David McCullough’s success is the result of his ability to rehabilitate the reputation of Presidents (John Adams, Truman) who have been unpopular for sometime now. His mo is to focus less on their statesmanship, which is controversial, and more on their personal lives, especially their relationship to their wives. Thus, Adams and Truman’s stock with the public has gone up, not because of their handling of public affairs, but because of the love letters they sent their significant others.
McCullough’s book on Adams was made into an award winning series on HBO. The series was actually better than McCullough’s book because it focused more on Adams role in the great events of his time. His relationship with his wife is given less and less attention as the series progresses. And in the last two episodes, which deal with his Vice-Presidency and Presidency, it does not play an important part in the story at all. If McCullough should be praised, then it should be for revealing to Hollywood (and to the Academy) that there is a public who is hungry to learn more about our Founding Fathers. Who knew?