The Magazine

Schlesinger, West Point, and more

Jan 14, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 17
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WISDOM OF THE WARRIORS


MARK BAUERLEIN's review of Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth Samet was brilliant ("The Write Stuff," December 24). As an alumnus of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and a retired military officer, I can attest to the intellectual earnestness of military cadets and military personnel in general. It does indeed reflect the greater earnestness of their lives they are prepared to sacrifice in the service of their country.

Professor Samet ostensibly approached her assignment to West Point with curiosity. Military personnel constitute a curiosity simply because of their relatively small numbers. Yet, the greater distinction lies in the fact that by joining the military they let go to become part of something larger than themselves. Making that leap requires faith, humility, resolve, and a certain sense of romance. I suspect that was part of Professor Samet's epiphany, too. She has served her cadets well by inspiring in them dedicated scholarship well beyond their undergraduate days and the rest of us by writing her book.

S.K. GIBSON III

Mobile, Ala.

SCHLESINGER ON FDR


ARTHUR SCHLESINGER JR.'s Journals may indeed reveal him to have been an egoist and name-dropper, as P. J. O'Rourke asserts in "Dear Diary, I Think I'm in Love" (December 31/January 7). But far worse was Schlesinger's willingness to sometimes omit from his history books facts that reflected poorly on his heroes. Consider how Schlesinger handled the question of Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the Holocaust. In various articles and in his 2000 memoir, Schlesinger claimed FDR "did more than anyone else to save" Jews from the Nazis. Roosevelt "did not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body," Schlesinger approvingly quoted Trude Lash as saying. But Schlesinger knew more than he was letting on.

In 1959, while working on his laudatory history of the New Deal, Schlesinger interviewed former U.S. senator Burton K. Wheeler and obtained a memorandum Wheeler prepared after speaking with FDR on August 4, 1939. Discussing the presidential aspirations of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Roosevelt said to Wheeler that if Hull ran, Mrs. Hull's part-Jewish background "would be raised" by his opponents. "Mrs. Hull is about one quarter Jewish," FDR said. "You and I, Burt, are old English and Dutch stock. We know who our ancestors are. We know there is no Jewish blood in our veins, but a lot of these people do not know whether there is Jewish blood in their veins or not."

But Schlesinger kept the document under wraps. In his writings about Roosevelt, anti-semitism, Jewish refugees, and the Holocaust, he never mentioned that he knew of FDR's remark about the undesirability of "Jewish blood." But the issue of FDR's views on race did not go away. In 2001, Professor Greg Robinson revealed articles Roosevelt wrote in 1923 and 1925 claiming "the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results," and urging restrictions on the citizenship and property rights of "non-assimilable immigrants." Still there was no comment from Schlesinger on the role of race in FDR's thinking.

Two years ago, I wrote Schlesinger to ask his view of the "Jewish blood" remark. In his reply, he defended FDR's statement as "a neutral comment about people of mixed ancestry." Maybe so. Or maybe it was additional evidence that Roosevelt's views on race could have played a part in shaping his closed-doors refugee policy during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, Arthur Schlesinger did more to cloud the issue than to clarify it.

RAFAEL MEDOFF

Director

The David S. Wyman Institute
for Holocaust Studies
Washington, D.C.

DIM BULBS CATCH FIRE


MY COMPLIMENTS to Andrew Ferguson for informing us in "A Nation of Dim Bulbs" (December 31/January 7) about the federal government forcing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) down our throats. This federal law is a prime example of liberal do-goodism crashing into the law of unintended consequences. Like most things in the world, CFLs have positive and negative characteristics. Most people, including me, are using them where they make sense while sticking with incandescent bulbs where they don't.

In addition to cosmetic issues and producing light that causes eye strain for many people, CFLs don't work in cold environments and are also a fire hazard.

I know from personal experience that if you use CFLs in a humid environment, like a bathroom or near a cooking area, there is a high likelihood a CFL will short out. However, unlike an incandescent bulb, where a broken filament acts as an off-switch to the current, a shorted-out CFL can start to burn. In my case, smoke started pouring out of the CFL bulb. Had I not been there to immediately turn off the switch it would probably have started a fire and/or caused dangerous gases to be released into my home.

This is another example of why no good law is worth rushing through Congress.

TOM ABERT

Manchester, N.H.