Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

Overview

The New York Times bestseller about the historic dealings between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill—“A superb tribute to the neglected art of compromise” (Daily News (New York)).

Tip and the Gipper is an “entertaining and insightful” (The Wall Street Journal) 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 top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who waged a principled war of ...

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Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

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Overview

The New York Times bestseller about the historic dealings between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill—“A superb tribute to the neglected art of compromise” (Daily News (New York)).

Tip and the Gipper is an “entertaining and insightful” (The Wall Street Journal) 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 top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who waged a principled war of political ideals with President Ronald Reagan from 1980 to 1986. Together, the two men became one of history’s most celebrated political pairings—the epitome of how ideological opposites can get things done.

When Reagan was elected to the presidency in a landslide victory over Jimmy Carter, Speaker O’Neill was 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 cutting the size of government programs and lowering tax rates. 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, their common cause, set a course toward peace in Northern Ireland. Through it all they maintained respect for each other’s positions and worked to advance the country rather than obstruct progress.

At the time of congressional gridlock, Tip and the Gipper stands as model behavior worthy of study by journalists, academics, and students of the political process for years to come. “This book is an invitation to join Tip and the Gipper in tall tales about how grand it was in the old country” (The Washington Post).

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Publically, they attacked one another: House Speaker "Tip" O'Neill called Ronald Reagan the host of "one big Christmas party for the rich and the president returned the favor by likening Tip to Pac-Man, "a round thing that gobbles up money." In private, they were bantering friends and sometimes partners; finding compromises to save Social Security, enable tax reforms, and forge bonds with Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev. MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews saw this strange synergy up close: For six years, he served as a top aide for O'Neill. In this stereotype-breaking book, he describes how two savvy politicians beat the Washington gridlock that we now all know so well.

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."
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"
New York Daily News - Stanley Crouch
“A superb tribute to the neglected art of compromise.”
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."
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.)
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.""

"

"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.""

"

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.)

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: 9781451696004
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 10/7/2014
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 356,564

Meet the Author

Chris Matthews is anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball. He is author of Tip and the Gipper, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Kennedy and Nixon, Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think, American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions, and Hardball: How Politics Is Played By One Who Knows The Game.

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Read an Excerpt

Tip and the Gipper

“Jody’s a soldier.”

Chief speechwriter Rick Hertzberg’s final salute to Jimmy Carter’s finest warrior. When all was lost, we still had to face the dawn.

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Table of Contents


"Preface xiii

Chapter One Death of a Presidency

1 (16)

Chapter Two Starting Out

17 (10)

Chapter Three Starring Ronald Reagan

27 (14)

Chapter Four New Kid on the Block

41 (10)

Chapter Five Joining the Fight

51 (16)

Chapter Six The Lord is My Shepherd

67 (10)

Chapter Seven Ronald Reagan's Journey

77 (18)

Chapter Eight The Rise of Tip O'Neill

95 (20)

Chapter Nine Hero

115 (18)

Chapter Ten Fighting Season

133 (16)

Chapter Eleven Battlefield Promotion

149 (16)

Chapter Twelve Turning

165 (16)

Chapter Thirteen Summit

181 (26)

Chapter Fourteen Partners

207 (18)

Chapter Fifteen Tip at the Top

225 (18)

Chapter Sixteen Deal

243 (16)

Chapter Seventeen Lebanon and Grenada

259 (26)

Chapter Eighteen Victory and Survival

285 (24)

Chapter Nineteen Mikhail Gorbachev

309 (20)

Chapter Twenty Hurrah!

329 (10)

Chapter Twenty-One Common Ground

339 (8) "

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