MAN OF THE HOUSE: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill by Tip with William Novak O'Neill
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MAN OF THE HOUSE: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill

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Unlike most political figures who retire and toil arduously at their memoirs for years, O'Neill has produced his memoirs (with the help of lacocca's ghostwriter) only six months after his retirement as House Speaker--either a remarkable feat of the computer age, a testament to O'Neill's foresight, or an example of shabby research. One fears the latter. This seems a hastily slapped-together collection of every anecdote that the ex-Speaker could recall from his five decades of political life: we get unexpurgated Tip, but sadly, we get little soul-searching or subjectivity. Permeating the book is a sense of the jollity of politics--politics as fun and games, in essence--giving it an out-of-place feel in an era that has witnessed so many Congressional committees summoned to investigate moral and political improprieties (O'Neill tells of fund-raising for JFK in the 1960 primary elections, only to have Kennedy tell him to give the checks to his aide, but hand the cash over to him). In any memoir, one looks for the author's capsule summaries of his peers. Here, O'Neill is always ready to satisfy--for example, Bobby Kennedy: ""I never really liked him, I'm sure the feeling was mutual. To me, he was a self-important upstart and a know-it-all."" JFK: ""What I remember most. . .was how he just hated to be criticized. . .he had such a thin skin!. . . He hated crowds. When we went into a hall together, he'd immediately look for the back door."" O'Neill shatters Nixon's well-worn reputation as a skillful poker player, saying he was too gregarious and didn't pay attention, and then, when he lost, ""he'd holler and complain. . .any guy who hollers over a forty-dollar pot has no business being president."" LBJ: ""If Kennedy's political style was in his head, Johnson's was in his blood."" As for the current incumbent, the ex-Speaker considers Reagan to be the worst of the eight presidents under whom he served while in Congress, a man incapable of growth beyond his cherished simplistic canards. To be kind, you can think of this as spirited conversation around the poker table, providing an interesting night with crusty Tip.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1987
Publisher: Random House