The election's over, but there are political books aplenty—January 2, 2009
Politics and truth make strange bedfellows, it’s been said. Politics monopolized the news in 2008; many political figures, both past and present, were dissected and discussed. Now is a superb time to kick back, settle into a cozy chair and wait for the next onslaught of winter with a good book in hand.
President-elect Barak Obama has, in many instances, been compared to Abraham Lincoln. The fact that he will be taking the oath of office using the same Bible that Lincoln used further exemplifies that comparison. Lincoln selected his cabinet from both sides of the aisle, as Obama is doing. Examine more closely those similarities in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Lincoln, bringing his disgruntled opponents together, created a most unusual cabinet and used their expertise to solidify the Union and win the war.
As is often the case one’s merits are not fully recognized until one is dead. When you look back at the presidency of Harry Truman you realize what a remarkable leader he was. David McCullough’s monumental biography “Truman” traces the life of this small-town Missourian as he rose to the highest office in the United States.
FDR, the only president to be well known by his initials, was talked about a great deal in 2008, especially as the economy worsened. How did he cope with the Great Depression? How did he stimulate the economy? “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” by Jonathan Alter details FDR’s actions in the first hundred days of his presidency in 1933 and the impact they had on lives of Americans. For a look at FDR’s complete presidency check Conrad Black’s “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom” or Arthur Schlesinger’s “The Age of Roosevelt.”
Edmund Morris chronicles the life of Theodore Roosevelt in 2-volumes “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” and “Theodore Rex.” He documents how Roosevelt dealt with the major issues of the new century – industrialism, conservation, immigration, labor and race.
The significance of Andrew Jackson’s presidency is not easily recalled. In fact, some would have a hard time remembering that he was one of our presidents and when he served. Jon Meacham’s “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” tells the story of a poor orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Jackson founded the Democratic Party and fashioned the presidency as we know it.
History is a great teacher. What better way to learn about our nation than through the lives of our presidents. For an overview of our presidents check out the 3 volume DVD “The Presidents: The Lives and Legacies of the 43 Leaders of the United States.”