Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deciding the Next Decider or Team of Rivals

Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme

Author: Calvin Trillin

Displaying the form that made bestsellers of Obliviously On He Sails and A Heckuva Job, tales of the Bush Administration in rhyme, Calvin Trillin trains his verse on the 2008 race for the presidency.

Deciding the Next Decider is an ongoing campaign narrative in verse interrupted regularly by other poems, such as a country tune about John Edwards called “Yes, I Know He’s a Mill Worker’s Son, But There’s Hollywood in That Hair” and a Sarah Palin song about her foreign policy credentials: “On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok.” It covers Mitt Romney’s transformation (“Mitt Romney’s saying now he should have known / A stem cell’s just a human, not quite grown”), the speculation about whether Al Gore was trimming down to run (“Presumably, they looked for photo ops / To see what Gore was stuffing in his chops”), the slow-motion implosion of Hillary Clinton’s drive to the White House (“Some pundits wrote that Hil’s campaign might fare / A little better if Bill wasn’t there”), and the differing responses of Barack Obama and John McCain to the financial crisis (“Though coolness has its limitations, it’ll / Prevent comparisons with Chicken Little”).

Beginning at the 2006 midterms, Deciding the Next Decider resurrects the nonstarters like George Allen (“He fit what’s often valued by the Right: / Quite cheerful, Reaganesque, and not too bright”) and the low-energy Fred Thompson (“The pros said, ‘That’s a state he has to take, / And he just might, if he can stay awake’ ”). And itcarries through to the vote that made Barack Obama the forty-fourth president of the United States.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in thenation's history.

The New York Times Sunday Book Review - James M. McPherson

More books about Abraham Lincoln line the shelves of libraries than about any other American. Can there be anything new to say about our 16th president? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Having previously offered fresh insights into Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedys and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Doris Kearns Goodwin has written an elegant, incisive study of Lincoln and leading members of his cabinet that will appeal to experts as well as to those whose knowledge of Lincoln is an amalgam of high school history and popular mythology.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

… Ms. Goodwin's narrative abilities, demonstrated in her earlier books, are on full display here, and she does an enthralling job of dramatizing such crucial moments in Lincoln's life as his nomination as the Republican Party's presidential candidate, his delivery of the Gettysburg address, his shepherding of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) through Congress, and his assassination, days after General Lee's surrender. She shows how Lincoln's friendships with Seward and his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, indelibly shaped his presidency, and how his masterly ability to balance factions within his own administration helped him to keep radicals and moderates, abolitionists and northern Democrats behind the Union cause.

The Washington Post - Allen G. Guelzo

… the task the popular historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has set for herself in writing the history of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet in Team of Rivals is neither easy nor immediately attractive. But this immense, finely boned book is no dull administrative or bureaucratic history; rather, it is a story of personalities -- a messianic drama, if you will -- in which Lincoln must increase and the others must decrease.

Publishers Weekly

While Goodwin's introduction is a helpful summary and explanation for why another book about Lincoln, her reading abilities are limited: Her tone is flat and dry, and her articulation is overly precise. But the introduction isn't long and we soon arrive at Richard Thomas's lovely and lively reading of an excellent book. The abridgment (from 944 pages) makes it easy to follow the narrative and the underlying theme. Pauses are often used to imply ellipses, and one is never lost. But the audio version might have been longer, for there is often a wish to know a little more about some event or personality or relationship. Goodwin's writing is always sharp and clear, and she uses quotes to great effect. The book's originality lies in the focus on relationships among the men Lincoln chose for his cabinet and highest offices: three were his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, and each considered himself the only worthy candidate. One is left with a concrete picture of Lincoln's political genius-derived from a character without malice or jealousy-which shaped the history of our nation. One is also left with the painful sense of how our history might have differed had Lincoln lived to guide the Reconstruction. Simultaneous release with the Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 26). (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

In an 1876 eulogy, Frederick Douglass famously-and foolishly-asserted that "no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln." Thirteen decades and hundreds of books later, that statement appears no closer to the truth than when Douglass uttered it. Although Lincoln may be the most studied figure in American history, there is no end to new interpretations of the man. Shenk's and Goodwin's engaging new books are impressive demonstrations of that truth. Looking closely at Lincoln's entire life, essayist Shenk examines every scrap of evidence that Lincoln suffered from chronic depression so severe that he twice came close to suicide. He argues that Lincoln not only never conquered his depression but used it to channel his energy into his political work. Shenk's thesis may not convince everyone-including Goodwin, who takes a different view-but both arguments and his evidence are compelling. His is a fascinating story and one enhanced by Richard M. Davidson's forceful reading. Highly recommended. Nearly three times longer than Shenk's book, Goodwin's study covers much of the same ground but concentrates more on Lincoln's presidency. She argues that Lincoln's success in winning the election and in building an exceptionally effective administration lay in his extraordinary ability to empathize with his rivals. Much more than a biography of Lincoln, historian Goodwin's book also closely examines the lives of Lincoln's chief opponents for the Republican nomination-Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Seward-all of whom appeared better qualified to be President than he. After Lincoln persuaded the three men-as well as other strong figures-to join his cabinet, it was expected that his former rivals would dominate him. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Suzanne Toren's narration of the unabridged version is fine, but the book's sheer length may demand a greater commitment than many listeners are willing to make. As such, the abridged edition, read by Richard Thomas, may be a better choice for most libraries.-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Well-practiced historian Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time (1994), examines Abraham Lincoln as a practical politician, focusing on his conversion of rivals to allies. Was Lincoln gay? It doesn't matter, though the question has exercised plenty of biographers recently. Goodwin, an old-fashioned pop historian of the Ambrose-McCullough vein, quotes from his law partner, William Herndon: "Lincoln had terribly strong passions for women-could scarcely keep his hands off them." End of discussion. Lincoln was, if anything, melancholic-possibly as the result of abuse on the part of his father-and sometimes incapacitated by depression. Thus it was smart politicking to recruit erstwhile opponents Salmon Chase and William Seward, who had very different ideas on most things but who nonetheless served Lincoln loyally to the point of propping him up at times during the fraught Civil War years. Goodwin indicates that Lincoln knew that war was coming, and he knew why: He'd been vigorously opposed to slavery for his entire public career, and even if "many Northerners . . . were relatively indifferent to the issue" of slavery and the westward expansion of the slave states, Lincoln was determined to settle it, even at catastrophic cost. Chase, Seward and his other lieutenants did not always fall immediately into step with Lincoln, and some pressed for compromise; when he declared the Emancipation Proclamation, writes Goodwin, he assembled the Cabinet and said that while he recognized their differences, he "had not called them together to ask their advice." They acceded, though by the end of the first term, enough divisions obtained within and without the White House thatit looked as if Lincoln would not be reelected-whereupon he demanded that his secretaries sign a resolution "committing the administration to devote all its powers and energies to help bring the war to a successful conclusion," the idea being that only a Democrat would accept a negotiated peace. Illuminating and well-written, as are all of Goodwin's presidential studies; a welcome addition to Lincolniana. First printing of 400,000; Book-of-the-Month/History Book Club main selection; Doubleday Book Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; film rights to DreamWorks

Table of Contents:


Maps and Diagrams



1 Four Men Waiting

2 The "Longing to Rise"

3 The Lure of Politics

4 "Plunder & Conquest"

5 The Turbulent Fifties

6 The Gathering Storm

7 Countdown to the Nomination

8 Showdown in Chicago

9 "A Man Knows His Own Name"

10 "An Intensified Crossword Puzzle"

11 "I Am Now Public Property"


12 "Mystic Chords of Memory": Spring 1861

13 "The Ball Has Opened": Summer 1861

14 "I Do Not Intend to Be Sacrificed": Fall 1861

15 "My Boy Is Gone": Winter 1862

16 "He Was Simply Out-Generaled": Spring 1862

17 "We Are in the Depths": Summer 1862

18 "My Word Is Out": Fall 1862

19 "Fire in the Rear": Winter-Spring 1863

20 "The Tycoon Is in Fine Whack": Summer 1863

21 "I Feel Trouble in the Air": Summer-Fall 1863

22 "Still in Wild Water": Fall 1863

23 "There's a Man in It!": Winter-Spring 1864

24 "Atlanta Is Ours": Summer-Fall 1864

25 "A Sacred Effort": Winter 1864-1865

26 The Final Weeks: Spring 1865




Illustration Credits


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