Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Larry Schweikart, a professor of history at the University of Dayton. He is the co-author with Michael Allen of the best-selling book, "A Patriot’s History of the United States." His follow-up book, America’s Victories, led President Bush to invite him to the Oval Office for a discussion of history. His new book is "48 Liberal Lies About American History."
FP: Larry Schweikart, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Schweikart: Thanks again. Always a pleasure to be with you guys. This is our. . . .what? Fifth or sixth go around?
FP: Something like that. You definitely are a star around here.
So what inspired you to write this book?
Schweikart: 48 Liberal Lies emerged out of the end notes of A Patriot’s History. Mike Allen and I found ourselves “arguing” with the textbooks in the end notes---something historians frequently do. Then my editor said, “Why don’t you make a book out of those arguments.” So I did.
FP: First tell us how you did your research for this book.
Schweikart: I examined between 15 to 20 of the top, best-selling college U.S. history textbooks on the market. On a couple of occasions, I also used Howard Zinn’s People’s History for effect, but 99% of the quotations are from the textbooks. I grabbed every one I could get my hands on. Perhaps there are a couple I’ve missed, but these are the major titles. As to sales numbers, however, publishers keep these very close, so I can’t say for certain which is the top selling book. My guess is that it’s Nation of Nations by Davidson, et. al., or the old stand-by, American Pageant by Bailey and Kennedy.
FP: What do the textbooks say about why Lincoln freed the slaves?
Schweikart: Most of them are pretty good on this one. Lincoln gets the “best press” of almost any president of the 19th century. A couple suggest he freed the slaves to provide more troops for the Union army. There are a lot of “black nationalist” kinds of writers and historians who claim this is the only reason he freed the slaves, and given the trends in how these textbooks incorporate new ideas, it’s only a matter of time before this one becomes more common. The nonsense of that view is that if, as the textbooks suggest, whites in the north (as well, obviously, as the south) were racist, they did not think black soldiers could fight. Moreover, the true impact of the casualties on the northern army didn’t come until well after Lincoln had made up his mind about the Emancipation Proclamation.
FP: In your book you discuss how the KKK is the most common 20th century image in many American history books. Your thoughts?
Schweikart: This is sick, isn’t it? It’s true the KKK had a resurgence of sorts in the 1920s, but nowhere near the level that the textbooks imply. It’s the same today: here in Dayton, the news covers a Klan “rally” downtown . . . where nine guys in robes show up in front of 200 protestors. But back to the textbooks: what is so striking about the inclusion of the KKK as a focal point of the 20th century is that photo space is limited. For every picture of the Klan you include, you are excluding a picture of the moon landing, JFK, Ronald Reagan, or (God forbid) a pro-life march. So it’s emphasis by photo selection, and the historians clearly see America as a racist country. (By the way, there is not a single photo or image of a pro-life march in the textbooks save one that made sure to include pro-abortion protestors---but note the Klan photos don’t show protestors or opposition)
One more thing about the Klan: discussions of the Klan are always spatially linked with paragraphs about “nativism” and the Scopes Trial, so the clear message to the student is, “The same people who opposed teaching evolution in school were bigots and terrorists.” It’s nonsense. We now know that the more-educated people of the day opposed evolution, and it was the less-educated who believed it---but that’s another entry.
FP: The atomic bombing of Japan?
Schweikart: Some of the texts make it very clear the view the atomic bombing of Japan as “atomic diplomacy,” designed to frighten or intimidate the Soviets, not to force Japan to surrender. It’s silly. We know now from internal Japanese documents that the Japanese government wasn’t even close to surrendering prior to Hiroshima, and still hesitated after Hiroshima.
FP: The Rosenbergs?
Schweikart: Another clear example of blatant bias. The textbooks state that they were innocent, and the ones that admit the Rosenbergs were guilty go on to excuse what they did by saying, “It wasn’t that bad. What they provided wasn’t important.” I guess this means if a traitor gives away the army’s position, then the army moves and isn’t wiped out, everything is fine. In fact, none other than Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev said his top spy told him the information provided by the Rosenbergs was crucial to building the Soviet a-bomb.
FP: Almost all American history books identify John Wilkes Booth as a “Confederate” and more than half identify Lee Harvey Oswald as a “Marine.” What does this say exactly?
Schweikart: I think it’s one of the clearest messages in the book. Oswald shot Kennedy because he was a Marine---because of his “Marine-ness.” Only one mentions the fact that he was a communist, and in fact that is why he shot Kennedy, because as a communist he disliked Kennedy’s hard line against the Cubans and the Soviets. Booth didn’t shoot Lincoln because he was an actor! So it displays a rather stunning insight into how these historians view the military. In fact, in most of the books, there are very few---if any---“heroic” images of our soldiers. Some wounded soldiers in Vietnam appear, but you are almost never shown American military success.
Schweikart: Watergate is a small part of incredibly negative and downright nasty chapters on Richard Nixon, usually interspersed with words such as “paranoid,” “disturbed,” “dark,” and so on. The evidence emerging from several trials in the 1990s, in which G. Gordon Liddy was sued by John Dean or his surrogates over claims Liddy made that put Dean behind the Watergate break in were all resoved in Liddy’s favor. That suggests that his version of the events--not Dean’s--is the right one. That doesn’t mean, nor do I write, that Nixon was not guilty of obstruction of justice. He most certainly was, but it came after Dean likely planned and directed the operation for some time.
FP: Popular textbooks often state that it was Gorbachev, not Reagan, that ended the Cold War.
Schweikart: This lie is prominent, and in some form appears in most of the textbooks. In fact, the ink given in American history textbooks is greater than that given to most other foreign leaders, ever. Gorby is portrayed as this good-hearted, wonderful reformer who had to convince that evil Ronald Reagan that nukes were bad. It’s absurd. Gorbachev had no intention of getting out of Afghanistan until the casualties mounted. He had to do something about the Soviet economy because contrary to what another U.S. historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., said at the time (that the economy of the USSR was great and would surpass that of the U.S.!), it was collapsing like a house of cards. Reagan kept the pressure on, especially with “Star Wars,” and the evidence is overwhelming from the former Soviet archives that this was what happened. Reagan forced Gorbachev to change, not vice versa.
FP: Students are told that the Reagan economy was characterized not by high economic growth, but by deficits. What is the true historical record?
Schweikart: Unemployment plummeted under Reagan; interest rates dropped from double digits to under one percent; Americans became homeowners like never before; income rose; and the economy added a stunning 14 million net new jobs in eight years---at a time when all of Europe added . . . zero.
FP: I remember taking American history in school, through high-school all the way through graduate school. When the Cold War was taught all you ever read and heard about was McCarthy and Stalin was somewhere in the footnotes. I could say the same thing about myriad issues. That’s why your book is so needed. Why do you think this phenomenon exists?
Schweikart: For most liberals, two events define the 20th century---the McCarthy hearings and the Vietnam war. They see both as a “victory” for the forces of good vs. the imperialistic United States. No matter that virtually every one McCarthy named was, in fact, a communist and that many were agents. I hate to plug another book, but M. Stanton Evans has a scathing new book exposing the deceitful attacks on McCarthy.
Indeed, the whole spy thing is swept under the rug by the leftist historians as examples of “excesses” of the U.S. “red baiting” government. This is a total lack of context, something historians should be acutely aware of. In a period of a decade, we had had dozens of Soviet spies in our government exposed, lost China, seen the Soviets explode an a-bomb, seen them control virtually all of eastern Europe, support a war in Korea, and steal atomic secrets. But the “Red Scare” wasn’t real? I tell my students, “If I reach into my pocket and throw a pencil at you, and you go screaming out of the room, then that’s ‘paranoia.’ A fear of something about which you have nothing to fear. But if I pull out a cobra, you better run. That’s not paranoia. That’s common sense.” And so too with the Red Scare. There were genuine reasons to be “scared.”
FP: What do you hope your book will help achieve?
Schweikart: I hope parents will at least look at their kids’ books, and I hope students will think about some of the junk they are getting from their books. Oh, and I hope they also buy a real U.S. history textbook, A Patriot’s History of the United States.
FP: Larry Schweikart, thank you for joining us.
Schweikart: Once again, always a pleasure.
Read the entire article on the Front Page Magazine website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of Front Page Magazine.