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An old-fashioned pol looks back,
This review is from: Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill (Hardcover)
Tip O'Neill was an old-fashioned politician. He came up he traditional route, kissing babies, handing out jobs and favors and calling them back in when the time came. He is often credited with coming up with the quip that all politics is local.
O'Neill spent fifty years in politics, 34 of them in the House of Representatives, ten of those as Speaker. He was, in my opinion, a living argument for term limits and harsh punishment for those "public servants" and elected officials who violate the public trust.
Co-authored with William Novak, who may have carried most of the writing load, this is a breezy, enjoyable memoir of the things O'Neill could talk about without fear of going to jail.
O'Neill came into the House in early 1953, just before Eisenhower assumed office. He recounts his experiences with Presidents, beginning with a chance meeting with FDR, then Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. O'Neill was a partisan, though not as shrill as those currently in power.
It is probably obvious that I am not a fan of O'Neill or his politics. However, that didn't stop me from enjoying his recounting of his far too many years in the House. O'Neill isn't shy about recounting the political maneuvering he engaged in that was on the right side of the law. Some of the stories are fascinating, like the one about he played messenger boy between then Speaker Sam Rayburn and Democratic Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy to put Lyndon Johnson on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate. Backroom politics at its best.
On the other hand, it strains credulity when O'Neill pretends thsat the dirty politics engaged in by Nixon and his cronies was different than what his party did.
One of the best howlers in the book is Tip O'Neill saying " "[c]ontrary to the popular view, politics today may be one of the cleanest professions rather than the dirtiest". He was speaking of the period when he appointed Charlie Wilson - who was managing a quasi-private and very secret war in Afghanistan - to the House Ethics Committee to keep unindicted ABSCAM conspirator John Murtha from any kind of disciplinary sanctions.
Not much has changed. Politicians still tell us how pristine and pure they are, while keeping their hands out for "contributions" and returning the favor with taxpayer money. O'Neill was one of the best of that breed and his biography is worth reading, especially if you are able to read between the lines.