RaveThe Washington PostThere was no one like John McCain. But readers may come away from Mark Salter’s outstanding and frequently moving biography of the late Republican senator wondering if the absence of anyone remotely like McCain from our current politics says more about him or us ... Other McCain biographies have offered more detailed histories of his early upbringing as the son and grandson of legendary Navy admirals, his headstrong youth and training at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, his combat service in the Vietnam War, and his five years of imprisonment and torture in Hanoi. The advantage of Salter’s account, The Luckiest Man, is that he was able, as McCain’s aide and confidant, to ask the senator over years of close observation about how these experiences shaped his character, outlook and politics ... Salter’s psychological portrait of McCain is informed and convincing.
Jacob S. Hacker
PositiveThe Washington PostThe authors have a knack for synthesizing complicated academic studies and explaining them concisely for popular audiences. They make particularly good use of political scientist Daniel Ziblatt’s work on the historical role played by European conservative parties in nascent democracies ... The authors’ analysis doesn’t adequately account for phenomena such as compassionate conservatism, intraparty fights over issues such as reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank or policy proposals such as a border adjustment tax that pitted large corporate interests against one another. Nonetheless, Hacker and Pierson accurately describe an overarching pattern of the super-rich using the Republican Party to tilt the American economy and political life in their favor ... Those who would resist this development should carefully consider the analysis that Hacker and Pierson lay out in such convincing and depressing detail.
Julian E Zelizer
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAlthough Burning Down the House is not the first history to cast Gingrich as lead assassin in the murder of bipartisanship and effective governance, it is an insightful if deeply unflattering portrait of Gingrich himself, highlighting his signature traits of arrogance, ferocity, amorality and shoulder-shrugging indifference to truth. It’s not surprising that Gingrich declined the author’s interview request. And the book’s narrow time frame, which stops well short of Gingrich’s leading the House Republicans to their 1994 electoral triumph and his subsequent elevation as speaker, supplies a detailed and nuanced historical context that makes Gingrich’s actions more understandable if not excusable ... Zelizer provides a moving description of Wright’s farewell address, in which the resigning speaker decried the \'mindless cannibalism\' that had overtaken politics, and he delivers an eloquent indictment of all those responsible for Wright’s downfall.