- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

Leave it to former Secretary of Education-turned-talk show host William Bennett to rewrite the book on American history.

“America: The Last Best Hope” chronicles the country’s past — warts and all — from the age of discovery to World War I.

The guests at Mr. Bennett’s book party, held atop The Hotel Washington on Friday, weren’t surprised he took it upon himself to correct what he sees as textbooks besmirching his country.

Looking out at the sumptuous view of the city’s monuments, Mr. Bennett said biased historians forced his hand.

“Too many revisionist histories, too much cynicism about the country and too much ignorance” were the driving force behind the project, the first of two planned volumes, he noted

Not forgetting, of course, that the country’s origins make for a ripping yarn.

“It’s a great story. You don’t have to make it up,” he said of the book, which hits stores tomorrow.

Lee Edwards, a Distinguished Fellow of Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation, said his organization was looking for a quality textbook to recall the nation’s origins when he heard about Mr. Bennett’s book.

Problem solved.

Too many historical texts “try to see what happened then in light of what’s happening today,” Mr. Edwards observed, giving as an example the criticism of the Founding Fathers for owning slaves when it was the custom of the day.

For historians, “Thomas Jefferson didn’t have the right position on slavery,” he said.

“It’s natural for [Mr. Bennett] to write this,” he added, given the man’s respect for traditions and grasp of the American culture.

The night belonged to Mr. Bennett, but clearly the second most popular man in the room was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was asked by many guests to sign Mr. Bennett’s book as well.

The secretary did as asked, playfully crying to guests with pens in hand: “Why am I signing books when I haven’t even written one?”

“Bill Bennett is solid as a rock,” Mr. Rumsfeld said between posing for pictures. “He’s brilliant and decent.”

Other guests clinking their glasses to the book of the hour were American Spectator Editor in Chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Fred Malek (a recent runner-up in the Washington Nationals sweepstakes) and author Kitty Kelley.

Mr. Bennett soaked in the adulation, although he’s already gotten a glowing book review from a pretty tough critic, his 17-year-old son, Joe Bennett.

“He told me, ‘this is pretty interesting,’” his proud papa said, beaming.

— Christian Toto

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