Tip O'Neill is a ""sentimental, God-loving, old-fashioned gentleman and patriot""--and that's the worst we hear in this sugar-coated portrait. Congressional Quarterly's Paul Clancy and Shirley Elder of Media General News Service begin with O'Neill's Cambridge childhood (stepmother, knuckle-rapping nuns, father on the City Council), 1937 election to the Massachusetts Legislature, marriage four years later (he sings ""Apple Blossom Time"" to his wife every anniversary), and Congressional election as JFK's replacement. Never one for press releases and spotlights, O'Neill catered instead to his constituents, we are told; and still his House climb continued--Democratic Whip, Majority Leader after Hale Boggs' death, Speaker in 1977 after Carl Albert's retirement. Known as a party loyalist, O'Neill stunned LBJ by opposing the Vietnam War in 1967, and is reportedly pleased to be presiding at the upcoming National Convention so he can remain neutral re Carter and Kennedy. The authors find O'Neill a powerful House Speaker because he acts ""like he was in charge,"" and we see him rescuing the new Education Department from House defeat. The only sour notes are birthday parties thrown him by Tongsun Park and the suggestion that O'Neill may be particularly accessible to generous-campaign contributors. Standard stuff with, believe it or not, no explanation of the name ""Tip.