On The White House Watch
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while Dallek can be quite blunt when it comes to criticizing individual
presidents, he is no cynic. He has a reverence for the institution
that is surprising and even touching.
this year, Rica Rodman, one of Dallek's former honors students who
now produces President Clinton's weekly radio address, arranged
for Dallek to be introduced to the President. The event took place
on a Friday, after Clinton had recorded his speech in the Roosevelt
Room, where Teddy Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize is displayed. (The
setting was especially poignant for Dallek, who regards Franklin
and Theodore Roosevelt as among the greatest presidents.) The scholar
was then escorted into the Oval Office, where he had his photo taken
with the President.
Dallek and President Clinton were standing in front of the famous
desk that JFK used, that John John used to crawl under," recalls
Rodman,"and Bob handed the President a couple of his books. Then
I said, Mr. President, I'd like to introduce a former professor
of mine.' But the President knew immediately who Robert Dallek was.
Clinton looked so excited. He said, He was your professor?' "
devotes three full pages in his new book to slamming Clinton over
his botched efforts to reform health care. But he found nothing
awkward about meeting the President in person after lambasting him
in print. "Maybe I'm a humanist," the historian says thoughtfully.
"Whether the president or an ordinary guy in the street -- we all
suffer our limitations. Clinton meets people all the time who are
critical of him. What good is it to be a cipher to a person in authority?
Maybe my book can be of some help to someone who's aiming to be