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The Reagan Diaries/Political & US History book discussion


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So I started reading The Reagan Diaries last night. Just barely got into it, but I'm already fascinated. Unbeknownst to me, among the first things Reagan did upon taking office was raise the debt ceiling (not a major shock) and meet with reps from the UAW/AFL-CIO and Teamsters. I thought that was really interesting. He also dined and attended shows frequently with Tip O'Neil in the early months of his presidency. I knew he considered O'Neil a friend, despite their political differences, but I wasn't aware they spent so much time together right off the bat. Very cool.

Contrast that with today's politicians on both sides, who seem to place scoring political points above the good of the country. It's early in my reading, but it seems like Reagan had it right; and was a Great Communicator in his personal life, not just when the lights were on.

Anyway, I want to open this thread up for discussion of US historical books, bios of our leaders, and recommendations on those types of works. I hope we'll be able to stay away from TOO much partisan sniping, and that we can all learn something in the process. I'll be taking suggestions from my more liberal friends too, to broaden my own horizons a little bit.

I'm also looking forward to getting Christopher Hitchens' bio of Thomas Jefferson for Christmas. I understand it's just a touch irreverant, and shows more of Jefferson's human side and reluctance to run for president than most of his biographers have done.

The floor is yours. What have you liked in this genre? What do you recommend? What have you learned that surprised you? Let's rock and roll with this!

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Jon Meacham's book on Andrew Jackson, American Lion is quite good, and it won the Pulitzer. It is more of a "study" of his emotions and his psyche than a reading of the historical events. I enjoyed it. And of course, if you haven't read John Adams by McCullough, you must do so right away.

I completely agree with the OP about politics during Reagan's time versus today. Maybe I'm getting older and crankier, but it seems that there's so much more hatred and partisanship than there ever has been. Sad, really.

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I completely agree with the OP about politics during Reagan's time versus today. Maybe I'm getting older and crankier, but it seems that there's so much more hatred and partisanship than there ever has been. Sad, really.

It seems to me there's a real disdain for the other side today. Reagan not only thought Tip O'Neil would be a good guy to have a beer with, he did. Regularly.

I don't expect Obama and Boehner to be best buds. But it would be nice if it felt more like the differences today were ideological, without losing respect for the other person. Call me naive, but I believe that virtually everyone who enters political life truly WANTS what's best for the country; however different the ideas are on how to get there. That deserves respect.

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It seems to me there's a real disdain for the other side today. Reagan not only thought Tip O'Neil would be a good guy to have a beer with, he did. Regularly.

I don't expect Obama and Boehner to be best buds. But it would be nice if it felt more like the differences today were ideological, without losing respect for the other person. Call me naive, but I believe that virtually everyone who enters political life truly WANTS what's best for the country; however different the ideas are on how to get there. That deserves respect.

Well, we are straying off of your original idea for this thread, but I think that one needs to have people around them who are different ideologically. For me, it makes my views that much stronger if there is someone that I can debate with and still respect. (Maybe that's why I am fascinated by some of the religous and liberal threads on here.)

One more suggestion. If you have the time, Edmund Morris has written "trilogy" about Theodore Roosevelt. Colonel Roosevelt The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex Any of these can be read as a stand-alone, or all three read together. I actually read the Theodore Rex first.

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Currently reading "The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century" by Scott Miller

http://www.amazon.com/President-Assassin-McKinley-American-ebook/dp/B004J4WN2Q

Maybe a third of the way through and really digging it so far. A lot about Teddy Roosevelt as well. Basically the coming of a new American age and the battle for the direction it takes. Always hear about commies and facists and whatever, but didn't know much about the anarchist movement in the world at the turn of the century so I was really interested in reading this, and it hasn't disappointed.

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So I started reading The Reagan Diaries last night. Just barely got into it, but I'm already fascinated. Unbeknownst to me, among the first things Reagan did upon taking office was raise the debt ceiling (not a major shock) and meet with reps from the UAW/AFL-CIO and Teamsters. I thought that was really interesting. He also dined and attended shows frequently with Tip O'Neil in the early months of his presidency. I knew he considered O'Neil a friend, despite their political differences, but I wasn't aware they spent so much time together right off the bat. Very cool.

Contrast that with today's politicians on both sides, who seem to place scoring political points above the good of the country. It's early in my reading, but it seems like Reagan had it right; and was a Great Communicator in his personal life, not just when the lights were on.

Anyway, I want to open this thread up for discussion of US historical books, bios of our leaders, and recommendations on those types of works. I hope we'll be able to stay away from TOO much partisan sniping, and that we can all learn something in the process. I'll be taking suggestions from my more liberal friends too, to broaden my own horizons a little bit.

I'm also looking forward to getting Christopher Hitchens' bio of Thomas Jefferson for Christmas. I understand it's just a touch irreverant, and shows more of Jefferson's human side and reluctance to run for president than most of his biographers have done.

The floor is yours. What have you liked in this genre? What do you recommend? What have you learned that surprised you? Let's rock and roll with this!

Well, contrast Reagan in reality to how he is being portrayed today. Both on his own policies and on his ability to actually work with the other side.

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Reagan was a good man, and I really do not think he understood what he was unleashing with Lee A****er (the father of extreme partisanship in modern America). To be fair, A****er's tactics really got going with the George Bush senior campaign in 1988. Unfortunately, A****er's scorched earth tactics have proven very successful. I have no doubt that Reagan would have been aghast at the very idea of a "K Street Project."

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Reagan was a good man, and I really do not think he understood what he was unleashing with Lee A****er (the father of extreme partisanship in modern America). To be fair, A****er's tactics really got going with the George Bush senior campaign in 1988. Unfortunately, A****er's scorched earth tactics have proven very successful. I have no doubt that Reagan would have been aghast at the very idea of a "K Street Project."

Noting that Tip and Ron were friends only captures one side of the relationship. Tip and Ron also had a relationship as feirce and partisan as that endured by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Tip and Ron's partisan fighting defined a new modern era of contentious political snipping.

Tip from the beginning was the icon of Reagan's Right of the out of touch democratic leader. As Tip was the only democrat leader of national importance which survived the post Jimmy Carter purge where the Republicans took the Presidency and Senate.

Ultimately though these were two Irish guys, both political veterans who well understood that they could call each other out in public as Reagan did when he blasted Tip for delivering a 30 volume federal budget to his desk for signature two days before the government ran out of money... Or when Tip O'Neill called Ronald Reagan "the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House." O'Neill, I think, is the author of the phrase "amiable dunce" in describing Reagan. O'Neill also said that Reagan was "Herbert Hoover with a smile, a cheerleader for selfishness." He said that Reagan's policies "meant that his presidency was one big Christmas party for the rich." Tip O'Neill was a leading opponent of the Reagan administration's policies, domestic and foreign; defense, what have you. Following the 1980 election, Republicans won the Senate along with the White House. O'Neill became the leader of the congressional opposition.

It is a testiment to both men that even during the most public, brutal confrontations; they regularly got together socially and enjoyed a beer, talking sports, or gossiping about goings on. They both seemed to genuinely like each other personally and both played up their Irish roots.

I think critics on the right and left have critisized this friendship because it is what created the great compromise of the 1980's which resulted in Reagan increasing the federal debt by 260% over what he inherited from Jimmy Carter. Tip gave Ron what he wanted on defense build ups, and Reagan in return did not seek to curb domestic spending over Oneals objections. Hense Reagan came into office with a nation 1 trillion dollars in debt and left after 8 years with a nation 2.6 trillion in debt. Reagan inherited a 70 billion dollar deficit which he campaigned on as unsustainable and destructive; and turned that into a 250 billion dollar deficit in 1988. Ron's amicable private relationship with Tip is what put the country on that path.

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If Reagan was running today he would not get the republican nomination many many of his actions and policies were against what teh Republicans stand for today

No doubt. Let a republican president meet with all the major union leaders right off the bat. He gets kicked to the curb without even thinking about a second term. Add to that the fact that he essentially spent the soviets into the ground, and was still against raising taxes, and you have a lot of frustration from both sides.

Predicto, I'm not as familiar with A****er as I should be, but hopefully the book will address him, and I'll do some more follow up as well. I agree with you though. If Reagan thought he was unleashing relentless partisanship, he wouldn't have done it. I also agree that regardless of one's political views, it's hard to see Reagan as anything other than a good man at heart.

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Reagan was a good man, and I really do not think he understood what he was unleashing with Lee A****er (the father of extreme partisanship in modern America). To be fair, A****er's tactics really got going with the George Bush senior campaign in 1988. Unfortunately, A****er's scorched earth tactics have proven very successful. I have no doubt that Reagan would have been aghast at the very idea of a "K Street Project."

successful in the short term you mean, the GOP has successfully created an army of idiots, unfortunately for them, they are losing control of their army and everyone else is scared of them. Because the skill and sophistication of their tactics their drones ACTUALLY believe in the propaganda they've been fed. Ideas that meant to be distractions have gained so much strength that they are now part of a substantial litmus test for being competitive. It may not have been a problem earlier but with the Tea Party revolt, it's becoming pretty clear that the GOP is in trouble, not only because of internal divisions from the Tea Party crowd, but also because they have isolated themselves from the rest of America. They may have a legion of devotees, but in the process they have cornered themselves and damaged the country as a whole.

I wouldn't call that successful, I'd call that shortsighted and reckless.

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If Reagan was running today he would not get the republican nomination many many of his actions and policies were against what teh Republicans stand for today

Ronald Reagan was a fringe republican in his day. He was a last resort candidate who's main stream branch was destroyed in sucessive waves of political suicides.. First Richard Nixon's watergate and the revolt inside the republican party which lead to his resignation. Secondly Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon which was purposely done before the national presidencial election and which crushed the republicans in the presidential elections of 1976...

Ronald Reagan long seen as too conservative to have mainstream appeal was the candidate of last resort. He was the candidate which Jimmy Carter hoped for. He is also probable the greatest President since Truman, maybe even FDR.

Ronald Reagan's vp candiate George Bush Sr, was not a supporter of Reagan. Bush Sr, was a political veteran of the Nixon and Ford adminstrations. Thus both bush's chose leutenants not from among Reagan's political appointees, but rather from the Nixon and Ford administrations...

  • Bush Senior was Chairman of the GOP in 1974 when Nixon Resigned and was one of Nixon's greatest most vocal defenders.
  • Cheney worked in the Nixon White House and was Ford's Cheif of staff.
  • Rumsfeld was Nixon's secretary of Defense and Ford's Cheif of staff before Cheney.

Both Bush's claimed to be the sucessors to Reagan's revolution, but in reality they were a return to the discredited Nixon/Ford era. Reagan has had no sucessor, nor is their one on the horizon.

---------- Post added December-13th-2011 at 01:33 PM ----------

The gold standard for Political Novels is Doris Kerns Goodwin...

Team of Rivals about the Lincoln Presidency was an amaizing portrayal.

Mrs Goodwin's portrayal of FDR's and Churchhills relationship in "No Ordinary Time" about the WWII era was also amaizing and revealing. How many Americans realize the current King of Norway, Harald V of Norway ; lived for months at a time in his youth at the White House with his mother the ruling Queen of Norway.. Famous picture of Prince Harald with FDR's dog Fala.

I'm also partial to Civil War biographies... Longstreet, Mosby, wrote great ones.

---------- Post added December-13th-2011 at 01:40 PM ----------

successful in the short term you mean, the GOP has successfully created an army of idiots, unfortunately for them, they are losing control of their army and everyone else is scared of them. Because the skill and sophistication of their tactics their drones ACTUALLY believe in the propaganda they've been fed. Ideas that meant to be distractions have gained so much strength that they are now part of a substantial litmus test for being competitive. It may not have been a problem earlier but with the Tea Party revolt, it's becoming pretty clear that the GOP is in trouble, not only because of internal divisions from the Tea Party crowd, but also because they have isolated themselves from the rest of America. They may have a legion of devotees, but in the process they have cornered themselves and damaged the country as a whole.

I wouldn't call that successful, I'd call that shortsighted and reckless.

Yep it's true.... But out of crisis great things happen. That's how FDR got elected, it's also how Ronald Reagan got elected...

It is very interesting to note that both current GOP front runners are on the record against core tea party issues...

Mitt Romney who said in a senate debate against Kennedy that He never voted for or supported Ronald Reagan and would have nothing to do with returning Reagan/Bush policies to office!! Mitt goes further in the debate to indentify himself as an independent during the 80's.

Newt Gingrish who was paid 30 million dollars by the insurance industry to craft a strategy to get mandates inserted into Obama care. Newt the father of the insurance mandates which invented the tea party. Newt who was paid millions by Freddie Mac for "historian" duties.

It will be interesting to see what happens when one of these guys get's the nomination and Obama uses his nearly 1 billion dollar warchest to publisize their records on issues using their own televised statements to blast them with GOP base voters.

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Read Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, the most brilliant and most misrepresented of our founding fathers.

Yes, yes. I had forgotten about this one. This is a great book, that shows Hamilton's drive and his obsessive quest to rise above his circumstances. Even though I live in Central VA and am supposed to adore all things Jefferson, I identify more with Hamilton and I feel that his view of what our country would become (industrial vs. Jefferson agrarian view) has pretty much come true. Of course neither man would have forseen that we would become a service oriented economy.

See how I am trying to get the thread back to discussing books?

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See how I am trying to get the thread back to discussing books?

And I appreciate that, sincerely. But discussing books of this type is naturally going to lead to evaluation and discussion of political events -- past and present. As long as it doesn't degenerate into partisan bickering, I think that's an added bonus.

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I bet Reagan's success at messaging is why the opposition party will now always attack the President, no?

It seems President's always have to moderate where they run on.

G HW Bush "no new taxes" well he had to compromise for the country, out!

Clinton had to compromise as well.

G W Bush had many times where he had to compromise with the Democrats, especially after 2006.

Obama didn't have to 2008-2010 but now has to...

---------- Post added December-13th-2011 at 03:14 PM ----------

.. of course this all simplifies that the party leaders = "democrats" and "republicans" in general...

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