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Schlesinger's 'Journals' filled with insider gossip

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The age of Schlesinger

October 18, 2007

Sidney Blumenthal


Schlesinger had the great good luck to catch the upside of the political cycle. He was almost exactly the same age as Kennedy, six months younger. He finds in JFK a personification of how to conduct politics and, indeed, of liberalism.

In the late 1950s, Schlesinger faced a mood of resignation and detachment even after Kennedy was nominated. There was a feeling that politics couldn't accomplish much. Kennedy was probably the first candidate to be labelled inauthentic, setting off the pseudo-omniscience of the chattering classes against all grimy politicians as packaged products. After all, he wasn't Kennedy yet as we understand him, though Schlesinger saw the possibilities where others disdained what they saw as a callow and merely ambitious politician. Schlesinger felt compelled to write a short book to meet the malaise head-on, Kennedy or Nixon? Does It Make Any Difference? Even in his book his hopes for Kennedy are measured while he gleefully eviscerates Nixon. Liberals were still captivated by the high-minded romantic image of Stevenson, whose ambivalence about politics was taken as inspirational and authentic. Until his dying day, Stevenson remained a beautiful loser, because by losing he remained pure.


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