Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Presidents and Near Presidents I have known: Summary (chapters 10-14)

This is the book summary of Presidents & Near Presidents I have known. It is a digitial book I was given a chance to read. What follows is a summary (a fair non-biased summarization of the content of the chapter) and then a review of the chapter. The idea is that you can read the summary and reviews in about fifteen minutes and get the gist of the book, if you think you’d like it, go buy it.

Presidents & Near Presidents I have known

By: Lionel Rolfe

Chapters 1 – 3

Chapters 4 – 6

Chapters 7 – 9

Chapters 10- 14




Chapter Ten


Presidents & Near Presidents I Have Known

“I knew something about community organizers, and knew that Sarah Palin and the Rudy Guilani would come to rue their words in smirking about Obama’s profession.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 48“[Nixon] struck me as one of the oddest characters I had ever met—and the most unpleasant.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 52“He is a very special kind of leader, but if the times hadn’t demanded someone very special, we probably would not have seen his meteoric rise.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 60

After the election of Barack Obama, I turned my thoughts towards politics and realized that I had spent a not inconsiderable amount of time near residents and near residents. I donated about $300 to the Obama campaign, exited to have a president who was also one of our best writers. I was happy to finally travel around th country without feeling ashamed of my country. Part of this was my job as a journalist, but I also met many Democrats through family ties.

I met Cesar Chavez, perhaps the greatest community organizer of all time when he was camping outside Turdock. Putting that story on the front page cost me my job.

In the late 50’s I campaigned for Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower, during which time I met Eleanor Roosevelt. She was even more a hero to me than her husband, the President.

I nearly met Hubert Humphrey in 1959. He was in the home of my godfather, and I hid in the stairwell listening to him speak for several hours. He was Senator then, but he went on to be Vice President. Had he been elected President, my godfather would surely have been put on the Supreme Court.

I met Richard Nixon in 1965. During that same time I had become familiar, through my journalist work, with Ronald Reagan, and other less famous politicians such as Ed Reinecke and Patrick McGee. Up till Nixon, every politician I had met had genuinely enjoyed people. Nixon was a putrid, despicable drunk. Henry Kissinger had told his aides carrying the nuclear codes that if anything happened after 6 p.m. to go to him before the president.

Ford was an empty man, but empty in a more affable way that Nixon. Ronald Reagan was the emptiest of them all with little intellectual curiosity. He was a Democrat until he married the daughter of a wealthy Republican donor, at which point he became an ideologue.

Around this point I spent a few weeks with Republican Assemblyman Pat McGee who allowed me to tail him for several weeks as he showed me the true underbelly of politics, with cash literally trading hands before he would return to pass the cash around to his colleagues. He gave me a personal introduction to Ronald Reagan when he was still Governor.

After the execution of Robert Kennedy I met with Eugene McCarthy. I never met Bill Clinton or Obama. Through this experience I’ve that the times create the leaders we need. I have the feeling that the times have created in Obama the exact leader we need.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Lionel Rolfe Writings

Ronald Reagan (wiki)

Hubert Humphrey (wiki)

Eleanor Roosevelt (wiki)

This was by far the best chapter. It’s a winding tale of how the author met with and talked to many presidents, and people close to presidents (thus the name of the chapter and the book). His interaction with recent presidents is scarce, but he does have some impressive name dropping of older politicians. The story of McGee was an excellent viewpoint into the workings of government. His eavesdropping on “The Hump” is a very compelling story. Likewise, his introduction to Nixon and the various musings on the man are very interesting. Through out the chapter he clearly shows his disdain for all things Republican, making no bones of calling the Democratic presidents heroes. The closest thing to an insult on a Democrat he gets is calling Clinton a Centrist, which I suppose is an insult to certain folks.

My only real problem would be that the chapter doesn’t really have a point outside name dropping, but at least it does that well. Reading it I couldn’t help but think of the connection the author made previously tying himself to Rush Limbaugh, and certainly the author is equally willing to throw bombs. If you’re a true-blue Liberal, you’ll probably enjoy this chapter.



Chapter Eleven


Obama The Magic Christian

“[Obama] wants to lead a united country rather than the assemblage of disparate parts that it now seems to be becoming.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 61“Be a Magic Christian, Mr. Obama. Encourage the best of us.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 63

The Republican Recession had left the economy in free fall before Obama’s first day in office. He acts like a Christian in his willingness to forgive Republicans their slights. He’s going to need the Left to push him and keep pushing him so he can achieve his goals. Perhaps that was Obama’s whole intention in creating the permanent campaign.

The war in Israel in Gaza is a big problem, one Obama promised to get involved in when he was elected. For a decade I edited Jerusalem’s second oldest paper. A two-state solution isn’t very possible. The best solution would be 1 state solution with everyone living together under one nation. To do this, they should follow the example of America, one of the most religious countries in the world, where we have every religion represented and yet maintain a secular government.

The Economy needs to be a blend of socialism and capitalism, all covered by democracy. So instead of throwing away our money into a cesspool, as in the “the Magical Christian” Obama should invest in our humanity.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Middle East

Posts | Wiki | B Note

Perhaps the author should have started the book with chapter 10. That chapter was good, this one was even better. His thoughts on Israel, religion, Jews, Atheist and the Middle East are very thoughtful. There’s very little bomb throwing, in this chapter, though the first lobbed bomb is quite the attention getter. A minor problem is the reference to “the Magic Christian” which I gather is a film I’ve never seen, so I didn’t catch the analogy.



Chapter Twelve


Why Are Republicans So Damn Republican?

“Republican politicians will say they are for education, but they don’t want to have to pay taxes to provide it, and when they do, they want to control it so students are spoon fed only their point of view.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 67“They are like lurking snakes, always ready to strike and inject as much venom as they can.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 68

Republicans, as individuals are often friendly and personable. But taken as a whole, they hate unions and those who aren’t rich, preferring to put their power towards protecting plutocrats. Their principles, if you can call denying food to the jobless a principle, is a red herring. They fought Roosevelt’s New Deal, they continue to fight against those ideas. Yet, it was Roosevelt, more than any Republican, that saved Capitalism and Democracy. When he rest of the world was looking between communism and fascism, he saved capitalism by giving workers rights and preventing revolution.

Like Roosevelt, Obama is faced with a collapse created by a Republican. Marxism may be dead, but class struggle certainly isn’t. Republicans continue to fight this class struggle against the non-rich, is why they act like the Taliban fighting Obama and why three Republicans gutted the Stimulus bill.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Laffer Curve

Republicans (B Note)

Democrats (B Note)

The End of Prosperity

Summary | Review

Well, whatever bomb throwing the last chapter lacked this one made up for. Ignoring the bombs for a moment, the chapter lacks cohesion. It’s essentially a chapter of various reasons that the author doesn’t like Republicans. The chapter could have been titled “Why I hate Republicans” (actually, so could the book).

So the value of this chapter really was to get an understanding not of the Republicans, but of the Liberal view of Republicans. The author views Republican principles such as small government and free market and supply-side economics as red herrings, a façade for the only true principle, which is class warfare against the non-rich. I don’t know how to describe the value of that. But if you start from that position, belief the opposition is at war with everyone not rich, then any kind of complicated concept (such as cutting the top marginal tax rate to spar investment) becomes impossible to explain. A very insightful chapter.


Chapter Thirteen


War, Wealth, Empire & The Obama Presidency

“Republican politicians will say they are for education, but they don’t want to have to pay taxes to provide it, and when they do, they want to control it so students are spoon fed only their point of view.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 67“They are like lurking snakes, always ready to strike and inject as much venom as they can.” Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 68

I am not a war-monger, I married and had a child in part to avoid the Vietnam war, but I understand that war is sometimes necessary. I understand we had to deal with Afghanistan, though we could also have gone after Saudi Arabia.

War though is more than just violence, it’s geo-political. That geo-political process has resulted in the CIA funding the Taliban, Britain nationalizing certain industries and creating the nation of Iraq. It was those geopolitical maneuverings that lead to America in invading for oil, profit, and crusading Christian intentions.

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Review, Critique, Thoughts

  Ugh. Just, way too complicated material for way to random thinking.


Chapter Fourteen


Forget Trying To Make Nice With The Priests & Kings

“They are in business to sell policies to the healthy and
make the taxpayers pay for the sick.”
Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 73“Take this to heart, Mr. Obama. Sometimes, a person’s worth is
reflected by his enemies.”
Presidents and near Presidents I’ve Known, Page 75

You can’t make deals with kings and priests, this is a truth the founding fathers knew well. We couldn’t be bipartisan with Germany in WWII. Healthcare reform is the most important domestic problem facing us, and the insurance companies are the enemy. You are fighting them Mr. Obama, them and those who support the powers that be. You can’t be bipartisan with your enemies.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts


This was the most poetic of the chapters. The writing style was very nice and easy to read. It was a good end to the book, wrapping up the core idea of the book: The Republicans are the enemy and Obama must fight them.


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