Straightforward account of Eisenhower’s White House years. Pleasant narration. Not nearly as deep (or as long) as the Truman biography, this book provides some insight into Eisenhower’s beliefs and management style. He was a leader, not a politician. He seems to have taken an active role in international diplomacy, an area in which he had much experience. But in the case of domestic issues he relied on the advice of his staff. He was not an active promoter of civil rights, but when his Supreme Court made it the law of the land, Eisenhower provided the leadership to get it done.
We tend to think of the 50s as a simple, harmonious time – but it was anything but that. If there is nostalgia for this time, it is for the type of leader who seeks office not for self-serving purposes, but because he believes he can help shape a better nation. We could use that today.
I enjoyed listening to this account of the critical part of Nixon’s career as a politician. Ambrose writes as an historian should – presenting the facts with a neutral perspective. Something rare among those who write about this man. What happened during this period is provably familiar to most, but this account provides a fair narrative of things from Nixon’s perspective.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Nixon (like most Presidents of this era) is the way they run the country with a small cadre of unelected advisers. Nixon and Johnson directed the Vietnam War, yet had no military experience. Nixon wanted to appoint John Connally to be secretary of defense even though he had no relevant experience. In the end it was all about politics..
That Nixon was a flawed man is a given. It’s all here. But what is also here is an example of how a politician needs to make premises he can’t keep and say things he doesn’t believe in – in order to get elected. Very relevant at the moment…
I had a hard time finishing this book - it just seemed to go on forever. Perhaps I was misled by the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the cover. There was very little about the US, instead there were extensive discussions of all the oddities of the British aristocracy and artistic community. Way too much information that I had no interest in, though I am sure there are some who would think otherwise.
The recording seemed a bit off, not pleasant to listen to.
I enjoyed this listen, but must say it was a bit long. It covers a wide range of topics, so some parts are not as interesting to everyone as others. In my case, discussions on how the various parts of the brain function were of cursory interest.
This book changed my thinking about Mankind in some ways. Maybe we are actually getting "better" after all. However, as the author points out, most of the genocide in the 20th century can be attributed to three men - Mao, Stalin and Hitler.
There are some very entertaining intervals among the heaps of statistics dished out. I almost had to pull my car over when I was listening to a lengthy citation of proper manners in Medieval Europe. We've obviously come a long way since then.
This telling of the Guadalcanal story captures the desperation and valor of this critical campaign. The story flows like a novel, and unlike many history books, it really draws you into the story.
What made this story significant to me is the family connection. My father served with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal and I recall him speaking of being abandoned on that island. He was seriously injured during Japanese shelling and evacuated to New Zealand. This book puts all this into context for me.
I previously listened to “Neptune’s Inferno“ which covers the naval battles of the Guadalcanal campaign. That book is an excellent follow up reading as there is little overlap, but they are closely linked nonetheless.
It was a bit of a struggle to get to the end of this book - but I did it. Only for the hard core military history buff. Very technical, lots of jargon.
While a little tedious at times, this account of Obama’s first 1000 days (give or take) provides insight into why this great orator, who offered a vision of a better America, is an ineffectual President. The extent to which Obama was both supported and advised by the same Wall Street players that got rich while helping to create the financial meltdown is both insightful and disturbing.
I was disappointed to not hear about the influence organized labor played with this President, but this is a story about Obama and Wall Street. The author has some good connections into the inner workings of the administration, but does not seem to have a grasp of how the failures of financial regulation caused the very problems they were supposed to prevent.
The story line gets lost a bit when the author tries to explain the financial meltdown in terms of evil bankers versus virtuous regulators. He meanders into long stories describing how bankers gave into their craving for wealth and power, setting in motion a series of events that almost destroyed the economy.
The story is much more complex than that, as is implied when Lawrence Summers warns Geithner to “never admit you were wrong”. As we all know, Summers was part of the administration that relaxed financial regulation a decade earlier.
I recently listened to bios on FDR, Truman, JFK. I will go out on a limb to say Obama shares FDR’s lack of understanding of what to do, but lacked his ability to give people confidence in what he was doing. Obama and Truman both came from political machines, but Truman did a great job addressing the challenges in the post-war period, while Obama worries about getting re-elected. After listening to “1961” and “Brilliant Disaster”, I conclude Obama and JFK are comparable in many ways – marvelous at campaigning, dismal at leading.
I had a hard time paying attention during several sections of this book. A lot of detail, sometimes hard to keep track of all the names and events. Very slow reader, had to speed up replay. Supposed to be full of new information, but I was a little concerned when the author said that FDR's plane was protected by a fleet of jet fighters.
I have listened to most of the books in the Oxford US History series and found this one to be the weakest. One problem is the difficulty in writing about recent history (this was written 20 years after the end of the period covered). It generally takes many decades for history to be discussed objectively and with the benefit of hindsight. Recent revelations conflict with the author’s conclusions in some instances. (The identity of Deep Throat, guilt of the Rosenberg’s and Alger Hiss).
Several chapters are devoted to rambling, simplistic discussions of topics such as suburbs and women’s liberation that caused my attention to drift. How long can you listen to someone lament the loss of intimacy of the city as people migrated to the sterile suburbs. This is simply someone’s idealistic viewpoint, not history.
I found it refreshing that he portrayed JFK’s presidency objectively, not as Camelot. Surprisingly, Stalin was OK; if only we had treated him better at the end of World War II we may have avoided the Cold War. He seems a bit harsh on Nixon. The man had many faults, but the author states that everything he did, from establishing relations with China to winding down the war in Vietnam was done solely for the purpose of getting re-elected. This simplistic conclusion avoids the more complex geopolitical analysis this topic deserves.
When I was 12, I became a Yankee fan and caught the tail end of Mickey Mantle's career. I knew of him as one of the greats, but was also aware he had many flaws. This book tells the story of a man who had the potential to be the best and seemed to have it all - but due to circumstances never lived up to this true potential. This is not a baseball story, but the story of a tragic hero who never really understood why people liked him so much.
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