The Corner

The Brinkley Show

Tim: Oh, believe me, I know. I chronicled Brinkley’s blunders here. Alas, only NR subscribers can read the whole thing. But here’s a peek:

It takes a special kind of author to claim that Kerry’s private journals compare with the literature of World War I poet Wilfred Owen; Brinkley pulls it off with a straight face. He also refuses to question anything his hero does. One of the most important moments in Kerry’s early career came during the medal-throwing protest against Vietnam: Did Kerry throw away his own medals and ribbons or somebody else’s? Brinkley devotes just a few sentences to this controversial episode; the rest of the time he’s busy hailing the young Kerry’s marvelous potential. On page 62, we read of Kerry the “Kennedyite.” Three pages later, there’s Kerry being “Kennedyesque.” And did you know that the initials of John Forbes Kerry are JFK?

The book reads like a celebrity profile from a glossy entertainment magazine, albeit an excruciatingly long one, coming in at 546 pages. It is sometimes said that journalists make lousy historians. Tour of Duty is a case of the exact opposite: a historian making a lousy journalist. The book bears many of the hallmarks of the ink-stained trade: It’s topical, its interviews constitute a large portion of the research, and its writing took place in a hurry to meet a deadline. The book simply had to be in stores before the Democratic primaries.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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