Our book club selection for December is no easier than The Book Thief of last month—another WWII story, although this one isn’t fiction. The three primary figures, Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant all have their own biographies, but Lynn Olson is a master at pulling their lives, loves and contributions to England’s war effort into an interesting stew. What an amazing writer! I’m having to skip large segments, that I’m sure are interesting and rich in detail, but I’ve only got a few more hours to finish the book.
“At this point , Britain's policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler had failed, and the old appeasers were out of power. Winston Churchill had taken over as prime minister, and Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was aiding the British, but faced a U.S. Congress skeptical of actually going to war. As London endured devastating German bombing raids, some Americans were there, assuring the British of support and agitating for American entry into the war.” NPR
What is more revealing in the book is what isn’t said: 1) even in modern times, authors will not criticize FDR for the communists in his administration who fought to keep the U.S. out of the war, and 2) inside politics regardless of whether it is Lincoln, Clinton, Bush or Obama, is a nasty, sausage making stink.
Winant’s reaction to FDR’s death I think sums up how so many minions in Washington, London, Paris, Baghdad, or Beijing feel about those whose boots need a licking:
”Despite his frustrations with a number of FDR’s policies and the president’s occasional offhand treatment of him, Winant never wavered in his support and fondness for the leader who had been his friend and close ally for more than a decade. “I’m Roosevelt’s man,” he once said. “If Roosevelt wants me to do anything, I’ll do it. That’s my political future.” In a telegram to the president several years before, Winant said simply: “Thank God for you.” pp. 356-357
It could Holder talking about Obama—although I can’t imagine Condi Rice slobbering over Bush that way. It’s a type of loyalty and subservience usually accorded to Christ or global warming/climate change gurus.
The sexual liaisons seem to be right out of the bedrooms of Europe’s monarchs in the middle ages you read in romance novels. Really, the sexes have made no progress at all. Or wait, maybe it’s politics that has made no progress in centuries.
OK, back to the book, and the last chapter which tells what the 3 men did after the war. I know Winant committed suicide, and I think Harriman’s wife, Pamela Churchill, became the darling Democrat who went on to fame and glory as a political activist for the Democratic Party and a diplomat and wrote her own autobiography including information about her sexual escapades. People my age followed the slow death from cigarettes of Edward R. Morrow.
[Mrs.] Harriman's life was equally scrutinized for her many liaisons. Her second husband once called her "the greatest courtesan of the 20th century," the Irish Times reported. "She loved men, and men loved her, and she knew how to please men," said Garry Clifford, the Washington bureau chief of People Magazine. CNN Obituary
That said, this is a lively group that has been meeting for 30 years, and they are always bright, witty and gracious. This will be our Christmas gathering at Carolyn’s home in Clintonville. I think she is one of the “founding mothers” of the club which I didn’t join until October 2000.