With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Conrad Black: The Henry Wallace Rewrite

Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of FreedomRichard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at cbletters@gmail.com.

The last thing I would have imagined a week ago, when I wrote my column about the mythologization of Henry Wallace by Oliver Stone, was that I would return to the same subject this week. But Stone and his fig-leaf of ostensibly respectable historical writing, Peter Kuznick (an anti-nuclear-weapons specialist), have popped up like a cobra’s head in the Wall Street Journal, purporting to defend the “heroic stature” (their words) of Henry Wallace from the sensible and thorough debunking historian Ronald Radosh gave them in the same publication on January 11. The Stone-Kuznick effort to raise the fallen soufflé would not merit further attention if it did not demonstrate the distressing tenacity of these formerly rather easily discredited myth-makers. As with virally transmitted sicknesses, immunities to these lies and heresies can be worn down and made more porous by constant combat.

On its face, it is fantastic that even Stone, who as a cinematic presenter of American history has not had both oars in the water for many decades, could po-facedly claim that it would have been a benign development if Wallace had been renominated for the vice presidency in 1944 and succeeded to the presidency on the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, instead of Harry S. Truman. In support of their opinion that Wallace would have avoided the Cold War and even a ripple of Great Power discord, they claim that a great majority of Americans preferred Wallace to Truman for the vice presidency in 1944, and that Roosevelt himself thought Wallace an excellent vice president and possible successor. But why, in that case, did Roosevelt dump Wallace from the ticket? Why were the barons of the governing party unanimous in wishing a change? And why did the delegates vote for Truman? (Never mind that, in the authentic poll of the voters in 1948, Truman bested Wallace by 47 points.) The implication is that Roosevelt did not know his own mind or was unable to assert himself over his party, and that the bosses — Chicago mayor Edward Kelly, postmaster general Frank Walker, DNC chairman Robert Hannegan, former chairmen James Farley and Edward Flynn, chief fundraiser George Allen, and others — were desperately anxious to promote a Cold War with the Soviet Union and enjoy decades of acute international tension, and the pugnacious rube Truman was the perfect instrument for their Cold War–mongering....

Read entire article at National Review