The Bigmouth Tradition of American Leadership Victor Davis Hanson

To everything, there is a season.


America has always enjoyed two antithetical traditions in its political and military heroes.


The preferred style is the reticent, sober, and competent executive planner as president or general, from Herbert Hoover to Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter.


George Marshall remains the epitome of understated and quiet competence.


The alternate and more controversial sorts are the loud, often reckless, and profane pile drivers. Think Andrew Jackson of Teddy Roosevelt. Both types have been appreciated, and at given times and in particular landscapes both profiles have proven uniquely invaluable.



Both Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were military geniuses. Grant was quiet and reflective — at least in his public persona, which gave scant hint that he struggled with alcohol and often displayed poor judgement about those who surrounded him.


Sherman was loud. He was often petty, and certainly ready in a heartbeat to engage in frequent feuds, many of them cul de sacs and counter-productive.


Sherman threatened to imprison or even hang critical journalists and waged a bitter feud with the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.


Too few, then or now, have appreciated that the uncouth Sherman, in fact, displayed both a prescient genius and an uncanny understanding of human nature. Whereas Grant could brilliantly envision how his armies might beat the enemy along a battle line or capture a key fortress or open a river, Sherman’s insight encompassed whole regions and theaters, in calibrating how both economics and sociology might mesh with military strategy to crush an entire people.


For all of Grant’s purported drinking and naïveté about the scoundrels around him, his outward professional bearing, his understated appearance of steadiness and discretion, enhanced his well-earned reputation for masterful control in times of crises.


The volatile and loquacious nature of Sherman, in contrast, often hid and diminished appreciation of his talents — in some ways greater than Grant’s. To the stranger, Grant would have seemed the less likely to have had too much to drink and smoked too many daily cigars, Sherman the more prone to all sorts of such addictions.



Harry Truman talked too much. He swore. He drank. He played poker. He was petty to the point of stooping to spar with a music critic who dismissed his daughter’s solo performances. His profanity was an open secret, as well as his temper. His advisers constantly cautioned him to tone it down.


As a Missourian who had once gone bankrupt and recouped with a political career though the help of the corrupt Prendergast machine, Truman carried a chip on his shoulder throughout his political career on the East Coast.


In some sense, Truman was an accidental president — a workmanlike senator appointed as running mate in the 1944 reelection campaign to the sure fourth-termer FDR — out of justified fears that an ailing Roosevelt would soon die in office and his socialist vice president, Henry Wallace, would soon become wartime president.


“Give Them Hell” Harry’s fiery and often grating personality and infamous feud with General Douglas MacArthur helped to explain why he left office with the then-lowest presidential ratings in modern history. His Internal Revenue Bureau (the precursor of the IRS) was scandal-ridden, and many of his aides were buffoonish.


Yet “plain-speaking” Truman proved a great or at least a near-great president. He precluded either a horrific ground invasion of Japan or a murderous escalation of LeMay’s incendiary air war, by controversially dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Truman soon jettisoned the Democratic party’s institutional naïveté about Joseph Stalin’s postwar ambitions. Truman was mostly responsible for saving Berlin and South Korea, integrating the military, ensuring the Marshall Plan, NATO, the birth of Israel, and the entire postwar policy of deterrence and containment against Soviet-sponsored global Communism.


Dwight D. Eisenhower was likewise a successful president, though his foreign-policy achievements, derivative of Truman’s, were never as path-breaking.


The beloved Ike’s signature trait was competent administration. It was honed by a professional willingness to listen and compromise, with assurances to all parties that, while capable of temper, Ike was discreet and would never lose his head when those around him might. Ike avoided a major war with the Soviets abroad, continued deterrence, and oversaw general prosperity and relative calm at home.


It is hard to envision any other comparable figure herding together all the Anglo-American three-star and four-star egos during the race across France and Holland into Germany in 1944–45. Whereas Truman’s bouts of uncouth candor tended to alienate potential admirers and mask his landmark accomplishments, Eisenhower’s sobriety only enhanced his arguably less monumental achievements.


&Ike left office as popular as Truman did despised.



Omar Bradley today is still known as “the GI general” and “a soldier’s general.” “Brad” was steady if not, on occasion, obsequious to his superiors in public and haughty to his inferiors in private.


Ike relied on Brad’s predictable discretion in promoting him over his former superior, the volatile George S. Patton. It is difficult to cite any major military decision that Bradley made in the critical year 1944 that proved either inspired or shrewd.


The failure to close the Falaise Gap was largely his own. Bradley appeared resentful of and inconvenienced by, rather than supportive of, Patton’s wild advance of August 1944. Bradley never foresaw the problems waiting for his subordinate, General Courtney Hodges, in the Hürtgen Forest.


He seemed bewildered by German thrust in the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge, and initially had little idea of how to repel the assault. Bradley’s general feeling of inferiority prevented him from appreciating the genius of the cruder Patton, much less the valuable professional competence of the otherwise egomaniac and abrasive British General Bernard Montgomery.


Again, however, Bradley was a loyal and professional general. He could be trusted to administer military affairs competently and to explain to associates and the public questions of strategy and policy carefully and prudently — projecting a Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart “aw-shucks” simplicity and earthiness that did wonders in cloaking his considerable strategic and tactical limitations.


Little need be said about the iconic Patton. Whereas Bradley was a faithful husband, plain-spoken, and reserved, Patton was a philanderer, profane, mercurial, bombastic, unsteady — and perhaps the most gifted American field general in U.S. history.


His genius for war saved thousands of lives. Patton’s instincts, cunning, and prescience might have saved even more had he been listened to.


Ike, Bradley, and Walter Bedell Smith were all prone to hector Patton on his character flaws, understandably warning him that his mouth and unsteady comportment would ensure that “Georgie” was constantly in trouble of his own making — from slapping a sick soldier to voicing clairvoyant but supposedly reckless predictions about America’s wartime Soviet allies. Patton, with herculean efforts at censoring his thoughts and actions, for a time was able to placate his superiors.


Yet the net result of Patton’s volatility was predictable. Even today some continue to buy into the myth that the studious, learned, often generous, and considerate Patton was more a buffoon than our nation’s signature military genius. We forget that Patton enhanced his natural talents through relentless preparation and hard work, and often displayed a magnanimity born from confidence completely lacking in the insecure and occasionally mean-spirited Bradley.


Sober vs. Volatile


We can think of lots of American stereotypically loudmouth and unsteady talents — from Samuel Adams to Curtis Le May — and even more discreet and professional administrators of the sterling caliber of George Marshall and Chester Nimitz.


Of course, not every leader must in Manichean fashion be either sober and judicious or profane and uncouth. Perhaps the greatest brilliantly combined both personas.


Perhaps the greatest, such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Reagan, brilliantly combined both personas — adroitly turning on the emotion and passion to rev up the public while keeping a quiet and steady hand on the tiller in stormy weather.


In his encomium on Pericles, the historian Thucydides long ago outlined this rare dual character of a great democratic leader. Their exuberance and passion were properly married to calmness and steadiness, each to be expressed at the appropriate time and mostly calibrated to the depression or reckless exuberance of the masses.


Mercurial Is Not Always Wrong

Nonetheless, the mercurial and uncouth style enjoys an ambiguous role in American cultural, political, and military history. It is an ancient crux perhaps captured from Homer to John Ford as the essence of the tragic hero, whose very excesses are precisely what both saves others and dooms himself.


The most creative artists always remind us of the role of irony and paradox — that great things can come from sometimes less than great men, that what appears dangerous is actually what is safe, what should seem good in theory proves awful in fact, what is supposedly proven beyond a doubt only all the more proves groupthink to be asininity.


Outsiders who do not fit — and perhaps should not fit in civilization’s status quo — are sometimes the only ones who can save it from itself. They possess uncivilized talents that are as critical in crises as they can become bothersome if not dangerous in calm.


In March 1945, we were lucky to have a Curtis Le May. In 1968, we laughed at our now Dr. Strangelovian running mate of George Wallace, an easily caricatured but nonetheless authentic American hero who had saved both the B-29 program and the Strategic Air Command.


So the public is always confused by the loud and rambunctious style. It usually prefers predictable competence to unpredictable singularity — at least until realization hits that the accustomed and status quo cannot continue.


Whereas we rarely pray that the reticent become more talkative (who now wishes that Ike or Brad was louder?), we constantly lament that the loud and profane had not been more self-controlled. Had Sherman been less outspoken, might he have been more heralded or found high command earlier?


But then would a reticent Sherman have been a better General Sherman?


Would a Truman who kept his temper always have been the Truman who rightly blew up at Stalin and MacArthur? What would the Normandy front in June and July 1944 have looked like, had Patton, not Ike and Bradley, exercised senior command: utter chaos across the Rhine by October 1944? Or was Patton’s mouth not merely the price of, but essential to, his turning up at Bastogne when others could not?


There Is a Season


The point is that it is hard to ascertain to what degree flamboyance and excess, even the self-destructive sorts, are integral to genius. And to what degree in extremis do we need to make allowances and exemptions for the former to allow expression of the latter?


The state of affairs obviously determines the degree to which a public is willing to take risks with the unconventional. The peacetime army of the late 1930s would have had no real place for a General George S. Patton.


We, of course, live in lesser times (though, we can cringe at the idea what Sherman or Truman, or Churchill, might have tweeted had Twitter been at their late-night fingertips).


For all his first-year achievements, an unpopular Trump is hardly yet an accomplished Patton or Truman. Nonetheless, we need to take a deep breath and concede that sometimes past mellifluous appeasement is more dangerous than present flamboyant deterrence — just as the sober and discreet can be more adroit in warping the Constitution through distortions and corruptions of the Justice Department, the IRS, the FBI, and the FISA courts than are the profane and rambunctious.


Finally, we should remember that different sorts are suitable for different occasions — for seasons of recouping and for the seasons of disrupting; for times of consolidation and for the times of expansion, and for the moments of quiet conciliation and loud delineation.

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

Posted: December 27, 2017
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Remembering President Bush (41) As a Baseball Fan

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Twitter Banned Me For Literally No Reason, But In The End They’ll Lose By Jesse Kelly

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”—Every third grader

I try my best not to complain about the curveballs of life that come my way, but I wish people understood the tremendous burden that comes with being a clairvoyant genius who sees the future. You see, Twitter banned my account yesterday. They did not suspend it. They banned it.

I had almost 80,000 followers and those poor people are now left aimlessly wandering the social media landscape in search of a greatness they’ll never find again. Now, I don’t really care because I’m just going to start a new account and it will be even better than my last one (if that’s possible). This isn’t about me. This is about what kind of country we have become and what kind of country we want to be.

We have become a nation of sensitive losers who care about words. We care about how things “make us feel.” The exception these days is the man who just wants to put his talent and his thoughts in the marketplace of ideas and see if people will buy it.

That man is rare today, but it was not always so. The American man used to be one who threw his family in a covered wagon and headed West into the wilderness. The American man used to be one who found out the Japanese had attacked men he didn’t know in a state he’d never visited so he ran down to the recruiting office to enlist in the Marines. That American man still exists, but he’s an endangered species.

The American spirit of free speech has been replaced by people who want uncomfortable speech censored. Nowhere is this more apparent than the social media world.

As I have said before, social media is not a small thing. It is no longer three nerds with pocket protectors huddled in their dorm rooms dreaming about a day when a woman acknowledges their existence. Social media has surpassed the telephone. It is the means of networking and communicating with others: 2.5 billion people use Facebook and Twitter.

That is not a fringe thing that is going away. It has now become the way humans interact with each other. It is completely run by Silicon Valley leftists who know the power they hold. And they are using that power.

But power is a funny thing. Power, no matter how ominous it may seem at the time, is always finite. It doesn’t last forever. If there is one thing history has taught us, it’s that silencing voices will always be a temporary solution.

Censorship is a horrible thing, but it has one fatal flaw: It doesn’t work. Voices break out. They cannot be contained. Twitter banning me from their platform only hurts them in the long run. They’ll continue to marginalize themselves, and I will continue to grow.

I enjoy talking politics, and I enjoy entertaining people. I don’t need Twitter to do it. I’ve a got a successful radio show. I’m blessed to have a network of friends who share and promote each other’s ideas.

But the bigger questions are: Where does it end? How do we accommodate dissent? Is silencing the voices we don’t like likely to lead to a better society? What happens to the voices that are silenced? Are we doing ourselves a favor by forcing conformity to doctrines that are antithetical to the core values of many Americans?

We’ll figure out the answers to these questions. We’ll solve these problems. We’ll learn to disagree agreeably, and to give voice to those with whom we vehemently disagree. Twitter won’t. But America is better than Twitter. Always has been.


Jesse Kelly is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist and the host of “The Jesse Kelly Show” on KPRC 950 in Houston. Jesse is a Marine Corps combat veteran and former congressional candidate in Arizona. He resides in the Houston area with his wife and two sons.
Posted: November 26, 2018
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Fifty Things I’m Thankful For in 2018

1. My Mom’s continued recovery after a serious health scare
2. Daisy. Some dogs you take care of. Daisy took care of me.
3. Our dogs Roscoe and Ladie who remain a comfort to me
4. Our dog Lucie who teaches me patience in a painless way
5. A new refrigerator
6. My President
7. The Sola Conference at church
8. Alternative media
9. Praying people
10. Kindness
11. Cold Weather
12. Taste buds
13. My new blanket
14. Hot tea
15. Order and Organization
16. New books by favorite authors
17. Cell Phones
18. Cornhusker football is showing improvement.
19. The book of Job
20. My Bible App
21. My dad’s industriousness
22. My mom’s unconditional love.
23. That God doesn’t change
24. My coffee cup
25. The beauty of words
26. The warm autumn sunlight through the window
27. Trader Joe’s
28. Trash cans
30. Goodreads
31. Friends and family who run to the library for me.
32. Music that reminds me of my childhood
33. Author, teacher, colleague, and friend, Peter Leavell
34. The Buntins
35. MacArthur Bible that Ron Warren gave me.
36. Jeff Flake will no longer be my Senator
37. Lined paper
38. That God is gentle with me
39. That I always have something to look forward to.
40. That I can send email with my phone
41. The logic of Math
42. Thursdays- essentially a halfday for me
43. Phil Johnson
44. Good book recommendations
45. Doggie doors
46. Multi-colored envelopes
47. Scott Frost
48. Like-minded sports fans
49. Handbooks for writing
50. Faithful blog readers

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One Hundred and Fifty-Five Years Ago Today….

A Historic Day

Katherine's Chronicle

The text of the Gettysburg Address, as delivered by President Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863, and transmitted by The Associated Press 150 years ago:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. (Applause.) Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war; we are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

The brave men, living and dead…

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Late Husker fan’s hat found in stands lands in the hands of Scott Frost



Christian Reese-Newquist was cleaning the stands at Memorial Stadium after Saturday’s game against Illinois when he found something special.

“Section 31 in the stadium, I came across a hat just sitting on the bleachers,” Reese-Newquist said. Advertisement


The sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is also an Air Force ROTC member. It was his branch’s turn to clean the stadium. At first, he said he thought he was about to snag a free hat.

“(I looked) at it, (and it) has a note under it,” Reese-Newquist said.

The note was written by Vince Kunasek. The cap belonged to Kunasek’s late 62-year-old cousin, Paul Renninger, who passed away from aplastic anemia just after the Husker’s game against Ohio State.

Renninger sat in the very seat where Kunasek left the hat. Kunasek hoped the person who found the hat could get it to coach Scott Frost.

“The classic note in the bottle and floating in the ocean and then someone finds it and returns it — it’s just like that,” Reese-Newquist said. “The trust that someone would have to leave this hat that belonged to their loved one, just sitting on a bench you know, that’s pretty insane.”

The story in the note touched Reese-Newquist’s heart and he thought it might do the same to others. He reached out to Kunasek on Facebook.

He told Kunasek, “I found your hat, I’m going to do everything in my power to help you get this done.”

Reese-Newquist’ roomate, Taylor Freeman, tweeted photos of the hat and note to get the word out.

“It blew up overnight,” Reese-Newquist said. “People were going crazy. So many reactions.”

It spread far enough to reach a Husker football staffer, who messaged Reese-Newquist to arrange a meeting with Frost.

Reese-Newquist brought the hat, and several of his roommates, to the stadium Tuesday afternoon and Kunasek brought Renninger’s mother, Greta, and his daughter, Nikki.

“We met Scott Frost and he signed the hat, he talked to the family a little about Paul, the person that passed away, and it was great,” Reese-Newquist said. “It was just an awesome experience.”

Kunasek said Renninger wasn’t able to make it to a Husker football game this season, but the two tailgated together for years. He said Renninger would have plenty of jokes about his hat being signed. More than anything, Kunasek said the story proves the saying true — there’s no place like Nebraska.

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A Veteran’s Spirit in Historical Fiction by Peter L. Leavell

Historical Fiction is a powerful tool to bring the past alive.

How we see the past, how we portray events forever stays with the reader. The responsibility is heavy.

On Veteran’s Day, the celebration is about the soldiers who come home to a hero’s welcome, or return to castigation, or those at duty’s end is filled with a loneliness that cannot be filled and such despair that only a brother or sister in arms can understand. The horrors are forgotten by a nation but live on in the minds of the soldier.

And what will history say of these men and women who sacrificed time and well-being so that we might stand in fancy suits and long gold chained watches, adjust our glasses and shake our heads and proclaim that, now we see through the lens of history, their cause wasn’t worth the sacrifice?

If only politicians had done…

If these soldiers had been more kind…

If a repressed people had more rights….

And the soldiers march on. And the veteran’s boots gather house dust while he or she agrees,  and screams for understanding.

Historical Fiction authors research without end because a veteran’s story deserves to be told. We endlessly explore because our lens through which we see them is distorted, listing to the side by our experiences—our overarching patriotism or unending hatred of war and those who take part.

Historical Fiction authors write perspective. Our ship of characters does not focus unendingly on love, violence, hatred, compassion. To tilt the past with one focus is to drown all the passengers of the past in untruths. So, we focus on one thought.

The spirit of the age.

What was it like to live in the past, why did they live as they did, who were these men and women, when did they find time for romance and families and dreams, where did they serve. How are they doing after service?

And in this, we civilians salute the men and women who offered their time in service to our country. Thank you.

          ~~~~~Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and currently enrolled in the University’s English Lit Graduate program, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. A novelist, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at

Posted: November 12, 2018

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