Flashback

Flashback

A Lonely Visionary

By From the December 1987 issue

“Sorry to bother you, but haven’t we met before? Aren’t you…what’s his name?”

“I doubt you’d know my name,” he said. “Nobody does these days.”

There was a trace of bitterness in his voice, just enough to prod my curiosity. On the whole, he was quite an ordinary looking old man, around seventy-five I would guess, with a flabby face and a bald head. But there, right on the top of his forehead, was the painfully familiar huge purple mark resembling the outlines of some exotic land on the globe. Perhaps South America, or even India…. I could swear I’d seen him before.

We were sitting in a bar on Fisherman’s Wharf, the most crowded spot in San Francisco, where you can run across anybody from this or the next world. California, as you know, has the reputation of a weird planet: if there are ghosts, this is their homeland. There is no way of knowing who you might see across the table. Was this fellow one of Hollywood’s old faces, a character from a great but unjustly forgotten movie? He looked a bit like Edward G. Robinson, or someone from The Untouchables.

“Have I seen you on television?”

Flashback

Thomas Jefferson: A Scientific Man — Aug.-Sep. 1978

By From the August-September 1978 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
By Garry Wills / Doubleday / $10.00

Flashback

The Truth About Abe Was Astonishing Enough: Apr. 2000

By From the April 2000 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln
By Richard Slotkin

Henry Holt/478 pages/$27.50

Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest
By Jan Morris

Simon & Schuster/205 pages/$23

Flashback

R.I.P. Ronald Wilson Reagan: Jul.-Aug. 2004

By From the July-August 2004 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Ronald Reagan has finally been freed from the dark and lonely silent shroud that had imprisoned his spirit and silenced his voice for over ten years. What a perversely cruel purgatory for such a gregarious and brilliantly communicative man.

We now grieve for him, for his extraordinarily lovely, loyal, and courageous love, Nancy, and for ourselves. But we may now also sing—lift our voices in praise and thanks for the gifts that this gentle, humble, gracious giant bestowed upon America and the tens of millions of people on this planet who now live in freedom because Ronald Reagan heard their pleas and became their voices. We could not eulogize him while he was alive, but we may now give words to long pent-up emotions, relive memories, and express gratitude for the liberty, prosperity, and confidence that he returned to and preserved for us during his lifetime.


Flashback

A Great General—And Not a Bad President Either: Jun. 2000

By From the June 2000 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822-1865
By Brooks D. Simpsons

Houghton-Mifflin/533 pages/$35

President Grant Reconsidered
By Frank J. Scaturro

Madison Books/137 pages/$35.50; $16.95 (paper)

Flashback

Counting the Costs of Clintonism: Nov. 1998

By From the November 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


The one hilarious moment in the sad and disgusting Clinton saga came at a fundraiser in Cincinnati. Pursued by his own manifold sins, lies, and impeachable offenses, the president managed a straight face as he assured the audience that the real scandal was a "Washington obsessed with itself instead of America." This, from a man whose self-absorption is legendary, if not pathological, at least deserves an Oscar for best self-parody.
 We have come, at long last, to the end of the Clinton presidency. Whether he is removed from office or continues as a disdained and powerless figurehead, he is through. But the difference between impeachment and political impotence is crucial. It will be a test of the American people. If the head of the most corrupt and malign administration in our history is suffered to remain in office, however crippled, it will be a clear sign that we have turned a corner, that American morality, including but not limited to our political morality, is in free fall.

Flashback

A Thinking Man’s President: Jan. 1998

By From the January 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life
Paul C. Nagel

Knopf/432 pages/$30

Our sixth President has long been a favorite of quiz shows and Trivial Pursuit junkies: the only son to follow his father to the White House, the last President to be elected by the House of Representatives, the only candidate to win the Presidency while losing both the popular and the electoral vote, and the only President to serve as a member of Congress after leaving office.

Flashback

George Washington: Prudent Warrior — Apr. 1989

By From the April 1989 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


George Washington: A Collection
Edited by W.B. Allen/Liberty Fund/561 pp $22.95

Brothers: I am a Warrior, My Words are few and plain; but I will make good what I say.
—George Washington, Speech to the Delaware chiefs, May 12, 1779

How refreshing for the chiefs to hear such straightforward language from the mouth of a white man. In this address the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army told the Delaware that cooperation with the United States would be rewarded as much as confrontation would be punished; they had his word on that. Such was the popular trust reposited in the name George Washington that less than a decade later the establishment of the American nation would rest on much the same foundation: his honor.

Flashback

The Week of Smoking Dangerously: March 1995

By From the March 1995 issue

One recent afternoon, I lit a Marlboro and slipped into a Times Square strip joint. I sidled into a peep-show booth, inserted a dollar bill, and when the glass partition had risen to reveal the exotic dancer inside, exhaled.

“Whew!!!” hissed the girl inside the booth, disdainfully, waving the smoke away with her hands. When the stench had dissipated, she leaned down and said gruffly, “We work on tips: three dollars to strip, five dollars to touch.”

“Do you mind if I smoke?” I inquired.

“Do what you want,” she sneered. “It’s your show.”

I handed her a five, evaluated her “dancing” for 30 seconds, and left. I was immensely discomfited. Here was a woman with more tattoos than the 7th Fleet working as a stripper in the sleaziest dive in Manhattan, yet even she looked down on me as a smoker. At that moment, I realized that the anti-smoking movement was a thundering juggernaut that had penetrated even the lowest substratum of American society, and that smokers, as a class, were doomed.

Flashback

Is Smoking a Right? — July 1996

By From the July 1996 issue

Editor's Note: CVS Caremark has joined the "happy-face fascists" by deciding to remove all tobacco products from its shelves. The company tells us that it is doing this for altruistic reasons: that pharmacies focused on health care cannot logically also sell cancerous cigarettes. As if a company would lose $2 billion for the health of the people. Rather, the company has decided to walk in lock-step with the "safety Nazis" that reign over modern society.

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