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Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century Paperback – Bargain Price, August 31, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Boston Globe reporter Farrell's biography of Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (1912-1994) is much like the subject himself: large, rambling, sentimental and thoroughly fascinating. Farrell, a winner of a George Polk Award, traces O'Neill's career from its beginning in the 1930s in the rough-and-tumble world of Boston politics to his ascendancy to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977. O'Neill was often seen as a genial bear of a man, and Farrell shows that beneath this surface lay a complex personality built of equal parts insecurities and a sharp, pragmatic intellect. Yet O'Neill never wavered in his beliefs that "all politics is local" and that New Deal-style government programs could help the folks back in the district live better lives. O'Neill's career is, then, intertwined with the once basic Democratic ideal of activist government. Greatness came late in O'Neill's life, when as Speaker, he faced off against another genial Irish politician, Ronald Reagan. If Reagan sought to bring to a close the New Deal legacy, O'Neill sought to save it. And if the Reagan Revolution won, O'Neill, contends Farrell, softened its effects, made it less severe and more humane, and made himself a folk hero in the process. With wonderful detailDfrom describing ward politics in Boston to deal making in CongressDO'Neill's story is also the story of America in the past half-century, and the tale is thoroughly mesmerizing. Illus. not seen by PW. (Mar. 21) Forecast: While this tome is hefty, Farrell's highly accessible writing style and a continued fascination among the public with O'Neill should garner a large audience for this book, especially but not only in his home state of Massachusetts (the late congressman's 1987 memoir sold 360,000 copies).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
While politicians have been characterized as mere horse traders, there are occasional statesmen like Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, an era of dramatic reform. Reacting to the Watergate scandal, liberals shaped the House into the most democratic political institution in the chamber's history, curbing the speaker's powers in the process. O'Neill, the Boston politician who had replaced Jack Kennedy when the latter moved to the Senate, climbed the leadership ladder like many others. But unlike other speakers, O'Neill also became a national leader. Farrell, an award-winning White House correspondent for the Boston Globe, manages not only to capture O'Neill's inner motivations but also to convey the intricate environment of the unwieldy modern House. Beautifully written, lively, and highly informative, this book excels not only as the best available biography of O'Neill but also as the most readable book for those who want to understand modern Congress. Political junkies will savor it, the public will learn from it, and academics will want to use it in their classrooms, especially when it becomes available in paperback.DWilliam D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Great stories about O'Neill and the different political eras that he lived through.
If you want to learn more about Tip O'Neill, and what made him a great leader, I highly recommend this book.
A second, but no less significant achievement of Farrell's book, is as a detailed political history of the last century. If one only considers the two political figures that bookended O'Neill's career - at the start, Boston Mayor and flamboyant rogue James Michael Curley and at the end President Ronald Reagan - that gives a strong sense of just how much politics and public life changed over that 50 or so years. O'Neill began his career in a time when concern about the size of government was subsidiary to the goals it was intended to accomplish; a time when politicians and the public were trained on eradicating societal ills such as poverty, homelessness, joblessness, illiteracy and so on. By the time O'Neill left public life, the size and efficiency of government, particularly spending on domestic social programs, was a drum for self-proclaimed fiscal hawks to bang. Speaker O'Neill left public life in a time when Social Darwinism and exploitation of the "alienated voter" defined political discourse; a time when selfishness, greed, retrenchment from public life, and resentment of the veterans, the poor, the sick, and the mentally ill were rampant. So thoroughly denuded were the ideals of O'Neill's earlier career that President Reagan could connect with a wide swath of voters by repeatedly telling a false story about a Chicago "welfare queen" who rode around in a limousine and who ate lobster for dinner every night. Farrell shows O'Neill as someone who railed publicly against Reagan and his ilk, and who considered the President, "an Irishman who forgot where he came from." Indeed, Farrell includes wonderful color about O'Neill and his wildly divergent private and public relationships with Reagan. In the end, Farrell's book succeeds because it brings its subject into full bloom; he paints pictures not only of O'Neill, but also of the times in which he lived and politicked. And that is what lifts this biography to the level of greatness.