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US Independence Day author Q&A: part two

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses have inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday. Today Donald A. Ritchie, author of The US Congress: A Very Short Introduction shares his answers.

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Journalism Past and Present

Until the age of 50, Mencken was called “America’s Foremost Bachelor,” praised for being the patron saint of single men. When H. L. Mencken married Sara Powell Haardt in 1930, the press concluded that the author of “In Defense of Women” was probably in the most embarassing position of any fiancee in recent years. They were bent in trotting out the old quotes. How, reporters insisted with glee, will Mencken explain that he had once said “A man may be a fool and not know it –but not if he’s married.” Long before, he had defined love as “the delusion that one woman differs from another.” To these queries Mencken replied; “I formerly was not as wise as I am now….the wise man frequently revises his opinions. The fool, never.”

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AHA 2014: You’ve been to Washington before, but…

The American Historical Association’s 128th Annual Meeting is being held in Washington, D.C., 2-5 January 2014. For those of you attending, we’ve gathered advice about what to see and do in the Capital from author and DC resident Don Ritchie as well as members of Oxford University Press staff. And be sure to stop by Oxford’s booth #901-907.

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The first woman senator

While I was racing through the tunnels that link the concourses at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, trying to make a tight connection, faces of famous Georgians adorning the walls flashed by. Among them I spotted Rebecca Latimer Felton and wondered how many other travelers might recognize her as the first woman to serve in the United States Senate. Not that her term lasted all that long. When the governor appointed her on October 2, 1922, the Senate was not in session. By the time it convened in November, an election had taken place that chose her successor.

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US Independence Day author Q&A: part three

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses have inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

US Independence Day author Q&A: part four

Happy Independence Day to our American readers! In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday today.

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Bob Woodward and the Perils of Anonymous Sources

In the afterglow of Watergate, Washington journalists’ ever-growing reliance on anonymous sources left both reporters and editors vulnerable to manipulation. As editor of the Post’s Metro section, Bob Woodward failed to challenge a promising young reporter who submitted a sensational article on an eight-year-old drug addict, based entirely on anonymous sources. After Janet Cooke won the Pulitzer Prize for “Jimmy’s World” in 1981, an internal investigation exposed the story as fictitious. The Cooke incident derailed Woodward’s rise within the Post’s management and resulted in his nebulous position as assistant managing editor.

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Congressional Lobbying Scandals:
A Top Ten List

As calls for “lobbying reform” resound through the halls of Congress this spring, we do well to remember this piece of wisdom from Ecclesiastes: there is nothing new under the sun. Influence peddling, lobbying scandals, and the reporters and newspapers that expose them, have been a part of American political life since the beginning. We […]

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The Much Maligned Twentieth Amendment

By Donald A. Ritchie

The 111th Congress began in January 2009 amid complaints about the long wait for the inauguration of the new president, and ended amid complaints about the long the lame duck session at its tail. Critics, who lament that transitions in the American government do not move as efficiently as in a parliamentary system, have declared the Twentieth Amendment a failure. While it is true that the U.S. Constitution set up a system that is anything but speedy, the Twentieth Amendment was actually a reform that reset the calendar and moved up the clock.

Hang on because this gets complicated: Back in 1788, after enough states had ratified the Constitution, the outgoing Congress under the Articles of Confederation set the first Wednesday in January as the date for the first presidential election.

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The Media and Congressional Investigations

Tune in tomorrow morning from 8 to 9 a.m. to see Donald Ritchie on C-Span’s Washington Journal. In the post below Ritchie puts the current Congressional committee investigations into the Bush administration in historical perspective.

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