This is the book summary of Presidents & Near Presidents I have known. It is a digital book I was given a chance to read. What follows is the review, in the links are the chapter summaries The idea is that you can read the summary and review it in about fifteen minutes and get the gist of the book, if you think you’d like it, go buy it. Here’s a link. Note: I don’t make any money from linking to Amazon, so if you want to buy it someplace else, go ahead. 🙂
Presidents & Near Presidents I have known
By: Lionel Rolfe
Brief Summary: (full summary above)
The book is a collection of thoughts about America, her past, her problems, her present and her future. It carries a very heavy and clear liberal message and attacks Republicans conservatives, and their ideals through out. Subject matter ranges from war and peace to economics, socialism, justice, and partisanship.
Well, there’s a lot of good nuggets. It really gets into the authors head about how the Left views the Right. His (naïve? Old-fashioned? Quaint?) views of how our problems should lead us towards more unified and populist politics is also interesting.
A lot. Firstly, it was poorly written. Most of the ideas in the book have been written ad nauseam. I kept thinking I was reading some guys blog posts. Some days the posts are clear, and some days the posts are just random complaints about the world. There’s no sourcing and documentation of various claims. Lastly, the notion that half the country (those claiming to be conservatives) have no ideals beyond greed was more than a bit insulting.
This chapter reads mainly as history of his uncle and a warning his uncle came him concerning the future of the world. He lists the interesting and impressive things his uncle did and then. He then segues from that memory to current affairs, and how he sees parallels in the current tea-partiers and right-wing extremists as those who opposed John Kennedy and MLK. Those charges are loaded for sure, and I hope following chapters elaborate a lot more.
Lionel wants the reader to compare him to Rush Limbaugh, and he has a point. Only he’s not (yet) the Liberal version of a flame-throwing salt-the-earth Rush Limbaugh, with all his talk of violins and (almost?) anti-capitalism he couldn’t be much further Left of Limbaugh on the political landscape. He position and thoughts on Capitalism and the down-side of society based entirely on the bottom line, appears fair-minded at first read, but it’s also horribly vague. What does “mixed” economy mean? I think most people with an Econ 101 class under their belt would agree that we do need regulations and laws on corporate behavior, but that doesn’t detract at all from Capitalism. So though I find it easy to agree with some of the words he put down, it’s not clear yet exactly how far Left he is indicating here. But I’ll end this chapter the way he does: (because he did end the chapter well):
“By the way, heard the one that was in Doonesbury where someone asks do you know the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenburg? The answer: one is a flaming Nazi gasbag, and the other is just a dirigible.”
I didn’t like this chapter. The 2000 election is simply too big to handle well in so few pages. There’s nothing here other than the repeated claims of hundreds (thousands? Millions?) of other liberals that George Bush stole the Election. If you can’t spend time dissecting and/or putting forth a unique and new take on it, don’t write a chapter on it. The only part of interest was his thoughts about how that can/should move people to push back harder than they have.
Lionel Rolfe does not like George Bush. Doesn’t like him at all, several accusations are made without proper documentation and argument, analogies are made (such as the Christian Taliban) but only at the end, and then almost as if a throw-away line, an afterthought. This was a disappointing chapter.
Now this was a meaty chapter. The author uses the Clinton impeachment episode as a board against which to bounce the hypocrisy of four men whom he names the “gang of four” though exactly how they connect to each other is never really clarified. The first three make sense, the Media leader, the House Leader, and the Religious Leader. How Hyde fits in, except as a simple example of hypocrisy, I’m not sure.What follows is a long discussion (but wandering and often disjointed) discussion of numerous examples of these four being, well, bad. Hypocrites, racists, sexists, liars, etc. For the most part the examples are pretty damning. But one of the things I hate about Ann Coulter is how she’ll throw an attack at someone she doesn’t like, and then boom, walks away. Same idea here. There was no documentation on several things in here, such as Gingrich’s wife collected money from charity for her kids. I’d not heard that before. Source please? If there’s no source, just the Author saying it, it’s hearsay. I suppose I could Google it, but if I’m reading someone’s book, I shouldn’t have to go to Google to get the information.
Also, the well-discussed bad things about these four people only not withstanding, I don’t think the argument is well made they constitute an American Taliban.Also, as a simple fact check, the wall street crash would not have left social security insolvent for the simple three facts that
A only new people could put their money into wall street
B only 25% of their money could be put into stocks the rest would stay government
C the Wallstreet crash, though bad, was nowhere near bad enough to wipe out even what would have been in there.
I’m not sure what to say about this chapter. I had hoped, after the last one, that the book was about to get a lot better. It didn’t. This chapter is titled “The New American Fascism” but rather than make any kind of argument towards that end, the chapter is basically name calling aimed at Bush, McCain, Palin, and Pat Buchannan.
This was one of the better chapters. It could use some cleaning up, (really, the whole book could) but this one ends really well and the ending is carried forth by the majority of the chapter. Essentially, Sarah Palin is an opportunistic hypocrite who believes in hardcore Christian fundamental tenets. I immediately got an image of Ahmadinejad grinning in the face of annihilation.
Which of course leads to the thought, is that anti-religious view fair? Is it fair to view her fundamentalism as a mark against her? What politician doesn’t use Religion to get votes? Pete Stark is who. Still, it strikes me as both a good question to ask, as well as a complicated one. Can you chastise someone for anti-Semitism while also chastising someone for their own religious beliefs? How extraordinary does someone’s fundamentalism have to be before you can use it against them, without being a bigot? I don’t know. But the author has decided that Sarah Palin many moral infractions is open and fair game, and that her religious background makes those moral infractions worse.
Short chapter. There’s an odd bit in the middle that could probably have been summarized as “I have black friends” but that would have been unkind. I don’t really know the point of the middle where he discusses some black friends he’s had. I don’t see how they tie into Obama, except that they’re black and the author apparently knew the inventor of Kwanzaa. Frankly, Obama being a good writer is more obvious and less interesting that the fact the author new the guy that invented Kwanzaa. A white-guy’s take on that guy would have made for a much more interesting chapter.
Regardless, the chapter was about Obama, and the author compares him to other great writers and hopes that that makes him a more successful president than a monster like Mao Tse Tung.
The start of the chapter threw a few bombs at John McCain and Republicans in general on education funding. This is something that can be argued as Republicans have increased educational spending on many occasions. That said, the broader point about Republicans embracing ignorance is a more important point. Another term of it is “Know-Nothings” a political party was anti-immigrant, religious zealots and existed back in the 1850’s. Obama accused the Republican party of just this on several occasions. The accusation that Republicans choose blissful ignorance over facts on matters from Evolution, to Abstinence programs, from economic theory to foreign policy, is a topic that could be discussed at length, and is scratched at a bit here.
The rest of the chapter is about the competing economic theories of John Maynard Keyes and Milton Friedman. I enjoy discussions of economics, so I found the chapter intriguing. It would have benefited from diagrams and examples. Of course, you could write a trilogy on the clash between trickle up vs. trickle down and still not cover everything, so I can’t mark the author too bad for not handling the subject in its entirety.
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
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.
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.
Ugh. Just, way too complicated material for way to random thinking
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