April 19, 2008

Response to Patterico: the Two-Timing Times and Its Two-Time One-Timer

Hatched by Dafydd

Oddly enough, Patterico noted a very amusing mistake by the Los Angeles Times. (I say "oddly" because Patterico's well-known aversion to that paper generally causes him never to write about it or even mention it on his blog... except occasionally, perhaps 300 or 400 times a year.) The TV cricket of the Times, Mary McNamara, wrote the following:

George Washington (David Morse) so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term. "I know now what it is like to be disliked," he says to Adams, his perpetually disliked vice president.

That would be the single term from 1789 to 1793 and from 1793 to 1797, I presume.

After gleefully noting this latest stupidity from his foil, Patterico -- who evidently hasn't yet watched his tape of the relevant episode -- added this cautionary disclaimer:

Straining to give [the Times] the benefit of the doubt, I wonder: Does the miniseries somehow portray Washington as having served only one term? I haven’t seen it, but I doubt it.

So to prevent some lefty blogger friend of Patterico's to be the latter's only source, I herewith offer the services of Big Lizards... for we have watched our DVR recording of the relevant episode, and in fact all of them to date.

Thus I can state authoritarianly, "No, Patterico; the miniseries didn't get it wrong." But I think I see where the Times was misled.

  1. The HBO miniseries presumes throughout that viewers have some basic knowledge of colonial and early American history -- a rather unfair disadvantage to liberals in the first place. Ergo, it doesn't bang you over the head with irrelevancies... such as Washington's 1792 reelection.

    They don't bother showing it: Nobody "ran" for president back then, as you know; the electors were chosen by the states and sent to the capitol (Philadelphia, in Washington's case) to cast their votes. Washington was unanimously elected in 1788 and again in 1792... so with no campaign and no competition, and since the focus is on John Adams anyway, not GW, the miniseries doesn't even mention the election.

  2. There is a dispositive line towards the end of the episode wherein Adams has his vice presidency (repeated at the beginning of the next episode, his presidency): Abigail Adam flatly marvels that Washington would step down "after two terms," when he could have been president for life. But it's not emphasized in the episode, and it would be easy to miss for a viewer paying only half attention. (As I expect "Mary McNamara, Times Television Critic" was -- bored to tears because it wasn't about her, and it wasn't even about a real revolutionary and hero of the people -- "Che," for example. Later in the same column, she says about the series, "I myself remained underwhelmed.")
  3. Washington did choose to step down rather than run; as he was the first president, there was of course no tradition yet of serving only two terms. He does say the line McNamara quotes -- but it's after his second, not first term. It is true, however, that Washington stepped down because he was frustrated by the rise of political parties and by how politics had overtaken patriotic duty.
  4. So in this case, McNamara put 2 and 2 together and alas got 7.3. Since Washington chose not to run when he could have, and since McNamara is probably unaware that the "two-term" rule was only added to the Constitution in 1951 via the 22nd Amendment, she probably thought that if he stepped down, it must have been after only one term... otherwise, assuming she thought the two-term limit comes from the Constitution itself (not a 20th-century amendment), after two terms, he would have to step down.

    In any event, her little column wasn't really about all that imperialist warmongering at the founding of the most vile and degraded country on the planet; it was about the much more urgent subject of contrasting establishment HBO to the hipper Showtime.

So there you have it; the miniseries got it right, but Mary McNamara has such a skullful of liberal mush that it's not really her fault when she gets so confused about basic American history -- such as President George Washington and his giant blue ox, Babe. After all, you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's breakfast.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2008, at the time of 6:27 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

I thought the mainstream media had something called Editors? and that was why their accuracy was so superior to simpleminded blogs.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 19, 2008 8:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: daveinboca

I'm reading a couple of books about the Revolution and its aftermath. Washington didn't wish to run again for president a second time. Of course, sun-stroke victim Ms. McNamara wouldn't appreciate that subtlety. GW was persuaded to go for two terms by everyone in the US Nomenklatura at that time, a cast of dozens.

The fact that he retired to Mt. Vernon after two terms is seen as one of the most unselfish, unegomaniacal actions in western political history by Alfred North Whitehead, who taught Bernard Russell almost all he knew about math & philosophy. Of course, what would a mere Brit genius know compared to persnickety Ms. McNamara, who probably flunked civics in high school?

The above hissed in response by: daveinboca [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 20, 2008 1:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: tyree

If I remember correctly, King George III of England said that if George Washington voluntarily stepped down after two terms he would be "among the greatest men that ever lived".

The above hissed in response by: tyree [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 20, 2008 6:58 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

One of the requirements for liberalism to win is historical illiteracy.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 20, 2008 7:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

Hunter said, "One of the requirements for liberalism to win is historical illiteracy," which is true as far as it goes. He left out the rest which is that liberalism also requires that you disbelieve any facts--no matter how well documented or proven--which don't fit your argument. Thus, we don't know if Mary McNamara is ignorant of the fact that Washington severed two terms or if she simply chose to disregard it. Remember, facts don't matter, only the narrative does which accounts for a fair number of stories that the MSM foists upon us.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 21, 2008 8:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: Don

Liberals historical ignoramuses? I have often found them so, not least in propounding the 'truth' that US conservatives=national socialists. Either they don't know what a conservative is or are ignorant of what a national socialist was. Or both.

Not all political liberals, mind you. But the ignoramuses are so loud they drown out the voices of the exceptions.

Pity them for they know what not they say!

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 21, 2008 2:11 PM

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