Saturday, July 28, 2007

Three for the Road: History Between the Covers

THREE POLITICAL HISTORY BOOKS that I think you’ll enjoy, that is, if you enjoy history. The first is “1920 The Year of the Six Presidents,” by David Pietrusza. It is an interesting narrative about the election that was impacted by six men who either were or would be president.

The first was the incumbent president Woodrow Wilson who, despite his illness, still coveted the Democratic nomination for a third term. The second was former president Theodore Roosevelt who, until his death in 1919, was considered the leading contender for the Republican nomination. Third was Herbert Hoover, the Great Humanitarian, who was being considered by both parties and would himself be elected president in 1928. The fourth, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who at one time supported Hoover, was the 1920 Democratic vice presidential nominee; he would be elected president in 1932, defeating Hoover’s re-election bid.

Fifth and sixth include Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees who won the election. Harding was inaugurated president in 1921 and Coolidge became president in August of 1923 when Harding died unexpectedly while on a political trip in California (interestingly, Hoover was at Harding’s side when the president died).

Of course the book contains interesting portraits of other notable political figures of the time, all of whom took some part in the events of 1920: William Gibbs McAdoo, General Lenard Wood, Harry Daugherty, William Jennings Bryan, Democrat presidential nominee James Cox, Wisconsin progressive senator Robert LaFollette, and Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

If you are a fan of history, especially of that era, this book will make an interesting read.

“A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement,” by J. William Middendorff II, is the story of the ill-fated and ineptly run 1964 Goldwater campaign. Middendorff was an insider and lays bare the inside story of the “movement” that brought Goldwater to the Republican nomination only to be crushed by the Lyndon Johnson landslide. Its legacy, however, was the rise of Ronald Reagan and the conservative take over of the GOP. This is a good book if you want to understand the growth of the Republican Party since the Kennedy-Johnson years.

After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, an uneducated tailor who rose through the political ranks of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, became president. Johnson was unique in the politics of the day. He was a Southern Democratic senator who refused to leave the senate when his state succeeded from the Union, and thus became a Northern hero. Later appointed military governor of Tennessee by Lincoln, he was the cross-party ticket balancer that was chosen as Lincoln’s running mate in 1864 when Lincoln’s re-election was in doubt. As president, Johnson was stubborn and was impeached by the house in 1868, but acquitted by one vote in the senate.

“The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days that Changed the Nation,” by Howard Means is the story of the beginning of the Johnson administration immediately following Lincoln’s death. As the Civil War was being brought to a close, the nation faced the difficult chore healing the wounds of war without dissolving into chaos. When Johnson inherited the presidency his supporters thought he would crack down on the defeated Southern “traitors” and enfranchise the former slaves. He was soon to prove them wrong on both points. Another good read for the history buff.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tangerines and other Political Oddities

THE IDIOCY THAT IS PASSING FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY these days has finally hit a new low: The Great Tangerine Conspiracy! Yes, apparently tangerines have something to do with global warming which is why Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is now leading a boycott of that poor fruit. While the logic of Mrs. Edwards’ boycott escapes me, it is not the first time she has stirred the political waters lately. Recently she’s taken on Ann Coulter and Hillary Clinton on behalf of her husband who looks sometimes as if he might be better off with her spine. Senator Edwards, you will recall, was the candidate that led the boycott of debates sponsored by Fox News. This from the man who wants to be leader of the Free World and take on the likes of Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but can’t face questions form Chris Wallace or Brit Hume!

I have to confess that I’ve had a problem with Mr. Edwards for some time. It started when he hired a pair of blatantly anti-Catholic bloggers, then, when their bigoted views became known, buckled to the pressure of Left Wing Wackos and refused to fire them.

I think the Democratic race right now is all going for nothing anyway. I’ll stick with my earlier prediction: Al Gore will be the party’s nominee for president next year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Good Book on the Lusitania Sinking

I RECENTLY PICKED UP AN INTERESTING BOOK,"Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy,” by Diana Preston. If you are not familiar with the history, the Cunard Liner Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. The sinking of the ocean liner and deaths of some twelve hundred, including many Americans, pushed the United States out of neutrality into World War I. It is an interesting account of the tragedy and is told more in the style of a novel than a dry recitation of history. In fact, it was the basis of a recent television docu-drama about the sinking. If you are interested in history, particularly this period of history, it is well worth your time and effort.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Start of a New Blog

WELCOME. Several friends have suggested that as an author I should have a blog to go along with my web page. They say it will help increase sales and visibility, so here goes!

In addition to writing my murder mysteries, I also write an occasional legal commentary, usually of a conservative bent, for either a local or national publication. I’m also in Central Iowa, which right now is a political hot bed, with all the presidential candidates stumping for support in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Today, Mrs. Edwards, wife of former Senator John Edwards, was in town at the downtown Farmers’ Market trading political spin for sweet corn. I tend to follow politics religiously, so I won’t hesitate to present a view or two and welcome yours.

My first book is a mystery, “Murder Most Holy.” It is the story of the investigation into the murder of a young nun in a Midwestern city where her father is a very opinionated and controversial newspaper publisher. The reviews have been good; you can see excerpts on my web page and many in full on the book’s Amazon page. The story is told in a semi-humorous fashion, and would be rated “PG” if it were a movie. If you are interested in a good, clean fun read, click on through the Amazon link and check it out.

If you are a writer, you might also want to check out my web pages since I have some interesting information and links for writers.

I also teach law and political science at Upper Iowa University. I have the summer off so I have a few extra hours to try to figure out how to run a blog. I am what the politically correct would characterize as “technology challenged.” In my book that means “computer illiterate.” But, I promise, I’ll try.
PS -- Don't forget to vote in my poll; should Michael Vick be suspended?