Tag Archives: President

Review: Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

Recap: LBJ was the 36th President of the United States. I like to say that separately from the fact that he was inaugurated after the assassination of John F. Kennedy because those two facts are often lumped together and LBJ deserves a little more recognition than that. Because he didn’t just step in. He changed America. He took our country through the turmoil and trauma of the 1960s. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He put into place legislation that still impact us through the present. He also entered the U.S. into the Vietnam War.

And yet, he was much more than all of this. LBJ was a tall, broad man who loved his wife Lady Bird more than anything. He was awkward at public events, but fantastic negotiating in small groups. He grew up with a deep-seeded fear of paralysis and death only to succumb to a heart attack alone – his worst fear realized. Biographer and author Doris Kearns Goodwin takes us through his entire life, from his parents and the generations before he was born to the last day of his life. She shines a light on everything he did, everything he succeeded in and failed at, and the lasting impact he’s had. She paints LBJ not only as a President, but as a person.

Analysis: Here’s the thing. I have to admit I didn’t know much about LBJ before reading this book. The extent of my knowledge was that he took over after JFK was shot. But after a trip to Austin, Texas last year and a stop at the LBJ Presidential Library, I was fascinated by everything he had done for the Civil Rights movement. Why didn’t that ring a bell? I’d never read a presidential biography before, and LBJ had piqued my interest just enough to encourage me to buy this one.

It took a long time for me to get through it – months! It’s not because it wasn’t a good book. He is a fascinating man with both good qualities and bad. And author Doris Kearns Goodwin was not only close enough with him to know him well, she’s also an excellent writer. Plus, I’m giving myself a little extra grace with how little I read this year – there was a global pandemic after all, and with everything going on in the world, I found that most days, the last thing I wanted to do was read.

The book is simply dense. There is a lot – and I mean a LOT of information – detailing each of his policies, the men he worked with, his childhood, his struggles during Vietnam, his struggles with the Kennedys. Everything you could want to know about the man is in this book. The same thing that makes it dense is the same thing that makes it delicious and fast-moving once you get into it.

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‘The Jefferson Lies’ Bestseller Dropped by Publisher for Factual Errors

It takes a lot to have a publisher completely drop an author’s book and ask that bookstores stop selling it. Such is the case with David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson.

According to Huffington Post, publisher Thomas Nelson decided to stop the presses after the bestseller took heat for having factual errors. The Jefferson Lies is Barton’s attempt at telling the “true” story of Jefferson, one that makes him seem less racist, less bigoted, and less secularist, as Meredith Bennett-Smith explains.

In an early press release for the book, Barton was depicted as a historian’s version of David, battling against the Goliath forces of secularizing liberal revisionists, USA Today notes.

“History books routinely teach that Jefferson was an anti-Christian secularist, rewriting the Bible to his liking, fathering a child with one of his slaves, and little more than another racist, bigoted colonist — but none of those claims are actually true,” the press release stated.

But as it turned out, many of Barton’s claims were hard to verify, and in July the book was voted “the least credible history book in print,” by readers of the History News Network.

Religious groups were starting to organize protests, while other religious experts condemned Barton’s writing. Now it’s finally come to a head. The book is still available through Amazon, but Thomas Nelson has stopped new shipments, recalled copies from bookstores and asked other retailers to stop selling the e-book.

I don’t know about you, but all this controversy actually makes me want to read the book more than ever. Am I the only curious one? What do you guys think?

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Children’s Books by Washington Wives

It’s everywhere lately, and it’s only going to become more prominent: politics. In this big political year, the men — and women — of Washington are doing what they can to inform the people. But those people also include children. Now children’s books written by the wives of the politically powerful men in Washington, D.C. are all the rage, the newest political trend.

According to this article by The New York Times, former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill, is publishing Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops under Simon & Schuster. The profits from her book will go toward charities for military families.

But Jill Biden isn’t the first to touch on this seemingly strange, but actually brilliant form of political campaigning. Laura Bush and Hilary Clinton have both written children’s books. So have Callista Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, and Carole Geithner, Timothy Geithner’s wife. And for that matter, it’s not just wives who are jumping on the bandwagon; it’s also daughters like Jenna Bush and Caroline Kennedy.

Most of the books have political undertones, which is why this election year, there seem to be more “Washington Wife Children’s Books” than ever. It’s all part of the process as Pamela Paul explains.

“Picture books and books for tweens are always a great way to put complex issues like politics into a context that young children can understand,” [HarperCollins Children’s Books editor-in-chief Kate Jackson] said. “They get the conversation going.” For Washington wives, writing a children’s book has become almost an expected spousal counterpart to the politician’s campaign tract or argument book. “Spouses have one mandatory obligation — ‘First Do No Harm’ — and one optional assignment: provide a positive magnifying force,” Mary Matalin, editor at large for Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, and a former member of Dick Cheney’s staff, wrote in an e-mail. “Children’s books fulfill both.”

Not all the books are political — like Carole Geithner’s, for instance. But for those that are, it’s a smart move because it not only teaches children about politics in an understandable way; it also gives children something to talk about with their parents. And that makes those voting adults think even harder about who they’re voting for, and what those people represent.

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Review: The Audacity of Hope

***Note: This is a political book (my first). As a journalist, I’ve tried to maintain an unbiased view and write an impartial account of this book.

Recap: In then-Senator Barack Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama addresses a multitude of topics, clearly paving the way for his Presidential campaign. Obama details his journey through politics — why he decided to run for Senator, his failed run for Congress, and what it was like to take office in the U.S. Senate.

But the book isn’t only a story about how he got where he is. It also details his plan for America, the plan that he hopes would steer the country back in the “right” direction. That plan includes changes to national healthcare and education, a bipartisan relationship between Republicans and Democrats, and restructuring of the U.S. economy. To put it bluntly, Audacity touches on the issues that Obama is still speaking about to date. The book was published just months before announcing his run for President, and that’s obvious here. After all, all of his platforms are covered and discussed in depth. He talks about his meetings with constituents, his travels around Illinois, his view of things, and his plans to change things.

Intertwined among what reads like a speech are some personal anecdotes that we long to read more about.

Analysis: As audacious as Obama claims hope is, he still appears rather hopeful throughout the book — hopeful, but realistic. He sounds optimistic about the future of America, though he emphasizes the harsh reality of what’s wrong with the national system. He maintains that a great deal must be altered before the United States can reach its full potential.

Aside from his political platform, Obama also uses the book to describe the work of past Presidents — that which he admires and that which he doesn’t. To be quite honest, I lost interest at these parts. My lack of familiarity with the work of former Presidents and my minimal knowledge of politics made it hard for me to keep up.

But what I enjoyed were the poignant pieces of Obama’s personal life that he chose to share — moments he’s had with daughters, how he met Michelle, the First Lady, and one of the encounters he had with former President George W. Bush. Much like he did during his Presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008, Obama wins the reader over with his passion and down-to-earth likability. Especially in retrospect, I didn’t care to hear about Obama plans for Presidency, but rather what he’s like in the “real world.” The same appeal that won votes in 2008 is what wins readers here.

Get The Audacity of Hope for just $7.99.

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