This book, which focuses largely on political events in the Sixties, chronicles the 40-year effort of far-right conservatives to marginalize and expelThis book, which focuses largely on political events in the Sixties, chronicles the 40-year effort of far-right conservatives to marginalize and expel moderates from the Republican party. Beginning with the Rockefeller-Goldwater contest in 1964 and culminating in the Gingrich congress's final destruction of moderates, the author also examines key episodes in the Nixon and Reagan presidencies. The balance, reasonableness, prudence, and common sense that typified the Republican party of the Eisenhower era are now but a distant memory, and the loss of this moderation is to be lamented. Moderates upheld values and positions that are no longer adequately represented in American politics. Many of the moderates' most significant contributions revolved around issues that did not neatly fit into the liberal-conservative dichotomy, and the complete collapse of the moderate wing is a sign of complete and debilitating dysfunction in the Republican party. A fine book, minutely detailed and carefully narrated. ...more
I had a lot of trouble with this biography in the portion dealing with WWII. It seemed to me that the author was out to tear Eisenhower down, to "setI had a lot of trouble with this biography in the portion dealing with WWII. It seemed to me that the author was out to tear Eisenhower down, to "set the record straight". I don't doubt the accuracy of his historical work, and unfortunately I do not have sufficient military knowledge to question his evaluation of Eisenhower's performance during WWII. The author accuses Eisenhower of "reshaping" the historical record:
"In postwar interviews, as well as in their memoirs, Eisenhower, Clark, and Bedell Smith planted the idea that much of Fifth Army’s problem at Salerno was attributable to Montgomery’s failure to move up from Messina more rapidly.31 It is another illustration of Ike’s ability to reshape the record. ... The blame for the setback at Salerno rests squarely with Eisenhower and Clark and the rosy scenario they painted as to what would follow Italy’s surrender."
The author is at pains to praise Eisenhower's political leadership, but dredges up criticisms of his thinking as a military commander:
"Ike’s political dexterity stood in marked contrast to his grasp of military strategy. On strategic issues he remained a prisoner of the doughboy dogma of John J. Pershing and George Marshall that all-out-attack-all-along-the-line was the way to win wars. ... Said differently, no one who wore the uniform of the United States or Great Britain during the Second World War possessed the political acumen of Eisenhower. But Ike’s understanding of the battlefield was abstract and academic."
However, his coverage of Eisenhower's presidency is uniformly positive, and his portrayal of his political and moral courage stands in stunning contrast to the midgets who now soil the name of the Republican party. It's impossible to imagine any Republican now saying:
"“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Eisenhower carefully managed the country for eight years, declining at every turn the opportunity to get involved in the military adventures advertised by his aggressive cabinet members. In contrast to George W. Bush, who never met a war he didn't like, "For Ike, war was not a policy alternative. The purpose of military power was to avoid war, not fight one. Soldiers were not paper cutouts, and combat was not a board game."
I'm pretty sure this is not the best biography of Eisenhower that is available, but it is comprehensive, readable, and well-researched. I'll look forward to seeing reviews that can better compare the book to other biographies, and fully evaluate the author's analysis of Eisenhower's military record. ...more
Tough but very funny book, not for the squeamish. Patrick, a stand-in for the author, Edward St. Aubyn, attends the funeral of his late and not at allTough but very funny book, not for the squeamish. Patrick, a stand-in for the author, Edward St. Aubyn, attends the funeral of his late and not at all lamented mother. "‘I think my mother’s death is the best thing to happen to me since…well, since my father’s death,’ said Patrick. ‘It can’t be quite that simple,’ said Johnny, ‘or there would be merry bands of orphans skipping down the street." That's about it, as far as the action of the book goes. The content of the story is Patrick's alternately hilarious and horrifying commentary and reminiscences. In the previous four novels, the author laid out the miserable life of Patrick, whose father is a crazed and brutally abusive aristocrat and whose mother is a wretched, cowering accomplice. Not much pleasant to work with here, but the value of the novel comes from its brilliant and acerbic prose. So bitter, even the author questions it: "It’s the hardest addiction of all,’ said Patrick. ‘Forget heroin. Just try giving up irony, that deep-down need to mean two things at once, to be in two places at once, not to be there for the catastrophe of a fixed meaning."
Not a lot of fun to read, some of the most glittering prose I've seen in while. ...more
The purpose of The Righteous Mind is to attempt to discover why people are divided by politics and religion. After several hundred pages of minute anaThe purpose of The Righteous Mind is to attempt to discover why people are divided by politics and religion. After several hundred pages of minute analysis of the last quarter century of psychological research, the author discovers that,
"...the explanation is that our minds were designed for groupish righteousness. We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices..."
The author explores the foundations of our moral architecture, what he terms the Moral Foundations Theory, pointing to five basic concepts that underlie our political thinking: Caring, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. In the final analysis,
"Liberal moral matrices rest on the Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, and Fairness/cheating foundations, although liberals are often willing to trade away fairness (as proportionality) when it conflicts with compassion or with their desire to fight oppression. Conservative morality rests on all six foundations, although conservatives are more willing than liberals to sacrifice Care and let some people get hurt in order to achieve their many other moral objectives."
The author suggests that a path to easing political conflict can be found in thinking about the six moral foundations, and trying to figure out which one or two are carrying the most weight in any particular controversy. That's over-simplifying a very detailed and complex book, but that's the gist of it. This is a well-argued book with rock-solid evidence supporting clear and very sensible arguments. Highly recommended--read it, and while you're at it, send copies to your congressmen. ...more