Reviews of Political Books
[note: Titles in green are of current issue.]
On this page (click on the topic):
Boss, Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko (1971), 215 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover.
"This is a definitive work and portrait of a successful political machine and the man in control, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Exceptionally readable and never boring, this book takes the reader inside the politics, the machine, and the man ... "duh mare ... hizzoner ...". This is no hagiography [see Archives webpage, definitions] and Royko pulls no punches. It is a brutally realistic picture of how an autocratic political machine runs, down to the smallest detail ... all of which Daley supervised. Especially the details of patronage. Some of Royko's lines have relevance today as when they were written thirty years ago, in explaining ethnic prejudice, part of the urban scene: 'The ethnic states [Royko means "neighborhoods"] got along just about as pleasantly as did the nations of Europe. ... the immigrants brought along all of their old prejudices, and immediately picked up some new ones. An Irishman who came here hating only the Englishman and Irish Protestants soon hated Poles, Italians and blacks. A Pole who was free arrived hating only Jews and Russians, but soon learned to hate the Irish, the Italians, and the blacks.' Here, also, is a good look at how the political machines work and the role that patronage plays. When confronted with a challenge to his (Daley's) authority, he brought governmental machinery to bear with such force as to make Nixon's enemies list and attempts to use the I.R.S., look amateurish. There's another, important lesson in Royko's book: that the Fourth Estate, The Press, must provide leadership in keeping government open and honest. In Daley's Chicago, the three branches of government were seamless and unseparated, providing absolute power for the man controlling the machine, the 'Boss'. 3.9#" - hcl
American Pharaoh -Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor (2000), 614 pp., 23 cm./ 9 in., hardcover.
This work is a most thoroughly researched study of the massive, powerful, ruthless, wasteful political machine that the late Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, amassed. It controlled Chicago down to the smallest political act and encouraged corruption on a scale unmatched anywhere in the U.S.
(Yes, it even outdid the folks in Boston and Jersey.)
In chronological order authors Cohen and Taylor plough through the smallest details of machine organization and operation. Contains 42 pages of notes; 14 pages of index (real small type and lots of detail ... this reviewer likes a good index which is a mark of a solid work of non-fiction).
American Pharaohnicely complements Royko’s Boss (see previous review) in describing how Daley acquired power for its own sake while doing some good for Chicago and much, much more damage to the city and particularly its growing and immense minority population.
The best summary of Daley’s legacy is found in the last words of the last chapter, to wit:
“To millions of Chicagoans ... he embodied the spirit of their city as no man ever had -- optimistic, determined, hardworking, God-fearing, and rooted in family and neighborhood. He gave them jobs [mainly via corrupt patronage and at great cost to taxpayers], stood up for their way of life [buttressed their bigotry and discrimination against fellow Americans] against threats from all sides [by keeping their ethnic neighborhoods “pure” through malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance], and made their city work [at terrific cost through graft and waste to the taxpayers: city, county, state, and federal].
But Daley would also be remembered by millions of others, who saw in his career the dark side of modern America. They viewed him as the master of a corrupt political system, backward-looking, power-hungry, and bigoted, who ruled in the name of -some groups and at the expense of others. They saw him as someone who had built a city founded on unfairness, and who was deaf
to calls for change.”
This book should be required reading for all citizens since, over the years, we as a society have forgotten most of the clean government efforts that have been made by honest and progressive politicians; e.g., the LaFollettes, Roosevelts, and Milwaukee’s own Socialist mayors Hoan and Zeidler.#4 - the highest possible rating. hcl
The Founding Father: The Story of Joseph P. Kennedy and the family he raised to power by Richard J. Whalen (1964) The New American Library, NYC, NY, 532 pp., 18 cm. / 7.3 in., paperback, $unknown.
"Fascinating reading; illustrates with pithy detail the effort and resources use to obtain election success (for Kennedy family); many useful lessons. 4#" - hcl
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (1979) Coward, McCann & Geohegan, Inc., NYC, NY 886 pp., 24 cm. / 9.5, hardcover, $unknown.
"Need a hero? T.R.'s a good one and a model of the person we'd all like to be. Well documented with a decent index. The last lines of the book are, 'As he ate his sandwiches he saw below him in the trees a ranger approaching, running, clutching the yellow slip of a telegram. Instinctively, he knew what message the man was bringing.' The message was, of course, that President McKinley had succumbed to an assassin's bullet. The book begins with T.R.'s birth, moves through his growing years and political career up to his ascension to the Presidency, and, throughout, provides background for many personalities of the era. Very good reading. 4#" - hcl
A Texan looks at Lyndon, A Study in Illegitimate Power by J. Evetts Haley (1964), 254 pp., 17 cm./7 in., paperback.
"A quickie hatchet-job* on LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson). 0.4#" - hcl *see Archives webpage, Definitions
Government and Public Policy
Major League Losers - The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying For It; What Governments and Taxpayers Need to Know by Mark S. Rosentraub and Michael Przybylski, Donald Phares, Robert Whelan, David Swindell, and Sam Nunn. (1997), BasicBooks (HarperCollins Publishers, NYC, 513 pp., 25 cm/9.8 in., hardcover, 0-465-08317-X, $27.50
Every year and once or twice in that time period, a newspaper reader will note that another city has decided upon building a stadium, arena, field house, etc. for a private enterprise entity known as a "professional ball club, hockey team, football team, etc." ... you get it. The local politicos will sagely and gravely spout platitudes on the importance of getting or keeping "the team". This outpouring of heartfelt and easily predicted, cliché-ridden hot air is joined by pronouncements from local commercial and industrial leaders confirming "the importance of being earnest" [Our sincere apologies to the ghost of Oscar Wilde.] about being a major league city
Then, the local newspaper(s) join the Greek chorus along with the local PR flacks about the benefits of getting or keeping the major league sport and doing so at taxpayer expense.
All this flack has nothing to do with enlightened self-interest ... it is plainly and brazenly, raw self-interest. The cynical [this writer included] and the sophisticated [Those who've been to Chicago more that once.] believe none of the propaganda.
Often, local academic economists are enrolled to determine the fiscal, financial, and economic facts. When these academics come to a independent conclusion, that conclusion is usually: That there is no real economic (or other) benefit to the community!
Rosentraub, a professor and associate dean at Indiana University, has come up with a clear, well-written analysis of just what is going on in the sports-commercial-media-political complex:
Greed and unabashed self-interest; millionaire ballplayers and millionaire owners.
And, taxpayers who will be paying (a.k.a. subsidizing) for these 20th and 21st century monuments to a corrupted sports culture and its debased values.
So much for the venom. Here's what the book's about.
Rosentraub covers every aspect and most peripheral issues e.g.,
The subsidization of sports; the real economics of cities and professional teams,
Why sports are so important to so many people,
Maintaining scarcity [the imposition of monopoly (cartels) by the major league organizations]; the rationing and control of the supply of teams,
What do teams really mean to a city's economy [conclusion: nil and in some cases, a negative economic impact],
Examination of some of the arguments for having a major league team [These include downtown development, attracting industry and jobs, civic pride and prestige]
Politicians, civic leaders, and certainly, those persons who really care about the quality of life in our cities ought to study this massive work of Rosentraub and his collaborators. As clearly and forcefully laid out by the authors, the benefits of subsidizing professional sports are illusionary and divert precious resources from the more important functions of government. The statistical and data are all here to support the thesis that the "Major League Lo$ers" are the taxpayers. 4.0." - hcl
[Epilog: This review (some will call it a diatribe) is written from the unchallenged capital of "Taxpayers Subsidizing Millionaire Ballplayers and Owners" ... Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Milwaukee has the perverse distinction of being the first metropolitan area to build, at public expense, a venue for professional sports: the late Milwaukee County Stadium (1953-2000, R.I.P.).
County Stadium is gone and on those sacred grounds has risen Miller (named for the beer) Park. Originally, Miller Park was to cost the public $160 million plus $90 million (borrowed) supplied by the team. [Of course, no one really believed that.] A report, last year, has placed the cost at $730 million and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel produced an article recently with a tab of $900 million [which did not include the cost of three construction workers' lives]. Cynical observers of this affair, which is being supported by a five-county sales tax imposed not by the citizens but by the state legislature and governor ("Stick it to 'em."), have predicted that the final cost will exceed one billion dollars. - hcl]
A Broken Covenant - the Rape of the American Middle Class by Stephen Rodnesky (2000), BMES Press, Pembrook Pines, FL (www.bmes.net), 150 pp., 23 cm./9 in., paperback, 0-9700890-0-7, $12.95
"This book will remind any person familiar with recent American history of a statement by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that (we must look after the poor, the indigent) ... "because the rich can take care of themselves".
And, they do.
Rodnesky provides the statistical data which confirms the moderate (centrist) belief that the tax proposals of the (new) conservatives serve, mainly, the rich and injure the middle class. The poor, of course, get what they has always got: less. The timing of this book is fortuitous since tax cuts are on the agenda of the presidential candidates. Among the concepts lost in the debate is the fact, not accepted by conservatives, that the welfare and social programs of the 1930's under FDR essentially saved the free enterprise system. Great unfairness in economic, political, and social terms leads, eventually, to revolution. This has been proven everywhere: France, Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran ... does one need to go further?
'The concentration of income into the hands of the privileged few and shrinking income of our middle class erodes one of the practical foundations of our democracy.' (p. 50) This is the underlying philosophy behind this book which, is well organized, clearly (though vociferously) written, and thoroughly documented. An interesting touch, which ought to be copied, is the recapitulation of the statistical tables (Chapter 19, A Quick Look Back) and a brief explanation of what the data indicates. As a working statistician and teacher of statistics, the reviewer appreciates that not all persons can glance at a table or graph and draw meaningful conclusions. Reading statistics can be tough; Prof. Rodnesky makes it less so. His conclusions suggest rearranging the income tax code to make for a tolerable and more just taxation. His proposal on estate taxes is more in line with the Democrats' approach ... raise the limit to a few million dollars. That happens to be in line with the intent of the Founding Fathers of our Republic as they recognized that the continued concentration of great wealth by inheritance was bad social and public policy. Rodnesky also recommends active and aggressive reduction of the national debt ... also good economic and public policy. [No space here to explain.]
All things considered, a rather good work and very timely. 4.0#" - hcl
Cabinets and Counselors, Second Edition contributions by W. Craig Bledsoe, Leslie Rigby, and Stephen L. Robertson (1997), Congressional Quarterly, Washington, D.C.,205 pp., 29 cm./11.5 in., paperback, $unknown.
"A history and description of the structure, functions, and growth of the various parts of the federal government known as the "executive branch". Exceptionally well organized, clearly written, and comprehensive.. Topics include The White House Office, Supporting Organizations, Cabinet and Executive Departments, Government Agencies and Corporations, and Presidential Commissions. The evolution of various units and practices is explained clearly. If you're wondering how the executive branch functions, starting at the very top, this is the book to go to. 3.8#" - hcl
Conflict of Interest in American Life by Andrew Stark (2000), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 331 pp., 25 cm./9.8 in., cloth hardcover, $49.95 list.
"First the rating and recommendation, then the review:
This book earns the highest rating, 4.0# and the recommendation that it belongs in every public, law, and corporate library. It is likely to be widely placed on the required reading list for many ethics courses, in the law and business schools.
[There are three kinds of books, based upon a publisher's viewpoint: best sellers, non-sellers (these end up as remainders), and steady sellers. This work is in the latter category. That's the kind of book that warms the heart (read: fatten the bottom line) of the small or university press.]
The author covers conflict of interest from, mainly, a governmental standpoint. The topic is covered in a most comprehensive manner. The book is divided into four parts: Conflict, Interest, Appearances, and Remedies.
In the first part, Conflict, all aspects are laid out completely [The organization of the book is exceptional.]: Self-Dealing, Undue Influence, Abuse of Office, Private Payment for Public Acts, Private Gain from Public Office, and Revolving Doors (parts I and II). The anecdotal items illustrate his points with great clarity. And, these anecdotes raise questions in the reader's mind: "Are some officials unable to distinguish right from wrong?"
The second part, Interest, covers: Interest, bias, and ideology and goes on to discuss apparent hypocrisy of the "Limousine Liberals and Country-Club Conservatives, the Quid Pro Quo [this for that] and Campaign Finance, Spousal Interests, the Combination of Roles and Ex Parte [in the interest of one party] Contact, Hold the interest (and) Vary the Role, and the problem of setting standards at some level of "interest".
The third part, Appearances, discusses the legal and political aspects of "The Appearance of Official Impropriety".
Lastly, Remedies, covers Recusal, Divestiture (of assets), Balance, and Disclosure.
In summary, Professor Stark provides a thorough study of conflict of interest in great depth, with great clarity, and the work is organized in an outstanding manner. [Here's some "bush league" criticism, which does not, at all, detract from the rating: (1) the book has very long sentences*, which is a technique required to properly state legal issues, (2) sections within chapters ought to be headed for organizational purposes, and (3) a glossary of terms should be included to define, with exactitude, Latin and English phrases. *Incidentally, the Gunning Fog Index, a measure of reading difficulty is approximately 25, which is nine (9) years above college senior level. This book is a "tough read".] To repeat the rating is 4.0#" - hcl
Further comment on conflict of interest: As a subject: Organizational and corporate America needs to take a hard and in-depth look at this topic, as Professor Stark has in his book. There are many analogous situations, which are more obvious and can be dealt with effectively. Measures that are applicable included: prohibition of accepting any gift or perquisite (perk) from suppliers ... no booze, baseball tickets, tv sets, etc.; no nepotism, in the broad sense; no outside business deals among employees, and there's more. There is an incredible insensitivity to conflict of interest among supposedly educated managers and administrators. Or, they may be just plain corrupt. - hcl
The Limits of Privacy by Amitai Etzioni (1999), Basic Books/Perseus Books Group, NYC, 280 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover, $25.
"Tough going, but well-researched, organized, and written. Etzioni covers the right to privacy as balanced against the public good and in great depth discusses the problem of public health and welfare of infants (HIV testing of infants), felons' privacy vs. public safety (Privacy vs. Safety), criminal and terrorist communications security (Deciphering encrypted messages), Big Brother  or Benefits (ID Cards and Biometric Identifiers), Privacy of personal health records , and a contemporary conception of privacy. This work is strongly documented; the notes section exceeds any of the six chapters. Although the reviewer has not run a calculation on the reading difficulty, it is judged 16+ (Gunning Fog Index: college graduate reading level). This book belongs in every public library [The Milwaukee Public Library owns just one copy & Oak Creek has the other one.] and has our highest recommendation! 4.0# " - hcl
A Necessary Evil by Garry Wills (1999)
"Wills explores, using copious references, the myths and half-baked arguments which have grown up and have been embraced by many special interest groups about the role of government. Among these widely disseminated ideas is that 'government is the problem' and the inference that 'we really don't need government' and further, that 'government is bad'. Wills' reasoning is common sensible and well-written. There has been a notable lack of reviews of this excellent and important book, although David Gergen did interview Wills about the book on PBS Evening News in late 1999. This reviewer feels inadequate to provide the definitive review ... except to say that this landmark piece deserves the highest recommendation and a place in every public library. 4#" - hcl
The President, The Public, & The Parties, Second Edition w/contributions by Harold F. Bass Jr., Charles C. Euchner and Martha Joynt Kumar, Congressional Quarterly (1997), Washington, D.C., 184 pp., 29 cm./11.5 in., paperback, $ unk.
"Executed in a fashion similar to the companion piece, Cabinets and Counselors (see above), this work explores the title topics plus presidential appearances, the relationship with the news media, public support and opinion, and interest groups. One can understand the growth of the White House staff as the President maintains these various connections ... when does he have time for decision-making? Like the work above (Cabinets and Counselors), this book is even-handed, comprehensive and deep. A recommended addition to any public library. 3.8#" -hcl
The Presidential Character - Predicting Performance in the White House, 1st Edition by James David Barber (1972), Prentice-Hall, NJ, 479 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover.
"[The 1st edition was initially reviewed in the PHB/SGO -II as a guide to and an inspiration for assessing leadership in student government.] Although this first edition was written and published before Watergate, this work is amazingly and presciently accurate in predicting how Richard Nixon would react in that situation. The more complete review of the 4th edition is immediately below. The rating of this 1972 work was 4.0# and the new work is even better." - hcl
The Presidential Character - Predicting Performance in the White House, 4th Edition by James David Barber (1992), Prentice-Hall, NJ, 522 pp., 25 cm./10 in.,
" (This book is) An analysis of the early performance of future Presidents which centers on how personality and the pattern of character, world view, and style shapes later performance (in the Presidency). Additional material includes assessment and commentary of the entire tenure of Richard M. Nixon, Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush. The author enjoys the privilege of looking back on his original edition and being able to proclaim (he doesn't) 'I told you so!' The frightening thing about selecting our presidents (and other leaders) is that we knew so little about them, contemporarily. Only years, often decades later, do we discover the truth.] Worthwhile reading for all those involved in selecting leadership at all levels and in all types of organizations ... and especially in selecting the President of the United States. This book belongs in all libraries; the highest of recommendations!" 4.0# - hcl [Gunning Fog Index: 9.6; range: 14-4]
Strategic Uses of Public Policy by Donna J. Wood (1986), White Plains, NY, 258 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover.
" This is a scholarly work which could have an alternate title, "Commercial, Industrial, and Private Uses of Public Regulation, Policy and Law for Private Gain". Wood explores the role of various interest groups in forming public policy through lobbying, lawmaking and regulation. Exceptionally well organized and well written, the book contains thoroughly adequate statistical and historical data to illuminate the topic. The reviewer looks forward to a revision and expansion of this important work which belongs in libraries: public, private, corporation, and institutional. A souped-up and more popularly-written version ought to be made available in paperback for wide distribution and at a low price. 3.9#" - hcl [The reviewer has been informed by the author that there will be no revised new edition ... too bad, since this was a worthwhile work on a topic which needs more illumination. That decision also makes the first, and only, edition into a "rare" book. Wood is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.]
Statesmen of the Lost Cause by Burton J. Hendrick (1939)
"This book is a must-have for civil war buffs and political scholars and provides insight into the governance of the Confederacy. The politicians of the Southern Confederacy were not, as a group, outstanding. Two of these however, do come forth as first-rate: Judah P. Benjamin and one John H. Reagan. That's right, Reagan, who served as Postmaster General and quite successfully. Of course, one must admit that Mr. Reagan did inherit an in-place and well-functioning seventy year-old federal postal system and he allowed it to continue without interference. Hendrick makes the argument that the South failed not just militarily, but in statesmanship. Exceptionally good reading. 4#" - hcl [Gunning Fog Index ave.: 8; range: 14-5]
The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations compiled by Lewis D. Eigen and Jonathan P. Siegel (1993), Macmillan Publishing Co., NYC, 785 pp., 26 cm./10 in., hardcover, List $40.00
"A most useful reference and of equal value to Bartlett's (for the political person) and it makes good reading. Organized alphabetically by topic, starting with "1. Abortion" and ending with "99. Welfare". The original review in the PHB/SGO [Readings] was not very favorable ...but after using The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations extensively, we have changed our mind: strong recommendation. Some of the quotes are not wisdom for the ages, but merely assuming. A great source for theme for a speech. [Be sure to give credit!] Every public library should have a copy in the public-accessible reference stack. Our highest rating!: 4.0#" - hcl
The Politician by Robert Welch (1963), 24 cm./9.5 in., 300 pp. plus cxlviii page Epilog [It took a bit of figuring, but we worked it out: 148 pages; but, mercifully, the prologue was only xiii pages long.], softcover with plastic comb binding, $7.95.
"This book is the Holy Grail of the extreme right wing and it is still in print." - hcl [Not a review; No rating]
Editorial Note: Successful campaigns are rarely conceived quickly and at the last minute. And, the execution of the various parts of a campaign plan requires various-length lead times. Planning ahead requires knowledge and this section of this web page provides the sources for fundamental information and guidance.
This review section covers books on the management of campaigns and contains reviews of some very good and useful books. Now is the time to start "boning" up for the next campaign. It is recommended that serious practitioners build a personal reference library since no one book (of the many reviewed) will provide a complete grounding.
The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations,16th Edition by Henry C. and Douglas Cox Landa (2012). FICOA, 5928 W. Michigan St.,Wauwatosa/Milwaukee, WI, 53213-4248. 680 pages (exactly, including a 21 page index), 274,000+ words, 28 cm. / 11 in. Softcover, ISBN 0-931974-21-6; $41.95 list. Hardcover Library binding, ISBN 0-931974-22-4; $58.95 list.
REVIEW: "This book provides a helpful guide to candidacies, campaigning, leadership, management, and other issues related to fair and efficient student government. Though geared toward student leaders, the book also features an advisory section for school faculty and administrators." - NEA Today Magazine. [This review was written about the first edition of "The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations", a modest 136 page work of approximately 54,000 words. The most recent edition exceeds the recent 573 pages and 260, 000 (+) words.]
REVIEW: "THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: The Education Shelf: Now in a newly updated, reorganized and expanded ninth edition, "The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" by Henry Landa (formerly with the Wisconsin Technical College System and currently adjunct faculty member , University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee) is a definitive, comprehensive, and thoroughly "user-friendly" instructional reference on every aspect [of] student government and activities from candidate selection, to leadership styles, to organizational configuration, to the role of faculty advisors. "The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" will show aspiring and practicing student government members on "what-to-do", "how-to-do-it", and "why-you-do-it" issues and insights that range from "Candidacy & Campaigning" (of special note is the role of the campaign manager and the necessity of winning office), to "Leadership" (dealing with authority and the art of delegation), to "Management" (organizational generalities, techniques, and [the] education institution bureaucracy); "Offices and Officers" (descriptions and definitions, operational guidelines and tricks-of-the-trade); "Advisors" (students making use of advisors and guidelines for advisors). "The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" is enhanced with the further inclusion of a Readers and Reference chapter, a Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations, and an Appendix of six-five articles offering techniques, detail, and "obscure topics" of factors and issues that can make or break a student government officer. "The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" is virtually unique in the field and should be considered a critically important core reference for all college and university library Student Government reference and resource collections."
"The singular book which addresses the only training ground (student government and activities) and the initial source of experience for working in organizations. A work in progress. 3.8#" - hcl [Note: Reviewer (hcl) is the author-editor of the PHB/SGO. Incidentally, we have just "jacked up" our own rating from 3.6# ... we are a very modest bunch, but we back up our claim: the book carries a money-back guarantee.]
For more information, click on The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations the web page which provides a review, description, rationale (for), Table of Contents, selected excerpts, library cataloging data, and Ordering Information for the PHB/SGO.
Winning Political Campaigns, A Comprehensive Guide to Electoral Success, Second Edition by William S. Bike (2001), The Denali Press, P.O. Box 21535, Juneau, AK 99802-1535, email@example.com, 272 pp., 23.5 cm./9.2 in., paperback, $31.00. (+$4 shipping) [Note: We at FICOA have no monetary interest in this book ... we just think that it is excellent. We normally don't provide ordering information for any book that we review. We make an exception in this case.]
First the recommendation and rating and then the review.
This book belongs on the bookshelf, in the desk drawer, and in the glove compartment of every aspiring politician or operator. From a practical, political operations standpoint, it is the best book out, yet. Rating: 3.8
"In the movie, Atlantic City, the heroine asks an aging, has-been mobster to 'teach me'. The reply is, 'What do you want, information or wisdom?' She wants both.
The final judgment on this book is that the author, Bike, provides both. It is comprehensive, well-organized and well-written. It's a second edition and it will be a steady-seller. [Bookstores: Please Note. There are too few of this genre on the sales shelves.]
The main functions (often called, "principles) of management could have been explained in terms of the areas of campaign planning, developing an overarching strategy, organizing, staffing, direction, and the timing of various phases. There's a lot of detail offered but little help in the larger view of campaign management.
Since 'the Devil is in the details' [actually, the original saying was 'God is in the details'], the author provides plenty of detail on political operations and properly so. A missed detail can be costly, e.g. overlooking the cost of a component of producing an effective ad or media piece. (see pp. 6-7).
There is extensive coverage of media, including the Internet and e-mail communications. The commentary on the requirements of a good website is excellent: forget the bells-and-whistles, aim for clarity ... and a fast download. [Pictures download with excruciating slowness, add little to political websites, and people will exit from that type of website, post haste.]
Although the index is rather scant [This editor likes a really large index.], the table of contents more than makes up for it since it is organized alphabetically and has many listed subsections ... unusual, but most useful. The book is a true handbook, but goes far beyond that as a 'cookbook / do-it-yourself / self-improvement book' on how to manage a winning political campaign. The anecdotes are excellent and up-to-date. Many lessons are drawn from very recent campaigns. Political theory is absent and, necessarily so since this is a practical work.
While this book is priced slightly higher than competing types (see reviews, below), it is worth owning and should be the high priority choice. At this stage, it is the standard work in the field (of practical politics). Don't rely on your library to obtain a copy since most librarians' funds are limited and this subject category (practical politics/operations) carries a low priority (at libraries). Again, the rating: 3.8#" - hcl
Politics for Dummiesby Ann Delaney (1995) IDG Books Worldwide, Foster City, CA, 367 pp., 24 cm. / 9.3 in., paperback, $19.99 list.
"A how-to-do-it book on being a candidate and running a campaign for local and state office. This is not a book of political theory or science, but a practical source of what-to-do, how-to-do-it, and when. A good value at $20. No political philosophy included, just nuts and bolts. 3.2#" - hcl
How to Win a Local Electionby Judge Lawrence Grey (1994) M. Evans & Co., NYC, 255 pp., 24 cm./9.5 in., paperback, $14.95
"An excellent guide to running in local political contests; provides nice background for the campaign process; very strong on specifics. Makes an good companion piece to Delaney's book (above). Straight forward and well written. 3.5#" - hcl
All Politics Is Local and other Rules of the Gameby Tip O'Neill with Gary Hymel (1994), Bob Adams, Inc., Holbrook, MA, 190 pp., 21 cm./8.3 in., paperback, $7.95.
"Tip O'Neill's favorite slogan is the title of this book and in a free translation is 'Take care of your constituents, first!' or as Ben Franklin suggested, 'Keep your shop and your shop will keep you.' This book is typical (and, formulaic) of those produced by professional politicians: (1) Touch on a topic, (2) Illustrate with an anecdote ...(3) Move on to another topic. The problem with this experience-based presentation is that it lacks breadth and depth ... simply not comprehensive. [The reviewer (hcl) has the same complaint about other politician-authored books.] The best of the lot is The Management of Election Campaigns by Robert Agranoff, a non-politician academic (see review below) which properly limits the anecdotal data and Winning Political Campaigns by William S. Bike (see review above). O'Neill's book is rich in anecdotal data which makes for lively reading but this approach to the vast topic of political operations suffers from the "case study" malady: Drawing the overall principle(s) or theory from the case is a flawed process. All in all though, it's a good little piece of work and, frankly, at eight bucks ($8) is a good value. A good addition to your collection and worthwhile browsing through, now and then, just to remind yourself to "Take care of your constituents, first!" 3.5#" - hcl
[Addendum, January 13, 2001: In his concession speech, Al Gore said, "I know I'll spend time in Tennessee and mend some fences, literally and figuratively." Mr. Gore alluded to the loss of his home state. Presidential candidates have often lost the electoral votes of their native states. Had Gore taken Tennessee, he'd be in the White House now. Gore didn't secure his base, which with a minimum of effort could have been held. This reinforces the meaning of Tip O'Neill's slogan.] [The Political Base is treated in some detail in an appendix article in The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations.]
The topic of making the most of the political base is discussed, at length, in the appendix article A 39, The Political Base of The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations. The treatment provides five (6) rules that You must follow: 1. Recognize the need for a political base. 2. Define your base ... 3. Build and develop the base; visit the base; communicate with the base; serve the base; cultivate the base continually. 4. Not forget the base. 5. Use the base. (Using the base and making it operative requires: Canvassing, Campaigning, and Sweeping, i.e., getting out the vote.
The Management of Election Campaignsby Robert Agranoff (1976), Holbrook Press, Boston, MA, 481 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover.
"This is the first attempt to turn the cool eye of management and organizational theory upon the process of the management of election campaigns. The scope of topics covered is extraordinarily wide but, due to limitations of space and book size, some topics are not covered in great depth. That is to be expected and is a very minor flaw. However, there is enough detail and anecdotal/case data to trigger thought on specific actions tailored to a given election. The range of topics is encyclopedic: Election Studies; Campaign Processes; Media; Media Planning; Uncontrolled Media; Controlled Media and Advertising; Person-to-Person Contact; Management Theory and Practice (of election campaigns) including Post Election Maintenance. The organization of the book, writing and editing are first-rate. This is the most comprehensive work yet and dwarfs everything else in the field ... and it belongs on the book shelf of the serious political operator, campaign manager, or consultant. And, that of the academician. - 4.0#" hcl
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! - Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industryby John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton (1995), Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME, 236 pp., 20.5 cm./8.1 in., paperback. [Note: "PR" as used here stands for Public Relations.]
"Franklin Roosevelt popularized Benjamin Diraeli's statement, "There are lies, damn lies, and there are statistics." That suggested an ascending level of mendacity and the Stauber and Rampton book reflects the level to which the public relations industry and the media has ascended (or descended). The alert and skeptical citizen will notice major articles appearing in newspapers, which are written by persons with some connection to a special interest group. Often, these connections are disguised, since articles are by "Presidents" of some unknown front group with a lofty name, e.g. "Citizens for Fair ..." (you name it!) or "Americans for ...etc., etc. ". The tipoff is that the article writer was formerly a "consultant" to the firm or industry under scrutiny and one can only wonder if that writer is still "on the take" [Reviewer's cliché and Italics.]. This book illuminates the immensity of the problem of the placed article and how easily it is accepted by editors and reprinted as if it were straight journalism.
[ The reviewer (hcl) was a PR flack in college for several organizations and took the activity quite seriously. He concurrently took a journalism course in PR from the legendary Scott Cutlip. The reviewer's first conclusion regarding PR was that "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." - Jonathan Swift. But, practically the first dictum of the course was that you can! The Wall Street Journal, always alert and skeptical, reported the title of an introductory PR course at CUNY as "How to Fool All of the People Some of the Time". That was the actual title of the course! ]
There is no question that journalists, like the rest of us, get tired, are occasionally lazy, get careless, are in a hurry, or need something to fill space. Maybe, the editors are simply told to print "this flack" and do so, but don't like it. The citizen ought to be aware of this activity and of the continuing and increasing attempts by all types of organizations to influence public opinion and policy. This process of trying to influence public opinion and legislation is continuous, powerful, well-organized, and well-funded. This book is well-organized, well-written and documented. There are mighty forces at work here and their influence on public policy must be recognized by all of the citizenry. Recommended. 4.0# " -hcl
Rare and Special Interest
Paths of Gloryby Humphrey S. Cobb (1935) Viking Press, NYC, 265 pp.,20.5 cm./8.3 in., hardcover.
"Among anti-war novels, Paths of Glory is in the first rank, alongside of All Quiet on the Western Front, Red Alert, and On the Beach. It also made it to the movie screen (same title, 1957) after a major effort by Kirk Douglas to get it made." - hcl
Working Alone - Tips & Techniques for Solo Building by John Carroll (1999), Taunton Press, Newtown, CT, 152 pp., 24 cm./9.4 in., hardcover, $17.95 (US). "Now and then, a book appears which has been needed for such a long time and is so well done, that you cannot help but rejoice. Mr. Carroll, a home builder/contractor, not only knows his subject in depth and with great insight, but writes with great skill. And, the subjects are very well organized with a good index. Topics, such as safety, getting and keeping part-time help, holding work in place (replacing a helper), special and home-made tools, solo measurement, getting things level-plumb-square, framing-out and holding up things with clamps, erecting and hoisting walls by yourself, bringing things into alignment and squaring up, etc., and the limitations of working alone. Regarding this last section (limitations of working alone), this reviewer has had the same experiences as Mr. Carroll and he really knows what he is writing about. Any two or three pages of this book justifies its purchase. Carroll's section on scaffolding is especially good since the scaffolding manufacturers simply do not deliver or sell enough information to get the most out of using scaffolding ... that topic, alone, could make a sizable book! This book belongs in the library of every do-it-yourselfer, the glove compartment of every fabricator-erector, every public library, and on the check-out counter of of every hardware and building supply store. The highest recommendation: 4.0#" - hcl
[The reviewer (hcl) is an incorrigible do-it-yourselfer and has built a motion picture theater (reinforced concrete & steel), remodeled a residence (80% modernized) and designed and built his present home (3500 sq. ft., reinforced concrete, steel, brick and glass in the international style). Like Mr. Carroll, the reviewer has done most of the work himself and alone. The reviewer also holds a professional engineer's license.]
Student Government, Activities, and Politics
Very little has been published on the topic of political operations in student government. To date, just three* books address the political and managerial side of student activities. This is unfortunate since student activities which includes governance and extra-curricular activities is the only place in academia which can provide knowledge and experience on how organizations function. *One of the three isn't worth bothering with unless one has a morbid curiosity and hasn't anything better to do.
The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations For more information, click on The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations the web page which provides a review, description, rationale (for), Table of Contents, selected excerpts, library cataloging data, and Ordering Information for the PHB/SGO. More information is offered above with reviews and some descriptive data.
Developing Student Government Leadership by Melvin C. Terrell and Michael J. Cuyjet (1994), Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 23 cm/9 in., paperback. "An abstract with some rather limited commentary on a large number of academic papers. The work lacks a useful structure in that it has no overarching theoretical base, no principles enunciated, and no case study/ anecdotal evidence to support the title. It doesn't even have some limited "cookbook" guidance for the very persons needing it badly, the advisors and administrators. These bureaucrats are poorly equipped to cope with the problems of or to exploit the vast opportunities inherent in student government and activities.
Mercifully, this piece is out-of-print. If your curiosity overwhelms you, contact your librarian and get the piece via an interlibrary loan. [LC 85-644751] NO RATING." - hcl
How to Win a High School Election by Jeff Marx, (2001) Jeff Marx Books, New York, NY, 23 cm/9 in., paperback, 174 pp. excluding advertisements. $14.95 "A short, simplistic, narrowly-defined work wherein the title is apt: the book is simply about winning a high school election and no more. In summary, Marx strongly suggests that the aspiring candidate (1) meet a lot of people, (2) be friendly, (3) be sincere, (4) regard posters as mere reminders rather than primary campaign mechanisms, and most important of all: (5) give a funny campaign speech (pitched to a large assembly). Along with this limited advice, which is quite sound for high school politics, Marx surveyed hundreds of successful (read: "They were elected.") student leaders. Scores of e-mail replies are offered. There is, therefore, much repetition in the short bits of advice that the high school folks offer. It is clear that high school student government (and campaigning) is light-years distant from college political activity and governance in terms of sophistication. And, no one takes it very seriously since, according to the e-mailed anecdotal data, the funniest candidate usually wins. Marx is quite the enthusiast and his advice to "go for it" is sound and all students should take heed of it. The book has no index. NO RATING. " - hcl [Cautionary note: The reviewer (hcl) is the author-editor of The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations which could be judged as a competing piece.]
Notes, Abbreviations, and Trivia
Abbreviations: hcl, Henry C. Landa, reviewer; js, Juliet Sanders, reviewer
NEA Today Magazine is the monthly publication of the National Education Association.
PHB/SGO: The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations ISBN 0-931974-21-6 (soft cover) and 0-931974-22-4 (library hardcover binding).
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Subject Categories: [Which may not be covered entirely in any given issue of this website ... but we'll eventually get around to them all.] Biographies; Government and Public Policy; Organizational Management; Personalities; Political History; Political Philosophy; Political Science; Practical Politics / Campaigning, Operations, Leadership and Management; the Press; Rare and Special Interest Books; Student Government, Activities, and Politics
"Reviews are written by fools like me, but only God can make the internet into a reliable source of opinion ... caveat lettore*" - hcl , w/ apologies to Joyce Kilmer*Latin for "let the reader beware"