Check it out: What's hot at the library

Sept. 6, 2007

Please join staff at Bay View Library for a special appearance by Sanford Horwitt, author of Feingold: a new Democratic Party, which is reviewed below. The event will take place on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.

Even without elections this fall, it's still a busy time for politicians, particularly the contenders gearing up for the beginning of the primaries for the 2008 presidential election. For fans of politics who need something to carry them through until the campaigns start in earnest, here are a few recent books on American politicians. For these and other great reads, visit Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Feingold: A New Democratic Party by Sanford D. Horwitt. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Horwitt presents an in-depth look at Wisconsin's junior senator, a politician he sees as continuing in the tradition of the Progressives in Wisconsin. He describes how Feingold grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and because of that developed a strong sense of community and family that he's never lost. Feingold also became interested in politics at an early age and took as one of his heroes Robert M. ("Fighting Bob") La Follette, a major figure in the Progressive era as Wisconsin governor, U. S. senator, and presidential candidate. He is something of a maverick, taking on even members of his own party through his work on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that sought to limit the influence of contributors on legislators. Horwitt gives the reader a sympathetic and interesting portrait of the politician becoming a national leader.

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama. Crown Publishers, 2006.

Obama's earlier book, Dreams From My Father, was a personal memoir; The Audacity of Hope is more of a political statement from the Democratic senator from Illinois. He is especially concerned with partisan politics as it is practiced in America today-divisive and polarizing. His hope is for a more centrist model, building a consensus that would move the political process out of its current deadlock. More concerned with making pragmatic compromises than with "winning" through politics, he presents his stand on many issues while at the same time considering other views. Above all, he has a clear view of his responsibility as a politician-to serve those who need a voice in government that takes into account their needs, such as the working poor, workers affected by trade agreements, uninsured people in need of health care.

A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement by J. William Middendorf , II. Basic Books, 2006.

In spite of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's failure to win the 1964 presidential election, Middendorf, a long-time GOP figure, sees the election as the beginning of the modern conservative movement in U.S. politics. Goldwater's vision for a conservative Republican party is seen as the foundation for political strategy and ideology for subsequent GOP campaigns, which paved the way for control of the White House (with the exception of the Carter and Clinton administrations), since Richard Nixon's election in 1968. Despite the loss in the election, Middendorf and others who began the "draft Goldwater" movement learned lessons that were subsequently applied with great success by the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush camps-present a clear and positive message that can attract voters regardless of party affiliation.

No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight by Tom DeLay. Sentinel, 2007.

One of the conservative Republicans who took the lessons of the Goldwater campaign to heart certainly has to be Tom DeLay, the former representative from Texas and a leader of the House of Representatives from the 1990s until his resignation in 2006, following charges of campaign finance violations. During his time in the House, he helped bring about the conservative revolution that led to Republic control of Congress as a result of the 1994 mid-term elections. In this political memoir, the unrepentant DeLay describes his early years in Texas, changes in his religious outlook that affected his personal life, and his early political career. In what for political junkies is likely to be the most fascinating part of the book, DeLay chronicles his battles as House majority whip and what he considers to be the politically motivated attacks, in the form of allegations of wrongdoing, that eventually led to his resignation from office.

A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 2007.

Bernstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, portrays the senator from New York as someone who has tried to promote her ideals while understanding the pragmatic necessity of accepting compromises, particularly in politics. Bernstein suggests that this approach is what has helped her succeed as school body president at Wellesley, law school student, First Lady (of Arkansas and of the U.S.), senator from New York, and front-running Democratic candidate for president. Based on interviews and extensive research, Bernstein's book surveys Clinton's life from childhood to the present, emphasizing her political career and her role as unofficial advisor in her husband's administration.

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