Mr. Schlesinger worked on both brothers’ presidential campaigns, and some critics suggested he had trouble separating history from sentiment. Gore Vidal called “A Thousand Days” a political novel, and many noted that the book ignored the president’s sexual
wanderings. Others were unhappy he told so much, particularly taking the unusual step of asserting that the president was unhappy with his secretary of state, Dean Rusk.
Mr. Schlesinger saw life as a walk through history. He wrote that he could not stroll down Fifth Avenue without wondering how the street and the people on it would have looked a hundred years ago.
“He is willing to argue that the search for an understanding of the past is not simply an aesthetic exercise but a path to the understanding of our own time,” Alan Brinkley, the historian, wrote.
Mr. Schlesinger wore a trademark dotted bowtie, showed an acid wit and had a magnificent bounce to his step. Between marathons of writing as much as 5,000 words a day, he was a fixture at Georgetown salons when Washington was clubbier and more elitist, a lifelong aficionado of perfectly-blended martinis and a man about New York, whether at Truman Capote’s famous parties or escorting
Jacqueline Kennedy to the movies.
In the McCarthy era and beyond, he was a leader of
anti-Communist liberals and a fierce partisan who called for the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon, which never happened, and just as passionately denounced that of President Bill Clinton, when it did.
In his last book, “War and the American Presidency,” published in 2004, Mr. Schlesinger challenged the foundations of the foreign policy of President Bush, calling the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath “a ghastly mess.” He said the president’s curbs on civil liberties would have the same result as similar actions throughout American history.
“We hate ourselves in the morning,” he wrote.
However liberal, he was not a slave to what came to be called political correctness. He spiritedly defended the old-fashioned American melting pot against proponents of multiculturalism, the idea that ethnicities should retain separate identities and even celebrate them. He elicited;引出； tides of criticism by comparing
Afrocentrism to the Ku Klux Klan.