Sunday, January 20, 2013

Five notable books on second terms

Tevi Troy is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute and a writer and consultant on health care and domestic policy. His book, What Washington Read, Eisenhower Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House, will be published in the fall of 2013.

One of five books on successful presidential second terms Troy tagged for the Wall Street Journal:
The Nightingale's Song
by Robert Timberg (1995)

William Safire suggested in 1983 that Ronald Reagan step down after one term, à la Polk, having accomplished many of his top domestic goals. Many Americans—certainly most Republicans—are glad that he didn't do so, but if he had, he would have been spared the embarrassment of the Iran-Contra affair. Robert Timberg's "The Nightingale's Song" provides telling portraits of some of the key players inside the national-security establishment at the time: Oliver North, James Webb, Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter, and Sen. John McCain. All five were graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Timberg writes, and "shared a seemingly unassailable certainty. They believed in America." Timberg shows how this shared belief was challenged over time, from their earliest days at the Academy through their time in the Reagan administration. The most compelling vignette concerns a championship boxing match between North and Webb, while they were both midshipmen, in which North grittily bested the heavily favored Webb. Through it all, "The Nightingale's Song" succeeds in leaving a strong impression that the headaches of a second term might indeed make Safire's advice seem like sound counsel.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue