Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tribute to Art Buchwald

On David Kaiser's History Unfolding blog, a moving tribute to Art Buchwald:
Vietnam was not the only foreign adventure for which Buchwald skewered LBJ. Rereading a series from the first half of 1965, when the President was literally on top of the world, I was amazed at how acutely Buchwald had sized him up and identified his fatal flaws. The President's secretiveness, sensitivity to criticism, and treatment of his staff were the target of withering columns. When Marines went into the Dominican Republic, Buchwald on May 23 summarized the history of a Latin American country, "La Enchilada:" the assassination of strongman General El Finco a few years ago, his eventual replacement by a reformer, Don Juan IInnhel, followed in 1963 by Don Juan's overthrow by a junta of generals, "much, of course, to our surprise."
The war was still going strong in August 1967, and so was Buchwald. One morning he fantasized about how the story of the Edsel--a car Ford released under Robert McNamara--might have gone differently. Catching the ethos of his contemporaries perfectly, he told how Ford executives might have refused to drop the car, instead deciding to build more and bigger Edsels until, by the end of the column, they were ready to drop all their other cars to make it a success. It wasn't necessary to use the word "Vietnam" by that time.
A little more than a year ago I watched the film Good Night and Good Luck in Harvard Square. As I left the theater with my eyes full of tears, I saw an elderly couple still in their seats, looking similarly moved. "They were giants in those days," I said, and they nodded.

Buchwald, in his way, was one of them.
See Buchwald's books on Amazon, including the memoir of his five months in a hospice during his last year of life.