Every once in awhile I get offered freebies by PR people hoping to get plugged on First Draft. Most of the time it’s for stuff I’m not interested in: books on the supernatural, right wing tracts, stuff like that. Occasionally, I ask for the free book, dvd or whatever, give them my snail mail address and never hear back. I don’t care enough to call them out specifically but I dislike people who offer something and blow you off.
That endless opening paragraph leads up to this: I got an email from Simon & Schuster offering me a copy of Tip and The Gipper by Chris Matthews and they actually sent it to me. I know some of my fellow bloggers aren’t Tweety fans but I quite like him. Yes, he can be deeply annoying but he’s very human unlike many of the robotic newspeeps on one’s teevee screen. He’s also a blurter, which means you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. Spontaneous thy name is Tweety.
As to the book itself, I really liked it. I’m a big fan of the “staffer as fly on the wall” memoir genre and this is a good one. Tweety is actually harder on Reagan than some of the punditry I’ve read would suggest: the back and forth between Reagan and the book’s hero, Tip O’Neill, got very heated at times because they both had strong beliefs and convictions. Did they compromise in the national interest? Yes, but some of the book’s strongest passages are about the Speaker’s spirited opposition to Reganomics and his idiotic and damaging Central Amercian policies.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tip O’Neill several times during the period covered by the book. By the time I met him, he’d stopped underestimating the Reagan appeal and had learned how to deal with it. I was in awe of the Speaker. He was a hulking bear of a man with hands that could have palmed a basketball and an iron grip. My father was convinced you could judge a man by his handshake and Tip O’Neill passed with flying colors.
My main takeaway from Tweety’s timely Tip tome is not the CW about the O’Neill-Reagan relationship, the whole “pals after 6PM” thing. It was both leader’s ability to deliver their people because they reflected the views of their respective parties so well, like Nancy Pelosi and unlike the hapless John Boehner. O’Neill and Reagan were able to deal because their supporters trusted them to do the right thing even if it involved compromise. Today Reagan would be denounced as a sell-out by the wingers who claim to idolize him.
While Tip and The Gipper didn’t send a thrill up my leg, it’s a good read and well worth checking out.