The L.A. Times once again gets a basic fact wrong:
“John Adams,” which comes to a close Sunday night, has devoted seven beautifully shot hours to defying the often overly patriotic legends of our past with a toothache-and-all portrait of a man who helped define modern democracy, albeit grumbling every step of the way.
In his portrayal of our second president, Paul Giamatti creates a man perpetually dissatisfied, disgusted by the preening ambition of politics even as he is infected by it. If his relentless crankiness was a bit hard for some of us to take in early episodes, in the second half of the series it makes much more sense. While exhorting angry men to throw off the shackles of tyranny offers many opportunities for rhetorical fabulousness, setting up a new government is a bureaucratic nightmare, with oversized personalities disagreeing over things both petty and fundamental. George Washington (David Morse) so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term. “I know now what it is like to be disliked,” he says to Adams, his perpetually disliked vice president.
Of course, George Washington served two terms, not one.
Straining to give them the benefit of the doubt, I wonder: does the miniseries somehow portray Washington as having served only one term? I haven’t seen it, but I doubt it. [UPDATE: Make that “seriously doubt it.” See the UPDATE below.]
Lefty blogger Steve Smith, who tipped me to this, is beside himself with amazement at how they could get such a basic fact wrong. Go his post for his amusing cries of disgust, which conclude with this:
It’s enough to make a lefty sympathetic to Patterico. Does the fact-checker at the Times have to regularly drink water out of the toilet or lose their back teeth from subsisting on a diet of rocks to get that job?
I don’t know, Steve. But I hear they use the paper to housebreak him.
UPDATE: Steve also provides evidence that the miniseries got it right.
UPDATE x2: Dafydd ab Hugh has watched the miniseries and says the miniseries got it right. But he has a theory as to why the L.A. Times got it wrong.