George Will's review got some attention, and flak, for pointing out some careless errors of fact in a book teeming with facts. I think that's an inevitable result in publishing a history book today -- finding anyone to proofread, let alone fact-check, such a book, is apparently out of the question in today's budget-conscious publishing world. And no author is perfect.
That said, I seem to've found a couple more errors, where my own interests intersect areas outside Perlstein's expertise. Dien Bien Phu was "the first military loss for a European colonial power in three hundred years" (p. 100). This would have surprised the ghosts of the Italian dead at Adowa, March 1, 1896.
More amusingly, at p. 462, Perlstein describes Nixon's "favorite young dirty trickster," Tom Charles Huston, whom "Mark Felt of the FBI described ... as the White House gauletier -- a French word for the chief official of a district under Nazi control." This is sourced to a Bob Woodward article on "How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat," where we find:
Felt, a much more learned man than most realized, later wrote that he considered Huston "a kind of White House gauleiter over the intelligence community." The word "gauleiter" is not in most dictionaries, but in the four-inch-thick Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language it is defined as "the leader or chief official of a political district under Nazi control."The word is not obscure to anyone who reads about Nazi Germany; the gauleiters were the chiefs of the Nazi Party in their appointed "districts" or gau. But it's certainly not a "French word," and while the French may perhaps have come up with "gauletier" as their pronunciation of gauleiter, the Woodward quote has nothing about any Frenchification of the German word; that seems to've been invented by Perlstein, perhaps to explain a misspelling of the German. The Felt quote is stronger than Perlstein suggests, since a gauleiter wasn't just a German official, but a high Nazi functionary -- and indeed, Woodward goes on to say, "There is little doubt Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis." Perlstein slightly deflects Felt's jab at Huston.
Trivial errors, but as always, when one sees mistakes in areas one knows about, one becomes mistrustful of alleged facts regarding the areas one doesn't know about.
UPDATE: Elevated from comments, NMissCommentor points out other conspicuous colonial failures:
Does he mean only loss in a battle or an entire war? The British lost their entire army (and the war) in the First Afghanistan War in the 1840s. Famously, only one British soldier returned from the massacre of thousands. The opening battle of the Zulu War (Isandlwana) was a pretty serious debacle won triumphantly by the Zulus (although they didn't win thereafter)."Military loss" seems to include losing a battle. I'm annoyed I didn't think about the First Afghan War, since I just read Flashman a few weeks back; the description of the bungling in Kabul sounds eerily like our early occupation of Baghdad, except our military superiority was too great for us to suffer our own retreat from Kabul. (Though I do recall that for a while, some military types were very nervous about the fragility of our supply lines.)
... Anyway, that's three glaring exceptions for Perlstein. I've actually taken a break from his book, tho not because of the fact-checking; America in the early 1970s is just a very depressing place to be.