The American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who died on Wednesday night, was the kind of public figure who is far more familiar in France and the United States than in Britain. He was a public intellectual, a class of person who came to prominence in the Enlightenment (to which both France and the U.S. owe so much), but who still remain relatively rare in this country, notwithstanding Stefan Collini's substantial recent argument to the contrary.
Mr. Schlesinger not only contributed massively to his own field of study - presidential power - he also felt it natural and proper to play a fully engaged part with his own times. His final book, a criticism of George Bush's foreign policy, was a synthesis of the two.
Mr. Schlesinger's many other virtues included the ability to meet a Guardian deadline and to mix a formidable martini. Coming less than a year after the death of John Kenneth Galbraith, his passing marks the end of an era in which liberal intellectual giants ... shaped American policy and thinking.
Yet as long as people like Francis Fukuyama, Paul Krugman and Camille Paglia are writing, it will not mark the end of the public intellectual in American life. Not all their ideas are sound, of course. But we should reflect on why Americans remain more comfortable with ideas than we are, while mockery and cynicism seem too often the marks of Britishness. American public life is the richer for the engagement of its intellectuals. British public life is the poorer for the lack of them.
- The Guardian (London)
Rudolph W. Giuliani's speech was mostly about his tenure as mayor and his admiration for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Giuliani spent enough time talking about Mr. Reagan's legacy and Mr. Reagan's vision to fight the spread of communism to make one think that he's running against Michael S. Dukakis in 1988. The speech meandered from anecdote to anecdote while making few larger points about what his current campaign was about. This style plays into what people know about Mr. Giuliani - America's mayor. A man who loves baseball and dresses in drag, but just for fun.
Hey, we all like fun, right?
- Matt Browner Hamlin, on The Huffington Post Web site