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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The Worst Historian In History?

Is Sean Wilentz, by a large margin.

He claims that Bush is the worst president in history, but get this:

Twelve percent of the historians polled -- nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success -- flatly called Bush the worst president in American history.

That of course is more of a reflection on historians than on Bush. Note that in the entire article, Wilentz does not once mention Jimmy Carter, surely the worst president in my lifetime.

Remember Wilentz? He was the history professor whose testimony at the Clinton Impeachment trial was so embarrassing even other liberals told him to stuff it? Here's one of his more shrill claims:

If you believe they do rise to that level, you will vote for impeachment and take your risks at going down in history with the zealots and the fanatics.

If you understand that the charges do not rise to the level of impeachment, or if you are at all unsure, and yet you vote in favor of impeachment anyway for some other reason, history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness.

Kind of gives the image of "history" as Inspector Javert, non?

He's also notable for his effort to convince people that Al Gore's win in the popular vote in 2000 meant something:

Wilentz assembled a bizarre group that included some of our nation's top professors of constitutional law (including Bruce Ackerman, Ronald Dworkin, and Cass Sunstein) mixed together with actors and other celebrities (including Robert De Niro, Rosie O'Donnell, and Bianca Jagger) and persuaded them to sign their names to a full-page ad in the New York Times that spoke of Al Gore's having won a "clear constitutional majority of the popular vote," even though the Constitution says nothing about the popular vote in presidential elections and is perfectly clear that victory goes to the candidate who receives the most electoral votes.

Here's a funny Mark Steyn column from November 22, 2000 on that topic.

Trouble was, not all the Concerned Citizens knew what they were signing. Like those Palm Beach Jews who punched their chads for Pat Buchanan, prominent members of the Emergency Committee claimed they'd been "confused." Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago told Slate's Timothy Noah that he didn't even know he'd agreed to join an Emergency Committee. Furthermore, he said, "I was very upset to see my name associated with a position that I reject." He also passed Slate a copy of a letter that he, Prof. Dworkin and Bruce Ackerman of Yale, had sent to the Times:

"We did not see or approve, and do not approve of, the Saturday advertisement on the op-ed page of the Times, which included a number of alleged 'signatories,' including us. The advertisement calls, far too prematurely, for new elections in Florida. We never saw the text and would not have signed it if we had."

Joust the Facts also remembers Professor Wilentz's silencing of dissent.

James Taranto proves that Wilentz is a bad historian, using Wilentz's own words!

Update: Hugh Hewitt and Christopher Hitchens dissect the Wilentz piece.

Marathon Pundit concurs with my assessment of the peanut farmer and has evidence to back it up.
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