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Tip O' Neill and the Democratic Century: A Biography
by John A. Farrell

Reviewed by Joseph M. Giardiello

A Leader Ahead and Behind His Times

Let's get one thing straight right now: It is impossible to write a book about an important contemporary political figure and not let your personal bias show through.

And John Farrell in Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century is no different. Throughout, even when chronicling some of the less than honorable dealings of the former Speaker, Ferrell's personal belief in the ideals and goals of Tip O'Neill show through. For instance, the book accepts the O'Neill mantra that the middle class was somehow created by the Democratic Party.

But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable to read.

O'Neill is presented as he actually was. A man ahead of his time, part of his time, and ultimately, a dinosaur given one last chance to shine in the Reagan years.

By far, the most enjoyable part of the book is the telling of Tip's early years. While some may find it hard to believe Tip's home state of Massachusetts was ever Republican, O'Neill was the first Democratic Speaker of the Massachusetts house in history.

As he climbed his way up the U.S. House leadership, O'Neill was an ardent anti-Communist who was one of the key members to finally tire of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and switch to oppose the war.

Farrell also clearly outlines the lost opportunities of the Carter years. Initially, the House leadership was eager to work with a Democratic president after 8 years of Nixon and Ford. The honeymoon didn't last long as the "Georgia Boys" and old mules on the Hill quickly found themselves involved in time-wasting power struggles.

There are some drawbacks. Aside from the author's bias that is easy enough to discern, the book glosses over some important events of the 1980's. For instance, the S&L mess, which O'Neill bears a large part of responsibility for, is covered in less than one paragraph.

But overall, it is a quick read, despite it heft, and you'll be wishing for more by the time you turn the last page.








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