Social scientists run amok

From the first time Barack Obama summoned the country’s leading presidential historians to dinner, they saw that the type of discussion he wanted would be different from their talks with previous Oval Office occupants.

There was almost no small talk, for this was no idle exercise. …His goal, the historians realized, was more strategic. He wanted to apply the lessons of past presidential triumphs and failures to his own urgent project of setting the country on a new path.

…By the July 2011 dinner, as he was grappling with negotiations over the debt ceiling crisis and privately planning to attack Republicans as soon as it was over, the historians were suggesting a new role model. “We pushed Teddy Roosevelt like crazy on him,” said Douglas Brinkley of Rice University.

Why do I love social science, but am filled with terror whenever someone real starts to listen?


8 thoughts on “Social scientists run amok

  1. I think I’m missing the inside joke but nonetheless I think it’s an excellent context from which to frame the next four years.

    Highly recommend, if you haven’t done so already, read Edmund Morris’s bio on him “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt”. Excellent read & you will be astonished & what that man accomplished in life.

    At 24 he wrote the most comprehensive tomb on the Naval War of 1812 that was, at the time, the definitive text on the US Navy. This is but one obscure footnote of a litany of accomplishments. Not the least impressive of which was he was a very sickly kid who to cure his asthma walked up a steep hill until he would pass out then do it all over again.

    What he did for African Americans in NYC during riots at the turn of the century (not exactly sure what the dates were and what the event) was mind blowing to me if only b/c it just emphasized how progressive this guy was for his time in addition to his vision for our Nat’l Parks, et al.

    Since you’re in the city make the trip out to Oyster Bay on a nice sunny winter day and visit his residence there – now a Nat’l Park. Nice way to spend the day & you’ll largely have the place to yourself.

    I don’t see Obama channeling TR, but if he can embody the spirit & the fight to push past our critical challenges then these next four years, and the groundwork they lay, will be beyond my wildest expectations.

  2. TR is a mixed bag. Some v. impressive accomplishments: environmentalist, trust-buster, played a major role in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese war. OTOH he was an imperialist and militarist of the first order, even by the standards of his own time. Read his famous speech “The Strenuous Life” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.