I am bumping this thread, both because I enjoyed it and thought i was a good source of new things to check out, but also because I have something to put on this list.
Building out of the podcast conversation about Slate’s Political Gabfest, I took the cue from the discussion to check out John Dickerson’s Whistlestop, ‘a podcast about the presidency’. I’ve not finished the backlog, but I’d say I’ve listened to a good ten or so episode now and thus feel I can make some claims about what I feel about it.
It’s interesting! It’s not bad! I might even say it is worth a listen in spots! Yet it is a peculiarly American take on this style of podcasting. Dickerson is coy about his positions on the presidents – and it really is a presidential podcast more than anything else. Dickerson and/or his assistants do their reading and do provide a fair amount of good context, but I still take issue with it.
People who know one thing about general historiographical practices (historiography being, in a sense, ‘the history of the history’ – how our views about we study an area of history have changed over time) know about the ‘Great Man’ school of thought; the second thing they know is, probably, some of the alternatives (e.g. Marxist materialism). Dickerson’s presentation is very clearly in ‘Great Men’, who can teach us things about ourselves, human nature, or the contemporary situation in American politics. One could say that Dickerson’s background in English does shine through, for good or ill.
In spite of that, I don’t hate it. I think it can be a little tedious and the conclusions that Dickerson reaches often lack vitality as a consequence of this, but the anecdotes are oft-interesting and he does a reasonable enough job of being balanced that I don’t find it a liturgy of ideology. Which is something, at least!