I have mixed feelings about this book. It is certainly a well-researched, detailed history of the 1896 presidential election contest between RepublicaI have mixed feelings about this book. It is certainly a well-researched, detailed history of the 1896 presidential election contest between Republican William McKinley and young Democrat William Jennings Bryan. And Rove makes some convincing arguments about the relevance of that election to present-day politics. But I think it is definitely a book more for political professionals or political junkies than for general readers of history.
Rove describes the 1896 election as a watershed moment in American politics, which led to a realignment of the political parties and Republican electoral dominance for the following 40 years. He demonstrates that U.S. political conditions in the 1890s were similar to the polarized political climate today, even though the issues dividing the country may not have been the same.
Accordingly, Rove asserts that today's political parties and candidates can learn valuable lessons from analyzing the factors led to McKinley's success in the election. In the final chapter of the book, Rove discusses what he believes are the eight reasons for McKinley's victory. The reasons were undoubtedly strategic, but they also reflected McKinley's character. Without giving everything away, Rove says one reason McKinley won was "because he was a different kind of Republican who recognized his party must broaden and modernize its appeal or it would lose." Rove also asserts that McKinley "ran as a unifier, adopting the language of national reconciliation." This was in direct contrast to Bryan's divisive campaign, which appealed to class and sectional differences.
Rove says further that none of the strategies employed in McKinley's campaign would have been enough if McKinley himself had not been an attractive, compelling candidate with stellar personal character. As Rove states, "His integrity, empathy, courage, and loyalty gave many voters ample reason to believe he cared deeply about them." His public persona was so positive that adversaries knew that attacking him would backfire.
I give Rove high marks for building his case for why McKinley won the election, and for showing how McKinley's victory can be instructive for people in politics today. (Maybe start with finding a candidate whose personal character is widely admired?)
On the other hand, I give him lower marks for storytelling, at least in parts of the book. I found certain sections of the book to be long slogs during which my eyes glazed over. Specifically, the detailed descriptions of the innumerable primaries and caucuses seemed endless and often indistinguishable from one another. Likewise, so many characters were introduced that I found it difficult to remember who was who, especially for the majority of them who played relatively minor parts. (At least there are some photos of major characters, which I found were helpful in keeping them straight.) I understand that it's difficult to weave together a complex story with many moving parts like this one (I often have the same problem with military histories), especially in a historical context where many of the concerns, like the long-dead Free Silver argument, are arcane. But in my view the book didn't make some parts of the story come alive as well as it could have. ...more
As an American of Dutch descent, I like to learn as much as I can about the history and culture of The Netherlands. I picked up this book with that pu
As an American of Dutch descent, I like to learn as much as I can about the history and culture of The Netherlands. I picked up this book with that purpose in mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed Shorto's entertaining and stimulating history of "the world's most liberal city."
Shorto recognizes, of course, that Amsterdam is widely perceived as exceptionally liberal in the sense of permissive (tolerating drugs, prostitution, and until recently, squatting in abandoned buildings). But he argues that throughout its history the city has also nurtured liberalism in the sense of "commitment to individual freedom and individual rights, and not just for oneself but for everyone...." In fact, he says it's possible to make the claim that liberalism in this higher sense, which to him represents the division between medieval and modern, was born in Amsterdam.
Shorto traces Amsterdam's fascinating history from the 1300s when the people worked cooperatively to reclaim land from the sea, up to the present day. He brings the city's history to life by weaving the stories of individuals into the overall narrative of the city's development. Indeed, he personalizes the story even further by incorporating his own observations and experiences as an American living in the city. This aspect of the book may make it more appealing to American readers than to others, but I think that most readers will agree that his personal perspective enhances the narrative.
The book provides an insider's account of "the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden" that is fascinating and exciting. Unfortunately, the account of thThe book provides an insider's account of "the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden" that is fascinating and exciting. Unfortunately, the account of this mission does not begin until halfway through the book. The first half provides background on the author's SEAL training and descriptions of other missions. Although interesting, much of this material is unnecessary to the main story and made me impatient to get to the "real" story, the one promised in the subtitle. Also, in my opinion, the level of detail with which the book is focused on weapons and other gear -- again, especially in the first half -- detracts from the flow of the narrative and the excitement of the story. Overall, the book is worth reading for its firsthand account of this important event, and I enjoyed it, but I would have given it a higher rating had it focused more on the bin Laden mission and less on the author's earlier SEAL experiences....more
I loved this book and highly recommend it. It is an intimate portrait of JFK with many anecdotes drawn from interviews with or oral histories by frienI loved this book and highly recommend it. It is an intimate portrait of JFK with many anecdotes drawn from interviews with or oral histories by friends and others who knew Kennedy well. Matthews succeeds in fulfilling his intent to answer the question, "What was JFK really like?"...more