Doris Kearns Goodwin

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
March 9 2001 8:30 PM

Doris Kearns Goodwin

The sunny-side-up historian.

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Occasionally, Goodwin's optimism gets the better of her. During the recent election debacle, she claimed, for example, that the United States should "not be embarrassed at a system that actually produced finality"—in effect minimizing the harm of the election outcome and, worse, obscuring the genuinely malevolent behavior of many participants. And yet Goodwin would not be as welcome a presence in our family rooms without her relentless good cheer. Even when there is cause for gloom, Goodwin refrains from recrimination, reminding us that our politicians are less often evil than flawed human beings, limited by their own fears and insecurities. If democracy is in disrepair, our best hope is to wait till next year. 

David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers and author of three books of political history, has written the "History Lesson" column since 1998.

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