I have enjoyed reading and seeing Howard Fineman for many years in Newsweek and on MSNBC and others. So, I was pleased to check out his first book: The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring debates that define and inspire our country. I was not disappointed. The basic premise of the book, as I see it, is that the whole American experience is based on a series of arguments, with much participation and involvement in the debates, with different sides of the essential arguments, through the years addressing the issues of the day. Who is a person? What is an American? How much power should reside in the Presidency? Are we for international trade or not? What is the role of faith? Who judges the law? What are the limits of individualism? What can we know and say? What about debt?
Each argument is well researched, with examples from the founding of our nation up to the current time, including the current presidential election campaign. Fineman has been a political reporter since the 1970s. His personal insights into particular events that he has covered are especially useful. He developed the concepts of “the arguments” from his political reporting. He urges each of us to insist that the debates continue, in an open manner, in order to preserve our way of life and government. Open debate of the various arguments is what moves the country forward; and, will move us beyond the current partisanship that tends to stifle debate and communications between the various sides of the important arguments of today.
I fear the “thirteen” may be a little arbitrary as a marketing ploy, but, overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone – but, especially to those who care and understand what is going on in our country at this point in our history. It is also a relative easy read. I’m happy to say this about a book of substance.