The Best and the Brightest

(by David Halberstam) Definitive parable of hubris leading to apocalypse. Whiz kids from the ivy-league encounter a Big Texas Democrat as their new boss; tragedy ensues in a companion piece to his earlier The Making of a Quagmire but which is wider in scope. Larded with mean detail, such as when LBJ enthuses to Sam Rayburn how brilliant all the new kids are, to which the paterfamilias of Congress replies that Lyndon might be right “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.”  

Continue Reading →

Animal Farm

Drawing of Squealer by Pett and Freeman

(by George Orwell) The best political allegory since Swift.  Venerable pig, Old Major (‘Willingdon Beauty’ as his show name), a Karl Marx figure, outlines an animal world of milk and honey and soft straw. The animals rise up, kick out the nasty farmer, see off the counter revolution, and settle down to run the enterprise themselves, in a workers’ paradise of co-operation, truth and mutual respect. But some animals are more equal than others… Who would have thought Napoleon the Pig, circa 1940, would look so much like Vladimir Putin?  Sorry, I mean Josef Stalin.  Don’t I?  Our mild suggestion…

Continue Reading →

An American Melodrama

(by Chester, Hodgson & Page) Definitive account of the 1968 Presidential campaign, written by three accomplished British journalists, manages to avoid the faux pomp of much American political writing; brilliantly covers the most critical election since 1932 with telling vignettes of key players, Democratic, Republican and independent. Pithy chapters on RFK‘s death in Los Angeles and Nixon working southern delegates at the Miami Hilton are classic. At page 355, this passage appears, describing the aftermath of RFK’s wounding in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles: “It was very claustrophobic , like an alleyway deep in a…

Continue Reading →

Alexander Hamilton

(by Ron Chernow) Definitive biography deals comprehensively with the life and work of the highly contentious Treasurer of the early republic.  (It largely bears out Gore Vidal’s fictional portrait of him in Burr). Hamilton was fundamentally a pessimist in an optimist’s land, who wrote that its inhabitants were fit for chains, hoping only for gold ones. [Update: In Vidal’s novel Burr, Hamilton, a powerful figure in the highly-charged early political days of the American Republic, is referred to as “that Creole bastard.”  The record is redressed, better late than never, by Chernow’s fine work and a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in…

Continue Reading →

Vale Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam

Vale Edward Gough Whitlam (11 June 1916 – 21 October 2014) After the Australian Labor Party failed to win the cliffhanger federal election of 1961, in which it won no seats in Victoria, the leader, Arthur Calwell, failed to quell the left’s hatred of aid to non-government schools that lost it a stack of votes among working class Catholics. Eventually, on 8 February 1967, having not held the reins of power for the better part of a generation, federal caucus turned to Whitlam, who stared down the Victorian State Conference in June of that year (saying of their electoral death…

Continue Reading →

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.