University of Massachusetts Press, February 2010
This book tells how presidents and other prominent figures have shaped public memory of the turbulent 1960s. Over the past quarter century, American liberals and conservatives alike have invoked memories of the 1960s to define their respective ideological positions and to influence voters. Liberals recall the positive associations of what might be called the good Sixties -- the Camelot years of JFK, the early civil rights movement, and the dreams of the Great Society -- while conservatives conjure images of the bad Sixties -- a time of urban riots, antiwar protests, and countercultural revolt.
In Framing the Sixties, Bernard von Bothmer examines this battle over the collective memory of the decade primarily through the lens of presidential politics. He shows how four presidents -- Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush -- each sought to advance his political agenda by consciously shaping public understanding of the meaning of the Sixties. He compares not only the way that each depicted the decade as a whole, but also their commentary on a set of specific topics: the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War.
In addition to analyzing the pronouncements of the presidents themselves, von Bothmer draws on interviews he conducted with more than one hundred and twenty cabinet members, speechwriters, advisers, strategists, historians, journalists, and activists from across the political spectrum -- from Julian Bond, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden and Michael Dukakis to James Baker, Robert Bork, Phyllis Schlafly and Richard Viguerie.
It is no secret that the upheavals of the 1960s opened fissures within American society that have continued to affect the nation's politics and to intensify its so-called culture wars. What this book documents is the extent to which political leaders, left and right, consciously exploited those divisions by framing the memory of that turbulent decade to serve their own partisan interests.
To learn more about the book, go to www.framingthesixties.com.
paperback | ISBN: 9781558497320 | Publication Date: February 2010
"Framing the Sixties is a smart, important and impressively researched account of the decade that far too often is reduced to clichés by the left and the right. This book will be invaluable to anyone eager to know the real story behind the political and cultural consequences of that tumultuous time."
--Tom Brokaw, author of Boom! Talking About the Sixties
"This fine book illustrates the truth of the maxim that history is what the present wants to know about the past. To understand why the meaning of the 1960s remains a critical matter for both conservatives and liberals, Bernard von Bothmer's careful study is the place to start."
--Michael Kazin, co-author, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s
"No decade of recent U.S. history has been mythologized like the Sixties. Historian Bernard von Bothmer has done a marvelous job of setting the historical record straight in Framing the Sixties. Instead of relying on staid orthodoxy von Bothmer analyzes the spin factor irresponsibly promulgated by both right and left. A truly important and essential study."
--Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War
"The Sixties: Ronald Reagan cherry-picked what he wanted and used the rest as a reason to oppose government; George H. W. Bush condensed them into the 'Vietnam Syndrome' that he used for another war; Bill Clinton ran parallel to the decade for political safety; George W. Bush twisted the Sixties to defeat one of its iconic figures, John Kerry. These framings, richly sourced for us with interviews with high-level Republicans and Democrats and speeches archived in presidential libraries, will be the crown jewel in syllabi for Sixties courses."
--Jerry Lembcke, author of Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal