Thursday, June 28, 2007
Personal Asides: Henry Hyde at 83 the FDR Induction at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Drove to Geneva yesterday to have lunch with Henry Hyde. Though wheel-chair-bound, he is much the same gentleman he was as the patriarchal leader of social conservatives in the House. A longtime widower, he married the former Judy Wolverton, his longtime top Illinois staffer who was his faithful helper for more than thirty years. He told two marvelous stories and his views of contemporary politics are cogent, though not mine to tell.
His memoir, Catch the Flaming Flag, will be published by National Review soon after which he will undertake a speaking tour to publicize it. He has written it with the editorial assistance of George Weigel, the famed biographer of the late John Paul II. The book will convey pungent opinions on foreign policy, Iraq, abortion (of course), immigration and many other topics.
He goes to and from Washington fairly regularly. Not long from now he will be given a signal honor in the House by having a room in the Capitol named for hima room where Congressmen can study, discuss and, it is hoped, supply the same kind of humor and good will that Henry did during his long years of service.
No one who reads this website can imagine that I am not interested in Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose three major top aides I interviewed during the years and about whom I have much to say in Flashbacks. Thus I am going to the event in early July inaugurating the 32nd presidents induction into the Hall of Fame of great communicatorsan honor richly deserved.
Colorful he was, brilliant in forensic orchestration, but I am not prepared to say he was a great president. To my personal edification, Amity Shlaes of Chicago a former member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal had a vitally interesting Op Ed the other day. Amity Shlaes had every opportunity to go Left and be a good little follower of the Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. school of liberal hagiography. Schlesinger it was who deified FDR by his first two books on his life, describing brilliantly but inaccurately the fact that the Depression was caused by capitalism run riot, a view shared by one of the great literary men of letters who was albeit a terrible economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. Shlaes has written a new book which I mean to get: The Forgotten Man which says what I have been maintaining with less literary effect than she in this placethat excessive capitalism didnt do it but the well-meaning but ham-handed interventionism of Herbert Hoover, tax hikes and tariff hikes did the country in.
As you read Shlaes, remember that what I have maintained in the last paragraph is true. Born to liberal parents, a brilliant kid, who went to the U of C lab school where Marxism was inculcated early thence to a liberal education at the U of C, she was destined to be a child of the Left. That she is a duenna of the economic though not social right is stunning.
Debates on FDRs worth have consumed most of my seventy-eight years, starting with my father who, while shaving, instructed me on what Amity is maintaining now and continuing through long periods with Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy and some very liberal Republicans, counterbalanced by conservatives such as Walter Judd then assailed by good and eloquent people like Jim Farley and Rexford Tugwell and Tommy the Cork.
One of the most ferocious debates about FDR would consist of my jousting with a very fine gentleman when we both belonged to the Cliff Dwellers Club. I am in the habit of wishing to digest my meals without someone telling me I am out-of-date, prejudiced, hopelessly conservative, archaic, outmoded and at Cliff Dwellers you had no choice but to share a table with those who wished to propound liberal ideology while I sipped my soup. Because it was wreaking havoc with my digestion, I decided to leave the Cliff Dwellers coincident with the illness and death of John McDermott, its president and retreat to calmer surroundings. But there was one last debate.
This again I lost because I was too agitated while munching my chicken salad to adequately respond to my adversary. But that was long ago. And since then he may well have come to his sensesalthough not from any convincing I meted out to him. He maintained simply that Franklin Roosevelt was a distant relative of Jesus Christ and there it shall be.
We let it rest there. I wonder what he thinks now.
His name was Jared Shlaes. Amitys distinguished father.