Sunday, February 14, 2010

Politics and President's Day Read

"If the incompetent and corrupt politicians would only follow the example of their ancestors, enter a herd of swine, run down some steep bank and drown themselves in the sea, there would be some hope of saving the country."

I was almost halfway through the latest book when I realized it is February and my book choice was appropriate for several reasons.
1. President's Day
2. Abraham Lincoln's B-day.
3. The present state of politics/war in America.

This week's book was Tried By War by James M. McPherson. It purports to detail Abe Lincoln as Commander in Chief. I think it ends up being a chronicle of the battles of the civil war and the correspondence between the various generals and Lincoln. This does not seem to detail the various books Abe read in his "crash course" in military strategy, nor his supposed precedence shattering interpretation/approach to the constitutional vagary of "Commander in Chief." Overall, I think I was expecting something different. It was, however, a good, if not incredibly detailed, overview of the civil war from a "fresh" perspective (I use that term loosely, if not sarcastically).

The best thing about the book was the above quote, stated by Gen. Henry W. Halleck, for whom, it seemed, hypocrisy knew no bounds, in that regard. The frustrating thing about reading about the civil war from the perspective of someone pulling for the North, is the constant political games that must be played in Washington. These games were not new in Lincoln's day and are not beneficially altered by the passage of 150 years. Sadly, the war was almost lost a number of times by the sheer political maneuvering of a few generals, rather than a single-minded focus on bringing the fight to the enemy and defeating the rebellion as soon as possible (Lincoln’s strategy, by the way). Every time I read about Gen. McClellan I want to go all papal court on him and start googling his burial plot. He should have been brought up on charges of treason and shot, but, as always, politics saved him. AHHH!

Lincoln remains the hero of presidents, as he always does. He won the war, he saved the Union, he is to be praised. What does not get noticed, is his unsteady hand in the area of human resources. He often played the political games of the day, keeping at best, inefficient and at worst, treasonous men in positions of power. It reminded me of an interview I heard whilst reading this book regarding Reagan. It seems he had someone on his staff who was so incompetent that Reagan refused to fire him because he felt sorry for him and said something to the effect of, “we can’t let him go, no one would hire him.” In my humble opinion, in government, there is no room for the undesirables. No one is perfect, but constant tomfoolery in the White House is unacceptable.
Rating: 3
Side note: Lincoln book that received a 7: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin


No comments:

Post a Comment