Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

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by Chris Matthews
     
 

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TIP AND THE GIPPER is a magnificent personal history of a time when two great political opponents served together for the benefit of the country. Chris Matthews was an eyewitness to this story as a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who waged a principled war of political ideals with President Reagan from 1980 to 1986. Together, the two menSee more details below

Overview

TIP AND THE GIPPER is a magnificent personal history of a time when two great political opponents served together for the benefit of the country. Chris Matthews was an eyewitness to this story as a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who waged a principled war of political ideals with President Reagan from 1980 to 1986. Together, the two men forged compromises that shaped America’s future and became one of history’s most celebrated political pairings—the epitome of how ideological opposites can get things done.

When Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency in a landslide victory over Jimmy Carter (for whom Matthews had worked as a speechwriter), Speaker O’Neill realized Americans had voted for a change. For the first time in his career, O’Neill also found himself thrust into the national spotlight as the highest-ranking leader of the Democratic Party—the most visible and respected challenger to President Reagan’s agenda of shrinking the government and lowering taxes.

At first, O’Neill doubted his ability to compete on the public stage with the charming Hollywood actor, whose polished speeches played well on TV, a medium O’Neill had never mastered. Over time, the burly Irishman learned how to fight the popular president on his key issues, relying on legislative craftiness, strong rhetoric, and even guerrilla theater. “An old dog can learn new tricks,” Tip told his staff. Of O’Neill, one of his colleagues said, “If Martians came into the House chamber, they’d know instantly who the leader was.”

Meanwhile, President Reagan proved to be a much more effective and savvy leader than his rivals had ever expected, achieving major legislative victories on taxes and the federal budget. Reagan and his allies knew how to work the levers of power in Washington. After showing remarkable personal fortitude in the wake of the assassination attempt against him, Reagan never let his political differences with Democrats become personal. He was fond of the veteran Speaker’s motto that political battles ended at 6 p.m. So when he would phone O’Neill, he would say, “Hello, Tip, is it after six o’clock?”

Together, the two leaders fought over the major issues of the day—welfare, taxes, covert military operations, and Social Security—but found their way to agreements that reformed taxes, saved Social Security, and achieved their common cause of bringing peace to Northern Ireland. O’Neill’s quiet behind-the-scenes support helped Reagan forge his historic Cold War–ending bond with Mikhail Gor­bachev. They each won some and lost some, and through it all they maintained respect for each other’s positions and worked to advance the country rather than obstruct progress.

As Matthews notes, “There is more than one sort of heroic behavior, and they don’t all look the same.” Tip and the Gipper is the story of the kind of heroism we need today.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
01/01/2014
Perhaps best known today as the host of the MSNBC show Hardball, Matthews (Jack Kennedy) was once an aide to Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, an old-school urban Democrat. When Ronald Reagan came to power, O'Neill became the highest-ranking opposition leader to the Great Communicator. Matthews narrates the story of how these ideological opposites found ways to achieve such political goals as reforming taxes and saving Social Security—all without screaming insults at each other. Although Matthews's gift of gab serves him well here, the book would have benefited from a leaner edit. VERDICT Given the current political climate, listeners may enjoy hearing a story devoted to the art of compromise.—Kelly Sinclair, Temple P.L., TX
Publishers Weekly
09/30/2013
MSNBC host Matthews (Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero) draws from his personal journals, President Reagan's diary, and Speaker O'Neill's press conference transcripts to bring 1980s politics back to life. Matthews begins with the vastly different backgrounds of the two men. He contrasts their styles and politics before moving through the Reagan years in a highly-detailed narrative. Matthews's' thesis is that the government's functionality at the time is largely attributed to the relationship of Reagan and 'O'Neill, who both used the check-and-balance design of their positions to "propel the republic forward—even when the will of the people was different from his own." Readers relive the attempted assassination, the air traffic control strike, and the Iran-Contra affair, all presented in Matthews's easy, conversational style. Matthews offers little direct commentary on today's contrasting "government by tantrum," allowing the events and personalities to speak for themselves; an acceptable omission, given the numerous examples of cooperation he cites concerning Social Security, the budget and taxes, and foreign policy. Part history, part Washington inside story, part career memoir, this inspiring story of two remarkable men is recommended for political junkies and insiders alike. (Oct.)
New York Daily News - Stanley Crouch
“A superb tribute to the neglected art of compromise.”
From the Publisher

"Kirkus Reviews

2013-09-15

An amiable but tough-minded political ramble with TV pundit Matthews (Jack Kennedy, 2011, etc.), who records a political mood clearly in need of revival. ""Don't get caught obstructing the political process. Give Reagan his chance."" So said an aide to Thomas O'Neill, Speaker of the House during the Reagan presidency. O'Neill, as anyone who remembers him will recall, was a blustering, tough Bostonian who came up through the ranks of Congress, a consummate political insider; Reagan, by contrast, liked to portray himself as an outsider somehow innocent of the machine. Yet Reagan also knew a number of things that kept his popularity reasonably high during his terms--for one, that Americans like to feel good about themselves, which he played to the hilt. His politics are still being played out today in the suspicion of all government programs and the conviction that all taxes are bad, which led to what now seems a curious accommodation between O'Neill and Reagan. In trying to push through one set of proposals that involved an increase on some taxpayers, Reagan faced a revolt in his own party and required O'Neill's help in enlisting sufficient Democratic votes to ""sell the public a budget with so large a deficit."" Though it was not all beer and skittles (""Tip refused to let me speak to the House,"" Reagan recorded in his diary. ""I'm going to rub his nose in this one""), that accommodation spoke to what Matthews regards as a bygone bipartisan spirit that, as he notes, was like gladiatorial combat in that it made each opponent seem stronger and better in the contest simply for each to be up against the other--especially two opponents who liked to out-Irish each other. The idea of compromise and reconciliation being anathema these days, it's no wonder nothing happens on the Hill. Matthews' solid book points to a way out for ""people who care about our republic.""

"

Publishers Weekly

09/30/2013

MSNBC host Matthews (Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero) draws from his personal journals, President Reagan's diary, and Speaker O'Neill's press conference transcripts to bring 1980s politics back to life. Matthews begins with the vastly different backgrounds of the two men. He contrasts their styles and politics before moving through the Reagan years in a highly-detailed narrative. Matthews's' thesis is that the government's functionality at the time is largely attributed to the relationship of Reagan and 'O'Neill, who both used the check-and-balance design of their positions to ""propel the republic forward--even when the will of the people was different from his own."" Readers relive the attempted assassination, the air traffic control strike, and the Iran-Contra affair, all presented in Matthews's easy, conversational style. Matthews offers little direct commentary on today's contrasting ""government by tantrum,"" allowing the events and personalities to speak for themselves; an acceptable omission, given the numerous examples of cooperation he cites concerning Social Security, the budget and taxes, and foreign policy. Part history, part Washington inside story, part career memoir, this inspiring story of two remarkable men is recommended for political junkies and insiders alike. (Oct.)

"Mother Jones - David Corn

""[A] gripping, behind-the-scenes, first-person account. . . . Though he was a front-row participant in the story, he admirably adopts an even-handed approach (not shying away from pointing out O'Neill's missteps) to serve up his big point: political combat is necessary and important for the nation, but it need not be self-destructive and nuclear. . . . Matthews is providing a public service by recounting an era when even the most ardent partisan gladiators could bend toward pragmatism.""

"

Washington Post - Howell Raines
“A fortuitous pairing of subject and author. . . Matthews’s account is pleasant reading, both useful and entertaining. . . The book succeeds in making Boehner’s, or the tea party’s, House look like a confederacy of dunces, addicted to 'government by tantrum.' Praise for Reagan’s skill at reaching across party lines also contrasts with President Obama’s stand-offish image. Their clashes looked feverish at the time, but this book is an invitation to join Tip and the Gipper in tall tales about how grand it was in the old country."
Mother Jones - David Corn
"[A] gripping, behind-the-scenes, first-person account. . . . Though he was a front-row participant in the story, he admirably adopts an even-handed approach (not shying away from pointing out O'Neill's missteps) to serve up his big point: political combat is necessary and important for the nation, but it need not be self-destructive and nuclear. . . . Matthews is providing a public service by recounting an era when even the most ardent partisan gladiators could bend toward pragmatism."
Politico.com - Mike Allen
"Chris Matthews draws on his 30-year-old journals for [a] rich new book on Ronald Reagan, Tip O'Neill"
author of Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century - John Farrell
"Matthews gives us an engaging, inside perspective (with creditable modesty about his own important role) of the mighty struggle between Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill, and how they bent, when they had to, to the national interest. There are many books written by Reagan's White House staffers, but this is the only account (aside from O'Neill's charming memoir) from inside the Speaker's office, and a valuable addition to American political history."
Library Journal
The subtitle is certainly telling. Matthews, Tip O'Neill's former chief of staff for six years and now seen on the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, portrays a civilized friendship between O'Neill and President Reagan even though their politics could not have been more different.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
An amiable but tough-minded political ramble with TV pundit Matthews (Jack Kennedy, 2011, etc.), who records a political mood clearly in need of revival. "Don't get caught obstructing the political process. Give Reagan his chance." So said an aide to Thomas O'Neill, Speaker of the House during the Reagan presidency. O'Neill, as anyone who remembers him will recall, was a blustering, tough Bostonian who came up through the ranks of Congress, a consummate political insider; Reagan, by contrast, liked to portray himself as an outsider somehow innocent of the machine. Yet Reagan also knew a number of things that kept his popularity reasonably high during his terms--for one, that Americans like to feel good about themselves, which he played to the hilt. His politics are still being played out today in the suspicion of all government programs and the conviction that all taxes are bad, which led to what now seems a curious accommodation between O'Neill and Reagan. In trying to push through one set of proposals that involved an increase on some taxpayers, Reagan faced a revolt in his own party and required O'Neill's help in enlisting sufficient Democratic votes to "sell the public a budget with so large a deficit." Though it was not all beer and skittles ("Tip refused to let me speak to the House," Reagan recorded in his diary. "I'm going to rub his nose in this one"), that accommodation spoke to what Matthews regards as a bygone bipartisan spirit that, as he notes, was like gladiatorial combat in that it made each opponent seem stronger and better in the contest simply for each to be up against the other--especially two opponents who liked to out-Irish each other. The idea of compromise and reconciliation being anathema these days, it's no wonder nothing happens on the Hill. Matthews' solid book points to a way out for "people who care about our republic."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442368668
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
10/01/2013
Edition description:
Unabridged
Pages:
10
Sales rank:
634,575
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 5.98(h) x 0.96(d)

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