its giant arms and growing larger allnthe time, so large that where it stopsnnobody knows — and a marriage,nthank God, is more than the sum of itsnpartners. Time and patience effect angrace that mere intent never could. Inclose my eyes and can still hear thenmusic.nLetter From thenLower Rightnby John Shelton ReednThe Judgment of HistorynSatire is a difficult form these days.nReality keeps calling, and raising. Letnme tell a story that illustrates the difficulty.nLast November, when PresidentnReagan’s Teflon began to wear thin,npundits began to write about how hisn”place in history” was being jeopardized.nMy buddy Tim, a historian,ncasually suggested that a President reallynneeds professional historians onncall to warn him about how historynwill judge his actions. I thought thatnwas a funny idea. Tim and I startedngoofing on it, and we wound up writingna proposal to establish a “Councilnof Historical Advisors.”nWe pointed out that such a bodynwould answer a real need. After all,nevery politician above the statelegislatornlevel wants to be regardednwith favor by history, and Presidents inntheir final years in office, especially,nseem to worry about it a lot. They’rennot running for anything, and posterityndoesn’t even have a PAC, but theynjust can’t kick the habit: They start tonsuck up to the electorate of Yet-to-be.nBut history takes time (as GertrudenStein remarked), and that makes themnnervous. Since we can’t poll the GreatnUnborn, obviously, we have to rely onnspeculation. But Tim and I arguednthat the judgment of history is toonimportant to be left to well-meaningnamateurs. We suggested that a panel ofnhistorians could be engaged to delivernofficial preliminary verdicts of history.nIf nothing else, that would free Presidentsnto worry about the things they’renhired to worry about, and it mightneven save us in the future from embarrassmentsnlike high schools namednafter Warren G. Harding.nAs we saw it, a Council of HistoricalnAdvisors would be like the Council ofnEconomic Advisors—a body of expertsnto make the close calls and hardndecisions and assess for the Presidentnhow he’ll stand in the past of thenfuture. We suggested a set-up like thatnof the Supreme Court: a fixed numbernof members, nominated by the Presidentnand approved by the Senate, servingnfor life, contingent on good behavior.n(Sure, the criteria for goodnbehavior might be hard to establish,nbut those for life aren’t self-evidentneither.) We wanted these provisions tonguard against “council-packing” bynPresidents tempted to believe that adversenjudgments were the work ofnsmall-minded pedants trying to denynthem their historical due.nDay to day, we suggested, the councilncould make itself useful by, fornexample, finding historical precedentsnfor administration proposals, or makingnsure that policies said to be unprecedentednreally were. It could also remindnbusy Presidents and otherntop-level administration figures of thenhistorical events commemorated bynholidays like Thanksgiving, ColumbusnDay, the Fourth of July, and Christmas.nSpeechwriters could call thencouncil with questions about the currentnstate of historiography: “What’snthe latest on Squanto?” “WilliamnBradford in Plymouth—still an importantnplayer?” “Remind me: Whatnhappened at Munich?” With answersnin hand, speechwriters could usenphrases like “history tells us” or “thenlessons of history” in full confidencenthat, in a pinch, they could bucknresponsibility to the council.nBut, we argued, it would be in timesnof crisis that the historical advisorsnwould really earn their keep. A Presidentncould call in the council’s chairman:n”I want to invade,” he might say,nor “I want to cut a deal.” Then: “Whatnwill be the judgment of history? Will itnthreaten my place in history?” Thenchairman would summon the advisors.n(Robes of office—perhaps tweedn— might be appropriate.) The councilnwould solemnly deliberate and by formalnvote determine history’s verdict.nLike economic forecasts, of course, itncould be subsequently adjusted.nProposals of this sort had come upnbefore but had never gotten anywhere.nnnWhen Fritz Hollings was running fornPresident in 1984, he promised that henwould shoot all the economists inngovernment and replace them withnhistorians, but this shameless pitch fornhistorians’ votes wasn’t enough to getnhim the nomination. Eight years earlier,nin 1976, we learned, a group ofnhistorians had actually, seriously urgednPresident-elect Garter to set up a formalnbody like the one we were proposing,nbut historians were one specialinterestngroup to which Carter did notnrespond.nWe concluded that this could be anbold initiative, one that President Reaganncould use to put his mark on thenclosing years of his administration. Wenpredicted confidently that historynwould applaud. We wrote our proposalnas an op-ed piece and fired it off to annumber of your high-class dailies.nAll of them turned us down. Everynlast one of them.nNow, I can understand the conservativenones doing that. Everything butnthe stock market seemed to be fallingnapart at the time, and they weren’t innthe mood for satire. But I must say thatnit was a bit of a puzzle when the NewnYork Times didn’t want it. I’ve nevernseen the Times pass up the chance tonkick a conservative when he was down,nand I thought anything that pokedneven mild fun at the Reagan administrationnwould be a shoo-in. Tim and Inbegan to think maybe the idea wasn’tnas amusing as we thought it was.nThen, lo and behold, nearly twonmonths after we’d sent our piece to thenTimes, on last January 14, that paper’snop-ed page carried a piece by Stuart E.nEizenstat. Eizenstat (whom some maynrecall as a figure from the forlornnCarter White House) called for thencreation of a “White House secretariatn. . . charged with providing the politicalnappointees on the National SecuritynCouncil and domestic policy staffnwith historical analogues, therebynhelping keep Presidents out of trouble.”nSuch an “institutionalized memory,”nhe argued, would “reduce thenlikelihood that past mistakes would benrepeated.” Sound familiar?nNow, I certainly don’t mean to suggestnthat the Times pilfered our ideanand farmed it out. Great ideas oftennoccur to many people more or lessnsimultaneously; anyway, as I said, thenidea was not a new one. But I donOCTOBER 1987 143n