Tip O’Neill’s memoirs still hold up 25 years later

Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill .Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O’Neill . by Tip O’Neill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was helpful in learning more about the U.S. House of Representatives.
It was very instructive to learn about the Speaker’s frustrations in dealing with various white houses. It sounds like Carter’s staff was extremely aloof and hard to work with, while Reagan’s staff was very diligent.

The book is strong on stories and light on analysis. Tip looks back on the highlights of his career but doesn’t get very deep. It certainly paints O’Neill as a saint. There are a lot of insightful observations and funny anecdotes. The conversational tone makes his garrulous Irish uncle voice come through.

In spite of the breezy tone, this book is able to bring across the essences of political characters and events. Tip’s own experiences help colorize well-known historical events and people (Michael Curly, ABSCAM, Watergate, Iran Hostage crisis). There are some passages, though, that are third hand stories presented as fact. For instance, he talks about a meeting between Einstein and Roosevelt about the atom bomb. None of Einstein’s biographers think that such a meeting ever took place.

It was interesting to read about the early days of C-Span in doing so learn that Gingrich has always been a rat:

I happened to be watching in my office one afternoon as Newt Gingrich was taking advantage of special orders to attack Eddie Boland’s voting record and to cast aspersions on his patriotism. The camera focused on Gingrich, and anybody watching at home would have thought that Eddie was sitting there, listening to all of this. Periodically, Gingrich would challenge Boland on some point, and then would step back, as if waiting for Eddie to answer. But Boland had left hours ago, along with everybody else in the place.

The next day, when Robert Walker of Pennsylvania tried something similar, I called Charlie Rose, the member in charge of television in the House, and told him I thought the cameras should pan the entire chamber. Charlie informed the camera crew, and when they showed the empty hall, Walker looked like a fool.

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