
The reactions were extraordinary bipartisan rebukes to a sitting president, but they only fanned what has been a long-simmering debate over Mr. Trump’s views and talk on race.

Robots Can’t Vote, but They Helped Elect Trump - The New York Times

Robots Can’t Vote, but They Helped Elect Trump - The New York Times
by Thomas Edsall

***Nate Silver, founder and editor of the FiveThirtyEight website, wrote “The Mythology of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support” in the midst of the primary fight for the Republican nomination.
“Compared with most Americans, Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000,” Silver pointed out, “well above the national median household income of about $56,000.”
Silver’s argument is accurate insofar as it goes, but it does not go far enough.
In the primaries, Trump’s voters were more affluent than the general electorate. But among Republican primary voters, the core of Trump’s support was among those with the lowest level of education and, in most cases, the lowest income levels.
Take a look at the exit polls from the March 1 Virginia primary. Trump beat his closest competitor, Senator Marco Rubio, among those without college degrees, 43-25, while Rubio beat Trump among those with degrees, 37-27. Trump beat Rubio 39-25 among voters making less than $100,000 but Rubio beat Trump 40-27 among those making more than $100,000. The same pattern was repeated over and over again in primaries across the country.
Trump’s strongest support in the primaries and in the general election came disproportionately from the least well educated whites — those who, as Acemoglu and Autor argue, are most vulnerable to the economic dislocation resulting from automation, the rise of a robot work force, global trade and outsourcing.
In an email, Autor describes how the two explanatory models dovetail. He starts with a question:
Do you think non-college, non-urban whites would feel so dislocated if their job prospects were strong and their wages rising?
He then goes on to point out that

all of these observations — authoritarianism, racism, cultural dislocation — have relevance. The only claim that’s irrelevant because it’s already been disproved is that economic factors were unimportant to Trump’s victory.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Will Democracy Survive President Trump? Two New Books Aren’t So Sure - The New York Times

Will Democracy Survive President Trump? Two New Books Aren’t So Sure - The New York Times
Book review by Jennifer Szalai

The Corruption of the American Republic
By David Frum
301 pages. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99.

By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
312 pages. Crown. $26.

In one of the most original turns in the book, Levitsky and Ziblatt assiduously dismantle the myth of American exceptionalism. Even during the supposed heyday of 20th-century bipartisan cooperation, “the norms sustaining our political system rested, to a considerable degree, on racial exclusion.” Jim Crow was allowed to flourish in a South that was “profoundly undemocratic.” The post-Confederate states had changed their constitutions and laws to deprive African-Americans of the vote, while Democrats and Republicans found common cause in a political system that was largely restricted to white people.

The authors hazard that most of the norm-breaking in the last few decades has been conducted by the Republican Party because, unlike its rival, it “has remained culturally homogeneous.” The Democrats have had to negotiate among varying interests in their ranks; the Republicans have not, allowing them to be more single-minded — and reckless, this book suggests — in their pursuit of power. But Levitsky and Ziblatt oppose those liberals who advise compromising the concerns of ethnic minorities in order to make Democrats more appealing to Trump’s white working-class base: “It would repeat some of our country’s most shameful mistakes.”

the GPS Fusion testimony - Annotation - Elizabeth McLaughlin

Follow the thread - it's a good guide to the transcript of GPS Fusion's Glen P. Simpson's twenty one hours of testimony before the U.S. Senate.

Trump: I’ll Take ‘Strong Look’ To Ensure Libel Laws Cover … Definition Of Libel – Talking Points Memo

The VSG says he is going to take a “strong look” at our libel laws which are, he says, a “sham”.

A few power point slides should do the trick.

A defamatory statement is one that is false and "injurious to the reputation of another" or exposes another person to "hatred, contempt or ridicule" or subjects another person to "a loss of the good will and confidence" in which he or she is held by others. 

Restatement (Second) of Torts §  559 (1977)


One who publishes a false and defamatory communication concerning a private person, or concerning a public official or public figure in relation to a purely private matter not affecting his conduct, fitness or role in his public capacity, is subject to liability, if, but only if, he
(a)  knows that the statement is false and that it defames the other,
(b)  acts in reckless disregard of these matters, or
(c)  acts negligently in failing to ascertain them.


 One who publishes a false and defamatory communication concerning a public official or public figure in regard to his conduct, fitness or role in that capacity is subject to liability, if, but only if, he
(a)  knows that the statement is false and that it defames the other person, or
(b)  acts in reckless disregard of these matters.

Trump: I’ll Take ‘Strong Look’ To Ensure Libel Laws Cover … Definition Of Libel – Talking Points Memo
by Esme Cribb

Trump made the tautological — if vaguely threatening — statement to reporters at a cabinet meeting.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have 
meaningful recourse in our courts,” he said.

Trump said he wants “fairness.”

“If somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse,” he said. “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.”

Trump Says It’s ‘Unlikely’ He’d Sit For Mueller Interview – Talking Points Memo

It's essay to move past the VSG's statements as confused, ignorant, contradictory, etc.  But the situation is much worse than that.  He does state his actual position - there should be no interview because there is no collusion - at any level.  Not only is that patently untrue (did you get an email message inviting you to a meeting to discuss the Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton and the Russian government's support for your campaign?) 

More importantly this is a refusal to allow the government's investigatory and prosecutorial arms to do their work.    - gwc
In Rambling Response, Trump Says It’s ‘Unlikely’ He’d Sit For Mueller Interview – Talking Points Memo
by Matt Shulam

Trump repeated eight times in his response that no collusion had yet been found between him or his associates and Russia. (Congressional and federal investigators’ probes are ongoing.)

He also highlighted the conditions under which Hillary Clinton was interviewed in July 2016 by the FBI during the bureau’s investigation of her use of a private email server. Trump incorrectly asserted that the FBI agents interviewing Clinton didn’t take notes — they did — and asserted “a lot of people looked upon that as being a very serious breach and it really was.”

After he bobbed and weaved, the President gave his real answer: “We’ll see what happens. Certainly I’ll see what happens. But when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you would even have an interview.”

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Danger of Accepting the Unacceptable - The Atlantic

The Danger of Accepting the Unacceptable - The Atlantic
by David Frum

***If abnormality continues long enough, it becomes normal. Chronic illness; a barrier that closes a once-open border; the death of a loved one: There is nothing that cannot lose its power to surprise and shock. The phrase “President Trump” once supplied a joke to The Simpsons. By now, we have all got used to hearing and saying it. It is our reality.

We have gotten used as well to the publicly visible consequences of that reality: the lying, the bullying, the boasting. It seems useless to keep complaining, and so by and large the formerly unacceptable has been accepted. Trump’s “very stable genius” remark got traction because it was so much more extreme than usual; his usual stream of thoughts, any of which would have generated headlines coming from previous presidents, now largely pass unnoticed. 

We have gotten used, too, to a routine level of disregard for the appearance of corruption: the payments from lobbyists and foreign hotels to Trump-branded properties; the flow of payments to the presidential family from partners in Turkey, the Philippines, India, and the United Arab Emirates; the nondisclosure of the president’s tax returns.

We have gotten used to the president’s party in Congress sabotaging and discrediting the investigation into foreign manipulation of the U.S. presidential election. We have gotten used to the dwindling of the State Department, the paralysis of the National Security Council, and presidential attacks on the independence of prosecutors, the FBI, and the Department of Justice.

We have gotten used to the party of the president pushing through vastly significant laws without hearings and even without accurate estimates of their costs and consequences. We are becoming used to state parties rewriting local election laws explicitly to impede voting by people who might vote against them.

Thoughts on the Greatness of Ulysses S. Grant – Josh Marshall= Talking Points Memo

Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) shown wearing a military uniform and posing for a portrait. He served in the U.S. Civil War at various levels of military command. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general in 1864 and given command of all Union armies. He was eighteenth president of the United States, elected in 1868 and reelected in 1872.
Of course General and President Grant was great: he defeated the slavers, and served two terms as President.  He defended Reconstruction, the 13th 14th, and 15th Amendments.  The Union army fought the Klan and other southern white militias that terrorized African Americans - who held elected political office in high numbers.  The "Compromise of 1877" was the sellout of Reconstruction and the post-war amendments. Nearly a century of shameless oppression followed.  those are the lessons I took from Ronald C. White's 2016 biography American Ulysses.

Josh Marshall is reading Grant's memoirs - something I haven't done, but which is universally lauded. - gwc
Thoughts on the Greatness of Ulysses S. Grant – Talking Points Memo
by Josh Marshall

With a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant out by the man who helped put Alexander Hamilton back in the center of 21st American popular culture, I’m late to the game to sing Grant’s praises. I have not read Chernow’s book. But I have been rereading Grant’s memoirs. I began writing this post at the end of last year when the valorization of Confederate military leaders was more at the center of our public debate. But these are issues of long standing, going on two centuries. They remain as present and consequential as they’ve ever been and Grant is at the center of that.
Until relatively recently Grant, at least as President, had a poor historical reputation. His strengths as a military leader were also overshadowed in the popular imagination by Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and others. But in both cases, much of Grant’s dim reputation was directly tied to the way national unity was built in the late 19th century on the abandonment of the country’s newly freed African-American citizens and what we might call the Union theory of the war itself. I have always found it notable that the official records of what we call the Civil War, published by the US government are entitled The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.