Halberstam's last column.
July 5, 2007 6:14 AM   Subscribe

David Halberstam's last column, The History Boys - Politics and Power, is in this month's Vanity Fair magazine. In other news, the student driving him at the time of his death, Kevin Jones, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. (Previously)
posted by nevercalm (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the obit link.
posted by strawberryviagra at 6:29 AM on July 5, 2007

Crap. Sorry 'bout that. The one time I just mouse over instead of click on everything......
posted by nevercalm at 6:34 AM on July 5, 2007

Wow, that was a great article.

It sucks for the student, though. I know if I died in a car accident driving with a friend I wouldn't want my friend charged with manslaughter.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2007

CNN says that the student's previous record (a DUI, albeit in 1999--and some accidents) influenced the decision to charge him.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:21 AM on July 5, 2007

With all of the bluster of anti-Bush rhetoric, it is still great to read a well-reasoned argument.
The internet spits out opinions like cheap plastic jewelry. It also permits real gems to stand out.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:26 AM on July 5, 2007

Internet: spits out opinions like cheap plastic jewelry
posted by stbalbach at 7:30 AM on July 5, 2007

Great piece. For those who don't feel like reading the whole thing, here's the conclusion:
At the time of the collapse of Communism, I thought there was far too much talk in America about how we had won the Cold War, rather than about how the Soviet Union, whose economy never worked, simply had imploded. I was never that comfortable with the idea that we as a nation had won, or that it was a personal victory for Ronald Reagan. To the degree that there was credit to be handed out, I thought it should go to those people in the satellite nations who had never lost faith in the cause of freedom and had endured year after year in difficult times under the Soviet thumb. If any Americans deserved credit, I thought it should be Truman and his advisers—Marshall, Kennan, Dean Acheson, and Chip Bohlen—all of them harshly attacked at one time or another by the Republican right for being soft on Communism. (The right tried particularly hard to block Eisenhower's nomination of Bohlen as ambassador to Moscow, in 1953, because he had been at Yalta.)

After the Soviet Union fell, we were at once more powerful and, curiously, less so, because our military might was less applicable against the new, very different kind of threat that now existed in the world. Yet we stayed with the norms of the Cold War long after any genuine threat from it had receded, in no small part because our domestic politics were still keyed to it. At the same time, the checks and balances imposed on us by the Cold War were gone, the restraints fewer, and the temptations to misuse our power greater. What we neglected to consider was a warning from those who had gone before us—that there was, at moments like this, a historic temptation for nations to overreach.
What a shame he died so early and needlessly.

I know if I died in a car accident driving with a friend I wouldn't want my friend charged with manslaughter.

While it's natural to feel bad for the kid, the police are doing the right thing, and I hope he learns a lesson. There are too many idiots out there driving badly because they think they're immortal, and too many people being hurt and killed by them.
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on July 5, 2007

I missed the announcement back in April -- could someone smarter than me elucidate the "### 30 ###" comments?
posted by cavalier at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2007

Can't wait to read that Korea book. Also, for further proof of Halberstam's point, see this insanity
posted by spicynuts at 8:00 AM on July 5, 2007

I missed the announcement back in April -- could someone smarter than me elucidate the "### 30 ###" comments?

Smarts got nothing to do with it.

It's how newspaper reporters ended their stories when they typed them on typewriters - a note so editors wouldn't worry that the last page of manuscript was misplaced. It's a carry-over from telegraph-era transmissions, when you would want to signal that you were done transmitting a long block of text.

In this context, a sort of "and so this is how his story ends." What a story, too. There will be a Halberstam biography, I'm sure. If it's any good at all, it should be required reading in journalism schools and newsrooms everywhere.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:28 AM on July 5, 2007

As much as I'd like the kid to suffer a bit, this little gem from Needs More Cowbell's link made me feel a twinge of sympathy:

Halberstam's widow, Jean Halberstam, hired a lawyer to explore the possibility of suing whichever driver ultimately was found at fault.

Also, delmoi mentioned that the driver was Halberstam's friend...he was just a journalism student who volunteered, as "payment" was a "private seminar with Halberstam on the trip back."

To get back to the article, I think it's a great callout on the Bushies, who are trying as best they can to twist a variety of ever-shifting historic events into justifications of and explantations for their misdeeds. It also further illustrates what a huge loss we suffered in April, as there are precious few journalists willing to stand up to these assholes in the manner to which DH was so well accustomed.
posted by nevercalm at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2007

The driver was clearly starstruck and probably not paying sufficient attention to his driving. He turned left on a road that soon after turns into a freeway, so cars are typically going 70 or faster. Not a good spot to go through a red light.
posted by eye of newt at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2007

"### 30 ###", in the old typesetter days when they were done manually, indicated the end of a piece.

So for an author and newspaperman from the days before digital typesetting, it's a way to indicate that Mr. Halberstam's piece has ended.
posted by mephron at 10:23 AM on July 5, 2007

From the CNN article:
"He turned into the oncoming traffic, and that's why the (other) car crushed the side of the car with Mr. Halberstam," Wagstaffe said.

Jones is expected to be charged next week.

Records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles show that Jones had two previous accidents on his record, from March 2005 and March 2006. Neither resulted in a citation.
The kid driving clearly is a terrible driver (accidents every year for three years?), and was also, according to police investigation, clearly responsible for an avoidable accident that took someone's life. He should be charged, as he is.

The article is fantastic--I completely agree that Halberstam's death was a huge loss for the U.S. at a critical time in our history. As this administration makes more and more ridiculous claims, the voices of people of substance, real intellectual heft, and accomplishment, become ever more important.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2007

I've met his daughter, probably a few months before he died and had never heard of him before that. I'm definitely going to pay a little more attention.
posted by sweetkid at 12:10 PM on July 5, 2007

Great article. As someone who is not a history buff and tends to side with the impeachment crowd lately, I find it refreshing to read a reasoned, well thought out argument to why these guys act the way they do. All of the tinfoil hat "it's to raise Halliburton stock prices" etc spins are impossible to prove, but the much simpler explanation of arrogance is easier to understand and live with.
posted by Big_B at 1:04 PM on July 5, 2007

It's a good piece, but the Republicans have already moved on from the "Bush is Truman" meme (which was, admittedly, a stupid one) to the new one -- "Bush was not a true conservative." What we need in 2008 is not another tough-talkin' daddy, but a principled tough talkin' daddy, and god forbid we get it in the form of Fred Thompson.
posted by bardic at 2:10 PM on July 5, 2007

Maybe not so principled...
posted by homunculus at 2:37 PM on July 5, 2007

Sure, but these guys have shown that facts don't matter to them. Just postures.
posted by bardic at 2:38 PM on July 5, 2007

This amazing essay makes Halberstam's untimely loss even more poignant. I need to read more of what he's written. I have The Best and the Brightest on my list to read. I need to move it much higher on the list.
posted by blucevalo at 2:54 PM on July 5, 2007

I just want to say I am intrigued by the differences between the Korean Conflict and the Vietnamese Conflict; why one was worth fighting and the other turned out to be a loss, if not a total waste (some people on the right are trying to salvage Vietnam).

I emailed Ellsberg this question but didn't get a response. I think I know the answer now, but am looking forward to Halberstam's book.

Halberstam wrote "The Making of a Quagmire" in 1965. That's 2003 in OIF-equivalent dating. Amazon has the book at $100. Damn.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:18 PM on July 5, 2007

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