The following are published reviews of Bernard von Bothmer’s book, Framing the Sixties.
The Journal of American History, December 2010
There is no question that the 1960s have remained alive and continued to resonate for Americans decades after the period ended. For years, Americans have debated the issues that emerged during the era and have lived in the conscious aftermath of its events and transformations. It is a period that seems to have captured the imagination long after it passed. The decade seems to hold us—or, at least, our mythologized vision of the era.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the realm of presidential politics, as Bernard von Bothmer ably demonstrates. He carefully chronicles the “use and abuse” that presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush have made of the 1960s. His research has been prodigious; he combed every presidential library and countless periodicals, and he interviewed just about everyone. …
Von Bothmer is especially good at demonstrating how 1960s memory has been divided into two large pieces—the “good sixties,” the early years of the decade, and the “bad sixties,” the later years and early 1970s. This has allowed politicians to pay homage and heap praise on Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights legislation, John F. Kennedy, and Medicare. The “bad” sixties begin with Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and move on to campus demonstrations, antiwar activity, and the “era of permissiveness.” This distinction does blur some chronological lines—the free speech movement erupted at the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall of 1964, Medicare and the Voting Rights Act were signed into law in 1965. But as the politicians are dealing with myths and post-1960s political arguments, facts frequently lose out to political expediency. Chronology is not the only victim. Von Bothmer details numerous over-generalizations, misstatements of fact, and revised personal biographies as politicians adjust their ideas and past actions to modern political trends.
In fact, one can almost read a history of the last thirty years embedded in von Bothmer’s analysis—covering everything from race relations to welfare reform to family values to the wars in Iraq. More than a tool of political rhetoric, the sixties seem to help shape the modern reality, far more than previous decades.
World War II certainly shaped the postwar years, but with a nostalgia and chauvinism that ultimately led to the notion of “the greatest generation.” The sixties function differently. “The past is never dead,” William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun (1951). “In fact, it is not even the past.” He might have been talking about the 1960s.
Read the complete review by Alexander Bloom, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
Framing the Sixties is a tour de force. This book delves head first into the often tumultuous terrain of history and political propaganda. No decade in recent memory has shaped and remade the very fabric of American society more than that of the 1960s. From the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War, from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, the 60s were filled with people and processes that essentially left America unsure of itself. The black power movement, the counter culture, and even the rise of new conservatism were conceived in the 60s and Bernard von Bothmer takes the reader into the wild and dangerous matrix of it all. The people and events of the 60s have been well chronicled over the years, but the interpretation of how the 60s played out, and more importantly, what those events mean for America today is a matter of political dispute. Predictably so, Republicans and Democrats of all stripes have attempted to co-opt the meaning of that decade to frame and advance their own political agendas.
Von Bothmer uses impeccable archival data, as well as primary and secondary data from a variety of sources. He successfully augments this meticulous research with interviews with high-ranking political officials from both of the major political parties. In the end, von Bothmer is able to demonstrate, quite lucidly, the whimsical and often contradictory meaning given to that era by those who seek to gain or maintain political power. He gives multiple and detailed examples of how Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, once president, all remade the 60s to advance a political cause. Whether debasing the legacy of past presidents in the case of Ronald Reagan, or using the 60s to define and debase their current political opponent as in the case of George W. Bush, political operatives have reduced the power, scope, and magnitude of the 1960s to clichéd political dogma. Von Bothmer claims, rather accurately, that what we are left with is an important and indispensable decade that, due to political opportunism, has lost its clarity of meaning and much of its subsequent use as a mechanism for teaching.
Reviewed in Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews 2012, 41 (2), p. 260
You know a decade has made it to a new level of significance when historians not only write a library of books about its main themes and events, but also write ones about what people later thought about the era and how politicians used the 1960s to further their own political goals.
Framing the Sixties “examines the ways in which four presidents . . . used their own selective versions of the 1960s for political gain in the years from 1980 to 2004” (p. 2). Specifically, the book focuses on the presidents’ conscious manipulation of five topics: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the civil rights movement, Vietnam War, and the sixties era. The author contends, and then demonstrates convincingly, that each president from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush offered his own conception of the decade.
The sources that the author used are impressive. Presidential communications and speeches, radio and television addresses, comments and statements to reporters, and memoirs of the presidents and of numerous staff members. Moreover, von Bothmer interviewed 122 politicians, speech writers, cabinet members, ad visors, journalists, historians, and activists across the political spectrum. Both liberals and conservatives expressed strong views on the five topics. “Indeed, the majority did not want to stop talking . . . the tensions of the 1960s have not cooled” (pp. 4-5). …
Most of the results are not surprising to anyone who lived through and studied these presidential administrations. Ronald Reagan had been running against the sixties when he was governor of California and continually spoke out against the excesses of the era when he was president. In response to nationwide increased sexual activity and drug usage, the First Lady began the “Just Say No” campaign. To Reagan, there was a distinction between Kennedy and the “good sixties” and the excesses of LBJ’s Great Society and Vietnam and the “bad sixties.” Reagan and his Republican advisors created the “noble war” myth about Vietnam to support his large expansion of the defense budget. At the end of his presidency, Reagan claimed that he “brought American back,” and von Bothmer contends that meant from the 1960s. The author demonstrates that in the 1988 presidential campaign George H. W. Bush “skillfully tarred Dukakis with the brush of the ‘bad sixties'” (p. 94) and that victory in the Gulf War “kicked the Vietnam syndrome” (p. 102). Bill Clinton, on the other hand, spoke out in favor of the “good sixties,” meaning Kennedy idealism, the Peace Corps, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement. As president he noted that Little Rock in 1957 “made racial equality a driving obsession in my life” (p. 145) and the “profound impact” that King’s “I Have a Dream” speech had on him: “my country would never be the same, and neither would I” (p. 146). Racial reconciliation would be a main theme of the Clinton administration. George W. Bush drew no distinction between the good and bad sixties, according to the author. “Consistently he characterized the 1960s as an era that destroyed all the good his father’s ‘Greatest Generation’ had achieved” (p. 179).
The author’s interviews resulted in some interesting findings. He notes that liberals usually begin the 1960s with the campaign of John Kennedy and the Greensboro sit-in, while to conservatives, those events were an extension of the 1950s; they begin the 1960s with the Great Society and expansion of the war in Vietnam in 1965. Both seem to see the end of the era with Watergate. Moreover, the author found that neither Democrats nor Republicans contested the gains that women and minorities made during the sixties. Finally, Reagan was the first to use the term “Vietnam Syndrome,” and the author provides a fascinating etymology of that term.
This is a fine book, well researched, lucid, and a fun read about the turbulent decade.
Reviewed in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Volume 42, Issue 2, pages 428–429, June 2012, by Terry H. Anderson, Texas A&M University.
Bernard von Bothmer has written a highly readable and impressively researched account of the ways in which presidents and would-be presidents have framed and exploited the major events, key figures, and general zeitgeist of the 1960s. Framing the Sixties is grounded in some 120 research interviews (helpfully listed in an appendix) that the author conducted with figures influential either in the decade itself, or in subsequent efforts to “frame” or interpret its meaning to the electorate. The book thus offers a particularly useful resource to students of history, political science, and communication studies. The latter, in particular, will appreciate the many former presidential speechwriters consulted by the author. Their insights are especially relevant to the questions of how public perceptions of the decade have both empowered and constrained recent presidencies.
Von Bothmer argues that Ronald Reagan and his successors, including a reluctant Bill Clinton, fashioned a largely mythical divide between what one might call the “good sixties” and the “bad sixties.” Conservative presidents since Reagan have adeptly manipulated the public’s gauzy memories of Camelot in a cynical (and largely successful) effort to co-opt the muscular optimism of the Kennedy years for their own purposes. At the same time, the social permissiveness, racial discord, violence, and (above all) antiwar activism that characterized the late 1960s have been, according to von Bothmer, a godsend to conservative politicians. Consequently, liberals and progressives have often found themselves on the defensive in recent decades, chained to the “bad sixties by their misguided or unscrupulous political opponents…
Reviewed in Presidential Studies Quarterly, June, 2010, by Charles J. G. Griffin, Kansas State University. Read the complete review.
Bernard von Bothmer’s fascinating look at the 1960’s—and the ways the decade has been portrayed by political winners and wannabes—adds an important chapter to our understanding of the domestic right wing. While progressives have also called up images from this beleaguered decade, conservatives have triumphed in seven of the last 11 presidential elections—1968 to 2008—victories that can be partially attributed to backlash against sixties excesses, both real and imagined…
Read the complete review by Eleanor J. Bader
I studied philosophy as an undergraduate. I pretty much sucked at the subject, but one term always stuck with me as being supremely cool: performative self-contradiction. Those words rolled off my tongue. I loved to use them in casual conversation, much to the consternation of friends and family. In common sense terms, the expression translates: something that once stated proves itself false. In reading Bernard von Bothmer’s book, performative self-contradiction kept creeping back into my head. Especially considering the “Vietnam syndrome,” as in overcoming the Vietnam syndrome, an argument George H.W. Bush made during the first Gulf War and an argument that von Bothmer spends a lot of time on. The idea that we could overcome Vietnam was most certainly a performative self-contradiction. For by stating that he wanted the country to put Vietnam behind it and march (or better yet fly) towards a glorious war, Bush senior was showing that the country actually hadn’t overcome the Vietnam syndrome. Bothmer quotes Stanley Karnow: “If they have to keep saying it, then it must not be true” (p. 106).
This seems one of the most insightful lessons drawn from this book—the fact that, to paraphrase Faulkner, the past isn’t dead, it’s not even past. The 1960s are a decade that we’ll never escape, no matter what Henry Ford once said about history being bunk in America. The decade is like a dinner party that can’t be vacated, that will never be transcended, and that sticks to us like glue.
… Von Bothmer traces out the distinction between the “good” and “bad sixties.” That means, for the most part, the early versus the later Sixties—President Kennedy’s idealism versus inner city riots and Vietnam. Reagan himself identified with John Kennedy, especially with the idea of “cutting taxes,” a sort of selective memory (p. 49). But he rarely had good things to say about the Civil Rights Movement or peace movement (of course, that poses the problem that the Civil Rights Movement was certainly part of the early Sixties more than the later Sixties). During debates about the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday bill, Reagan even suggested that Martin Luther King was “a communist sympathizer” (p. 64), a charge made at the time of King’s actual activism, of course, by the right and J. Edgar Hoover. But now we’re talking 20 years later. Which goes to show that the past is political football in the present, but the ball itself was always able to be played whatever way someone wanted. It’s not necessarily the difficulties of memory here but rather one’s political philosophy that guides the read of the past (after all, Reagan was beating up on the Sixties while governor of California during the Sixties).
Von Bothmer turns to Reagan’s argument that Vietnam was a “noble cause,” a term the future president first used in 1979 (p. 70). Here’s von Bothmer at his best. Reagan, for instance, tried to address the “Vietnam syndrome” through “an invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in October 1983 after a coup by the People’s Revolutionary Government” (p. 76). Reagan saw this as a “post-Vietnam” action, but it clearly wasn’t. The mission he carried out was in large part done secretly, and its simplicity and easiness suggested that Reagan was haunted by the long-term, drawn out experience in Vietnam. Again, in the act of overcoming something, a president might subconsciously be reasserting our memory of the past. …
Finally, there’s W, the young man who lived through the Sixties at Yale University and seemed to miss just about everything about the decade, except the chance to beat up on it for his political advantage. When John Kerry popped up with a salute at the Democratic convention and the readiness to battle W as a man who actually served his country during Vietnam, things turned ugly. “Democrats earnestly believed that Kerry’s Vietnam service would prevent the Right from using the 1960s against him,” but of course, the right “deftly manipulated memories of the 1960s” (p. 205). Picking up on Kerry’s protest past and his shaggy looking Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) days, Bush and his surrogates pummeled the man, precisely with memories of Vietnam singing in their heads. And as we all know, it seemed to work. … So there you have it: no matter if you want to, you just can’t escape those Sixties. …
Reviewed in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture, vol. 3, issue 2, by Kevin Mattson, Ohio University
This is a smartly written work on the political uses and misuses of history. Political parties create their own myths concerning the past, and this tendency has been greatly pronounced in the last few elections. Von Bothmer (Univ. of San Francisco) focuses on the demonization of the 1960s, especially by Republicans. For a generation of conservatives, the sixties were an era where respect for authority declined and a legion of ills were perpetrated on the American people. Democrats see the sixties quite differently, as an era of idealism and tolerance. But in times of partisan stress, history goes by the boards and distortions occur. The era has been carelessly divided into the “good sixties” and the “bad sixties.” Everything before Lyndon Johnson is good, everything after Vietnam bad. But JFK initiated the push for civil rights and LBJ pushed it through. Even the tax cuts, an issue about which Republicans eagerly equate Kennedy with Reagan, were passed under Johnson. Indeed, some Reaganites have embraced Kennedy and some liberals Richard Nixon. Von Bothmer skillfully demolishes these ideas, topping it all off with the Bush-Kerry race in 2004, where distortion of the decade reached new lows. An excellent analysis.
Essential. All levels/libraries. — D. R. Turner, Davis and Elkins College
CHOICE, December, 2010 (the publication of The Association of College and Research Libraries)
Bernard von Bothmer explores the political use of the 1960s in Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. Bothmer teaches American history at the Dominican University of California and the University of San Francisco. He has a nose for research and it shows, as his book is packed with copious notes and facts. Bothmer interviewed more than 120 sources for Framing the Sixties, doing the bulk of the comprehensive research in 2004 and 2005 ….
Framing the Sixties is a well-researched, intelligent read and Bothmer does well to guide the path. The author stays out of the fray, for the most part, and lets his countless subjects and sources do the talking. This approach serves the subject matter well, as it really does dig at the heart of the matter.
Read the complete review: BlogCritics.org, by Jordan Richardson, August 8, 2010
There’s an old joke that if you remember the sixties, you probably weren’t there. That’s the basic premise behind Bernard von Bothmer’s new book, Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, at least, if you’re a Republican. The sixties, as the author correctly points out, was really two eras. The first, “the good sixties,” was from the late 1950’s to the Kennedy assassination in 1963 ….
The book, all 232 pages of it, was interesting; though provocative may be the more operative word since von Bothmer contends there is a subtle battle raging between the Left and Right as to who will ultimately “own” the legacy of the 1960’s. According to the author, it was the Right who broke the 1960’s into essentially the “good” and “bad” years, with the obviously the Republican afterglow of Eisenhower representing the best part and the Democratic led latter years as representational of all that was bad about the era (of course, Watergate serves as a explanation point for the Democrats while Vietnam underscores the decade for the Republicans)
The book makes a great effort at trying to make some sense of an incredible era in today’s political light, though it is clear that the author lays much of the blame at misrepresenting the icons of the 1960’s at the feet of the Republicans. There was much that good about the 1960’s, and much that was bad. I don’t think either side is any more right or wrong as the other. It was also a time when people believe we could do better as a society, and they tried. Oh, and by the way, I was there.
Read the complete review: Another Opinion, by Paul Hosse, July 2010
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun. Faulkner’s famous quote — which is often misquoted — is a perfect fit for the treatment of the 1960s in Bernard von Bothmer’s Framing The Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, which shows in almost excruciating detail how conservatives and liberals cherry-picked the 1960s to suit their political ends. Based on interviews with people of all political views, Bothmer analyzes how conservatives especially chose elements from the “Good Sixties” — the period up to the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 — and the “Bad Sixties” — the rest of the decade to attack their opponents ….
With the exception of President Bill Clinton, the master politician of our age and almost the equal of the “The Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan, Republicans did a much better job of demonizing their Democratic opponents with their carefully selected “Bad Sixties” elements, Bothmer says. A good example is the 2004 Presidential race, where George W. Bush, who carefully avoided service in Vietnam, successfully demonized his Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, a decorated combat veteran of that war. By focusing on Kerry’s anti-war activities in the 1970s, Bush II convinced enough voters of Kerry’s alleged lack of patriotism to win re-election. If you want to skip the detailed chapters on each individual president or presidential candidate, you could page forward to page 221, “Conclusion: The Persistent Power of the 1960s” where Bothmer provides a quick and easy summary of the book. But if you’re the policy wonk and history buff that I am — especially if you lived through the 1960s as an adult as I did — you’ll want to read the complete book. Bothmer is an academic — he teaches American history at the University of San Francisco and at Dominican University of California — but he avoids academese and presents his arguments in straightforward English.
Read the complete review: Basil and Spice, by David M. Kinchen, July 2010
Many people helped Dr. Bothmer to formulate his background information and interviews for this very comprehensive book. It literally encompasses the time span from the election of President Kennedy through George W. Bush’s term in office. Dr. Bothmer‘s writing, as does much of the right, pays homage to President Kennedy however short his time was in office. His election galvanized Americans around hope and what good we could effect for others in our march toward equality and creation of a more perfect nation. Dr. King’s civil rights movement helped shape our future, as Americans, more than any man of his stature previously had. That he lost his life fighting for, and gaining access to, a noble cause makes the bitter more sweet ….
It wasn’t until the electoral campaign for Reagan began that the right sought to make stark contrasts between the “good” and “bad” sixties. The right felt that this decade (1960’s) was so was awful for America because it degraded family and moral values. They believed that the Vietnam war was a just cause and that all who protested against it must surely be communists: not much has changed in that regard for them either. President Ford was hardly more than a blip on the screen for the republican party. President H.W. Bush and his son continued to revise history such that war was, or at least should be, noble and just and the presidents who presided over such would have the best legacy. The fondest decade for the right was the 1950’s where white men ruled the world ….
This book is jam packed with credible interviews from major governmental players from both parties in the decades from 1960 through 2008. While some of the reading made me mad on general principle others made me smile and filled me with pride. Long live our right to free speech, open debate, and the two party system. I would recommend this book for every undergraduate program in government, history, civics, social studies, or public policy. Thank you Dr. Bothmer for a very interesting and informative read!
Read the complete review: American Chronicle, by Michelle Malsbury, July 2010
There has long been a political battle raging in American politics about the meaning and effect of the 1960s. But when people refer to the decade there is a segmentation of those years. In the early sixties there was – “Camelot” – the Kennedy years. In the latter sixties we had riots in the streets, Viet Nam, and the corrupting influence of the Great Society. We generally think of the latter when we speak of the “Sixties.” The right and left dispute these years because they are so vivid in the minds of the Baby-Boomers that came of age during that time. The battle is intense because this time was the beginning of great changes in the country that some wish to accelerate and others wish to reverse ….
Many readers will not draw the same conclusions regarding Bothmer’s analysis as I have. He is rather sparing in his leftist comments. Although not even-handed, his comments give rise to thought, and not all commentary has to be viewed as left or right. His conclusions regarding the 1960s in the final chapter make some telling points. I review a fair number of books written by leftist academics, and normally I find them pedantic and labored. I must admit that Framing the Sixties is a riveting read and well worth adding to your library shelf. Recommended.
Read the complete review: Conservative Monitor, by W.J. Rayment, July, 2010
As Framing the Sixties was published by a university press (University of Massachusetts) and authored by an American history professor (the University of San Francisco), the general reader might fear this study is intended for the academic audience alone. True, this fresh analysis of presidential history should indeed prove useful for researchers and students of the U.S. political scene. ButBernard von Bothmer has provided a valuable service for anyone interested in understanding how our leaders have manipulated the facts and myths of the 1960s to champion their various agendas in the White House since 1980.
von Bothmer’s premise is quickly and clearly defined: that, beginning with Ronald Reagan, presidents and would-be presidents looked to cultural and political events of the 1960s as sign posts to disparage their political opposition or point to past ills as reasons for their own policies and ideology. In particular, Conservatives and Liberals alike came to divide the decade into two parts: the “Good Sixties” which revolved around the idealism of John F. Kennedy and the “Bad Sixties” which the right claimed, and claims, set the stage for many problems that followed. In particular, Reagan, the two Bushes, and the Republican candidates that ran against Bill Clinton saw Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives as setting the stage for too much government spending, the creation of the welfare state, and erosion of personal responsibility. In addition, Republican opposition to creating Martin Luther King Day was but one example of how not everyone saw the advances in civil rights as a move forward. Of course, presidential campaigns and international policies have remained, despite rhetoric otherwise, under the shadow of Vietnam. And leaders decrying a perceived decline in morality also point to the “counter-culture” of the Sixties as a means to label Democratic Baby Boomers as tainted by a lack of patriotism, spoiled by a “do what you like” philosophy. As a result, the Dems have been forced to be on the defensive, having to frame their own arguments in “Good Sixties” terms and choose candidates as insulated as possible from the “Bad Sixties.”
Read the complete review: Bookpleasures.com, by Dr. Wesley Britton, June 2010
It’s possible that the 1960s may end someday, but we’re not there yet. Not even close.
As Bernard von Bothmer points out in his introduction, echoes of the ’60s re-emerged, yet again, during the 2008 presidential campaign. Republican candidate John McCain ran a TV ad linking Barack Obama with the values of the ’60s counterculture – never mind that Obama was 6 years old in 1967.
“It was a time of uncertainty, hope, and change, the Summer of Love,” the narrator said. “Half a world away, another kind of love, of country: John McCain, shot down, bayoneted, tortured. … Before party, polls, and self: America.” In the background, writes von Bothmer, “were images of student protesters and embracing hippies followed by scenes from Vietnam, including McCain photographed as a POW then and saluting from his crutches on returning to the United States.”
In campaigning against the ’60s, McCain, the author writes, was only doing what every Republican candidate since that decade has done. This book is not a history of the ’60s, but a look at how presidents from Reagan through Bush II used the tumultuous decade to advance their own messages and agendas.
Von Bothmer uses short-hand terms, the “good” ’60s and the “bad” ’60s, to frame his analysis. The former refers to JFK, anti-communism, peaceful protest and traditional standards of dress and decorum. The latter refers to how it all, in the view of conservatives, came apart – violent protests, hippies, drugs, crime, Vietnam. He shows how Reagan, for example, masterfully identified himself with aspects of JFK’s legacy – a strong national defense and tax cuts – while condemning the social disintegration of the latter part of the decade. “The key to understanding the rise of the Right since 1980,” he writes, “is to trace its success in framing the debate over the meaning of the decade in the minds of the voters.”
Read the complete review: Daily Hampshire Gazette, Book Bag by Suzanne Wilson, March 2010
Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush isan extraordinary survey of how left-wing and right-wing factions have framed—or failed to frame—the events and legacy of the turbulent 1960s decade to their political advantage. From Ronald Reagan’s vilification of the “Great Society,” characterizing it as an abandonment of personal responsibility, to Bill Clinton’s use of liberal 1960s icons to promote more moderate or conservative ends than the icons themselves personally endorsed, to George W. Bush’s absolute antipathy to most of the radical social change of the 1960s, to how John Kerry—a decorated Vietnam war veteran who protested the war after his honorable discharge—was absolutely vilified in comparison to George W. Bush, who never served in Vietnam at all, Framing the Sixties is a remarkably astute appraisal of how public opinion was carefully shaped by spin on both sides of the debate.
Ultimately, it appears as though the Right political wing has been overall more effective in spreading their view of the 60s, but it’s not impossible that this could change. “The memory of the 1960s has dominated American politics far longer than the decade itself lasted and has not yet run its course.
The much-discussed national divide between Republican ‘red states’ and Democratic ‘blue states’ stems primarily from the fight over ‘the sixties.’ In the 2008 presidential election Republican John McCain, a decorated Vietnam-era prisoner of war, relied on the tried-and-true strategy of ‘blaming the sixties’ that had propelled Ronald Reagan and two presidents named George Bush into the White House, though this time, against a backdrop of urgent national crises and an opponent who hadn’t been born when the 1960s began, the strategy failed.” An astute examination of a critical side of America’s ongoing political debate, highly recommended.
Read the complete review: Midwest Book Review, Reviewer’s Choice, March 2010
With the advent of popular 24/7 cable news channels, Americans have become even more addicted to the news than ever before. Depending on one’s age, however, one is likely to perceive it in different ways. For the political junky, there is a very interesting look at the 1960s and how it shaped politics. Framing the Sixties: The Use and Abuse of a Decade from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush ($28.95, University of Massachusetts, softcover) examines the way “Ever since Ronald Reagan, U.S. presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, have battled over the collective memory of what the decade meant in an effort to advance their own agendas,” says historian Bernard von Bothmer. The decade heralded the growth of the conservative political movement. Former Senator Rick Santorum said in 2007 that “You can tell if you were a liberal or a conservative if you thought the sixties were a good or bad decade.” They turned a lot of young liberals into conservatives at the same time other young liberals were marching against the Vietnam War and embracing the counter-culture of the times. With a historian’s precision the author shows how that decade and the one that followed shaped the nation’s political choices.
Read the complete review: Bookviews, Pick of the Month, March 2010
The mere mention of “The Sixties” to an American of a certain age is likely to evoke a knee-jerk response. But depending on that person’s political orientation, that response could be very good, as he recalls JFK’s New Frontier, the Good Society, and the civil rights movement; or very bad, as he conjures up cities burning, antiwar protesters, and the revolt of the counterculture.
In his new book, historian Bernard von Bothmer recalls that tumultuous decade through the lens of four U.S. presidents — Reagan, the two Bushes and Clinton — and deconstructs how each of them advanced his own political agenda by positive or negative public references to the ’60s. In crafting this new work, von Bothmer drew on interviews with more than 120 major players of the time, such as Julian Bond, Daniel Ellsberg, Robert Bork, and James Baker.
Read the complete review: Steve Goddard’s History Wire, March 2010