Holiday gifts for political junkies – By George J. Marlin

 The following appears in the December 16-22, 2011 issue of the Long Island Business News:

For readers who enjoy, as I do, giving books as Christmas presents to political junkie friends and relatives, here’s my 2011 gift book picks:

“Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism” by Carl T. Bogus (Bloomsbury Press, $30). This is a fair and balanced study of the man who founded America’s modern Conservative movement in the 1950s. Bogus explains how Buckley’s wit, charm, integrity and drive united conservative factions and paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election. Buckley’s basic political rule has proven to be wise advice, “Support the most conservative presidential candidate who can win.”

“James Madison” by Richard Brookhiser (Basic Books, $26.99). This is Brookhiser’s fifth succinct book on America’s founding icons. “James Madison” is a penetrating portrayal of one of America’s smartest politicians and its most brilliant political philosopher. Brookhiser elegantly describes how the co-author of the “Federalist Papers” shepherded the Bill of Rights through the First Congress and guided the nation to victory in the War of 1812.

“1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America” by David Pietrusza (Union Square Press, $24.95). This Albany-based historian has written a fine narrative on how the accidental president outfoxed the political establishment and won a stunning upset victory. Truman, by sheer tenacity, beat back the challenges of lackluster New York Gov. Tom Dewey, the communist-dominated Progressive Party’s candidate Henry Wallace and segregationist Dixiecrat Strom Thurman.

“Eisenhower: The White House Years” by Jim Newton (Doubleday, $29.95). The veteran journalist, utilizing newly declassified documents, debunks the notion that Eisenhower was a caretaker president. During his two terms in office, Ike maintained the peace, kept the Communists in check and refused to commit troops to Vietnam. Eisenhower was a meticulous manager who built the American economy and balanced the federal budget.

“George F. Kennan: An American Life” by John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin Press, $39.95). This is a magisterial biography of the man who created the post-World War II “containment policy.” Much of the credit for America’s Cold War victory over the Soviet Union goes to Kennan. Gaddis gets to the essence of this moody but brilliant foreign policy analyst, diplomat and historian. It is a long read – 700 pages – but worth the effort.

“Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth” by Frederick Kempe (Putnam, $29.95). This gripping book describes how the untested John F. Kennedy was rolled by the crude but cagey Soviet dictator during his first year in office. Fortunately, JFK turned to America’s greatest Cold Warrior, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, for a tutorial on handling Soviet blustering. Acheson’s advice paid off during the Cuban missile crisis.

“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President” by Ron Suskind (Harper, $29.99). The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist describes how the fractious Obama White House struggled to deal with the economic crisis. Suskind portrays Obama as a weak manager who preferred lecturing adoring audiences than governing.

No matter which side of the fireplace political junkies hang their stockings – right or left – I’m confident they’ll find these books to be terrific reads.

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