John McCaslin

Nobody was more delighted than historian David Hackett Fischer when former presidential adviser and commentator David Gergen described a defeated Democratic candidate as "an economic Paul Revere."

Whether Gergen intended it to mean a heroic messenger of alarm, or a messenger who failed to reach his destination, did not matter. Mere mention of Paul Revere was enough for Fischer to cite the phrase on the very first page of his book, "Paul Revere's Ride."

It's a 445-page historical adventure that this columnist's high school daughter, Kerry, was recently assigned to read by her teacher. And when she was finished, she passed it to me because, frankly, I knew very little, if anything, about Paul Revere. Now I understand why.

Fischer is the Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University, and has written two books this year ("Washington's Crossing," just nominated for a National Book Award, and his latest, "Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas," released on Oct. 28), reveals in the introduction:

"Professional historians have shown so little interest in the subject that in two centuries no scholar has published a full-scale history of Paul Revere's ride. During the 1970s, the event disappeared so completely from academic scholarship that several leading college textbooks in American history made no reference to it at all."

The cause for such neglect?

Fischer cites "a broad prejudice in American universities against patriotic events of every kind," reinforced by "popular movements called multiculturalism and political correctness."

"As this volume goes to press," the professor notes, "the only creature less fashionable in academe than the stereotypical 'dead white male,' is a dead white male on horseback."


Environmentalists take note: 2004 has seen the lowest ozone smog levels in this country since states began measuring back in the 1970s.

Preliminary data reveals that the number of days exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's tough new eight-hour ozone standard declined an average of about 50 percent from 2003, which also was a record low smog year, reports Joel Schwartz, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He credits a combination of continuing emissions reductions and cool wet weather.

"But the weather is only part of the story," the researcher insists. "During the last 30 years . . . never have smog levels been anywhere near this low."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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