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Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Jack Kennedy—and Tip O’Neill’s former chief-of-staff—comes the firsthand, one-of-a-kind story of the friendship between President Reagan and the Speaker of the House.They were the political odd couple—the two most powerful men in the country, a pair who, in author Chris Matthews’s words, “couldn’t be more different or more t From the author of the New York Times bestseller Jack Kennedy—and Tip O’Neill’s former chief-of-staff—comes the firsthand, one-of-a-kind story of the friendship between President Reagan and the Speaker of the House.They were the political odd couple—the two most powerful men in the country, a pair who, in author Chris Matthews’s words, “couldn’t be more different or more the same.” For six years Matthews was on the inside, watching the evolving relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Their philosophies were miles apart—Reagan intent on scaling back government, O’Neill fervent in defending it. Yet there was common ground too: long lunches shared on St. Patrick’s Day and a mutual respect—political and personal. Three days after Reagan’s shooting, Tip was the first outsider at the president’s bedside. Drawing not only on his own remarkable knowledge but on extensive interviews with those closest to his subjects, Matthews brings this unlikely friendship to life in his unique voice, rendering as lively and novelistic a read as Jack Kennedy and a timely object lesson in how bipartisan cooperation can work.


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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Jack Kennedy—and Tip O’Neill’s former chief-of-staff—comes the firsthand, one-of-a-kind story of the friendship between President Reagan and the Speaker of the House.They were the political odd couple—the two most powerful men in the country, a pair who, in author Chris Matthews’s words, “couldn’t be more different or more t From the author of the New York Times bestseller Jack Kennedy—and Tip O’Neill’s former chief-of-staff—comes the firsthand, one-of-a-kind story of the friendship between President Reagan and the Speaker of the House.They were the political odd couple—the two most powerful men in the country, a pair who, in author Chris Matthews’s words, “couldn’t be more different or more the same.” For six years Matthews was on the inside, watching the evolving relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Their philosophies were miles apart—Reagan intent on scaling back government, O’Neill fervent in defending it. Yet there was common ground too: long lunches shared on St. Patrick’s Day and a mutual respect—political and personal. Three days after Reagan’s shooting, Tip was the first outsider at the president’s bedside. Drawing not only on his own remarkable knowledge but on extensive interviews with those closest to his subjects, Matthews brings this unlikely friendship to life in his unique voice, rendering as lively and novelistic a read as Jack Kennedy and a timely object lesson in how bipartisan cooperation can work.

30 review for Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Thompson

    Though I am a conservative, Chris Matthews is by far my favorite political author. Though he is as liberal as the day is long, Matthews can tell a story like no one else can. He is a master of weaving together fascinating historical narrative and immediately applicable political advice almost seamlessly. In this book in particular, Matthews takes us back to the 1980's as Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil were sparred over the direction of our nation. It's the classic clash of not only liberal and con Though I am a conservative, Chris Matthews is by far my favorite political author. Though he is as liberal as the day is long, Matthews can tell a story like no one else can. He is a master of weaving together fascinating historical narrative and immediately applicable political advice almost seamlessly. In this book in particular, Matthews takes us back to the 1980's as Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil were sparred over the direction of our nation. It's the classic clash of not only liberal and conservative, but of the legislative and executive branches. Though polar opposites in all things political, the two Irishmen formed a friendship that began again each day after six o'clock. Tip and Gipper is a behind-the-scenes look at what made these men tick and get along and even work with each other in a way that benefited the nation as a whole. Oh how we need men like Reagan and O'Neil today! Both men well-represented their political ideology unapologetically, but they learned how to work with each other and get things done. That's unheard of today. Since when did "compromise" become a bad word? Its exactly the vision of our Founding Fathers. Instead we have both political major parties run by stalwarts unwilling to negotiate with other side, cow-towing like lemmings to the extremes of what they perceive as their base. So, run out and pick up this book, and send a copy to your Congressman!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Arminius

    This was a fascinating book on the relationship between 20th Centuries greatest Conservative President Ronald Reagan and his counterpart the very liberal Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal. The book is called the “ Tip and the Gipper.” The Gipper refers to a movie that President Reagan made when he was a movie star. He portrayed Notre Dame’s star running back, George Gipp, in the movie about Notre Dame’s coach Knute Rockne. The author, Chris Mathews, worked for the Speaker and has recorded his reco This was a fascinating book on the relationship between 20th Centuries greatest Conservative President Ronald Reagan and his counterpart the very liberal Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal. The book is called the “ Tip and the Gipper.” The Gipper refers to a movie that President Reagan made when he was a movie star. He portrayed Notre Dame’s star running back, George Gipp, in the movie about Notre Dame’s coach Knute Rockne. The author, Chris Mathews, worked for the Speaker and has recorded his recollections of the time serving under Tip and fighting the President on issues. President Reagan campaigned on three issues. First, cut taxes and control government expenses, second win the “Cold War.” Third, balance the federal budget. In 1981 the President proposed the Economic Recovery Tax Act (known as the ERTA)it dropped the top tax rate from 70% to 50% and the bottom rate from 14% to 11%. This act also slashed estate taxes and trimmed taxes paid by business corporations by $150 billion over a five-year period. It also created Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for individuals to help people save for retirement. President Reagan cajoled and charmed the Speaker to get his budgets passed. Not only did he cajole the Speaker but he contacted every democrat member of the house and personally asked for their vote on the ERTA. After his initial tax cutting success he tried to cut federal expenses by cutting the country’s biggest expense –Social Security. He found out quickly that even his great persuasive powers would not let him do that. So he and Tip worked to together to cut spending. Senator Bob Dole came up with a spending cut and tax increase plan which the President, although reluctantly, and Tip and the democratic congress agreed to pass to control government spending. It was called the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982. It repealed scheduled increases in accelerated depreciation deductions, tightened safe harbor leasing rules, required taxpayers to reduce basis by 50% of the investment tax credit, instituted 10% withholding on dividends and interest paid to individuals and tightened completed contract accounting rules. With all the negotiations going on the President and Speaker became good friends. Tip O’Neil was always so impressed with President Reagans ability to persuade an audience. Democrats and Republicans agreed that the President’s speeches were the best they ever heard a politician make. In 1981 and 1982 the economy was really struggling and the Republicans took the heat for it. The Republicans lost 27 seats in the House of Representative seats in 1982. The President preached patience and by the 1984 election his policies had not only reversed the economy, the economy boomed and the President was reelected easily. In 1983, The President announced the American commitment to The Strategic Defense Initiative which provided a protective shield around the United States. This initiative prompted the Soviet Union to meet with President Reagan. The Soviets feared this program immensely because their economy was failing and they could not keep pace with the U.S. After 3 Soviet leaders died in quick succession Reagan finally met with Mikael Gorbachev. They agreed to the Strategic Arms Nuclear Reduction Act (START) I nuclear reduction act. The first phase of it reduced overall warhead counts on any missile type to 5,000, with an additional limit of 2,500 on Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. In 1986 President Reagan and Tip O’Neil passed the second phase of the tax cuts making the top tax rate 28% and eliminating all other rates except a 15% tax rate. This immensely simplified the tax code. Reagan’s policies with the Speaker’s help virtually eliminated inflation, lowered interest rates and created 18 million new jobs. It is a model on how the government could work even with different parties and philosophies between the executive and legislative branches of government. Unfortunately a year after President Reagan left office the Berlin Wall came crumbling down. Chris Mathews wished that President Reagan was still President so he could listen to another great speech to commemorate the symbol for the end of the Cold War.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    Fifth star is for timeliness. Matthews looks back at the presidency of Ronald Reagan and his relationship with then House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Both men differed widely on the issues but had in common a love of country, a sincere desire to do the right thing, and a commitment to principled action. Their commonalities allowed them to make reasoned compromises on budgets and programs in order to avoid stalemate and move the country forward. The book reads more like a memoir than a history book, ent Fifth star is for timeliness. Matthews looks back at the presidency of Ronald Reagan and his relationship with then House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Both men differed widely on the issues but had in common a love of country, a sincere desire to do the right thing, and a commitment to principled action. Their commonalities allowed them to make reasoned compromises on budgets and programs in order to avoid stalemate and move the country forward. The book reads more like a memoir than a history book, entertaining and offering insights into the workings of Congress and the formulation of legislation and policy. It's impossible to avoid comparing the events described by Matthews with the current situation in Washington. But whatever one's politics, it would be difficult to read this account and not envy the author for the history he witnessed and in some part helped to shape.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    As usual I was left with mixed feelings about this book, as I am each time I watch Chris Matthews' show on MSNBC. In fact I watch the show much less because I greatly dislike Matthews' style of both asking and answering his questions put to his guests, and then generally interrupts them when they attempt to answer. In his book he has provides important insights on the personalities of two important men and how they worked together, but he also seems to want us to accept Reagan's policies that la As usual I was left with mixed feelings about this book, as I am each time I watch Chris Matthews' show on MSNBC. In fact I watch the show much less because I greatly dislike Matthews' style of both asking and answering his questions put to his guests, and then generally interrupts them when they attempt to answer. In his book he has provides important insights on the personalities of two important men and how they worked together, but he also seems to want us to accept Reagan's policies that laid the groundwork for the extensive economic inequality that continue and have grown worse today. Further, Matthews does much self-promotion. Sometimes what he tells about himself is relevant, sometimes not. I have been disgusted with how much he's promoted his book on his "Hardball" Show, and tells his viewers to go "buy it and give it for gifts." That hasn't been once or twice, but numerous times over the past few months.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Suspect Matthews wanted to write a memoir of his time with the Speaker. Won't sell? Make Reagan an equal partner in cover photo and title if not in "screen time". President Reagan exists in the narrative primarily as foil to Tip.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    As an avid viewer of MSNBC’s Hardball program each evening with Chris Matthews I am very familiar with his views and style, and usually agree with him. I have read his previous books and looked forward to reading his latest, TIP AND THE GIPPER: WHEN POLITICS WORKED. After reading the book and digesting his final thoughts as he states that “We need leaders able to balance large purpose with equally large awareness of the electorate, what message the voters have sent. In a worthy contest this goes As an avid viewer of MSNBC’s Hardball program each evening with Chris Matthews I am very familiar with his views and style, and usually agree with him. I have read his previous books and looked forward to reading his latest, TIP AND THE GIPPER: WHEN POLITICS WORKED. After reading the book and digesting his final thoughts as he states that “We need leaders able to balance large purpose with equally large awareness of the electorate, what message the voters have sent. In a worthy contest this goes for those who’ve won but especially for those who haven’t. The rules of fair play can’t be simply cast aside.” (371) Reading TIP AND THE GIPPER I got the feeling I was having an intimate conversation with the author and his subjects. Matthews lets the reader in to his inner most thoughts and cannot but admire both men he writes about and the relationship they forged. Obviously, Matthews wants their relationship to be a model for today’s politicians who have given us a new concept, “partisanship on steroids!” Matthews is a superb writer and his narrative flows like a literary work. He is able to subtly integrate his own political education, first as a speech writer for Jimmy Carter and then as Tip O’Neill’s administrative assistant, as he develops the relationship between his two larger than life subjects. As the historical narrative unfolds the reader would have to be blind not to think about our current state of government by stalemate. Today, Reagan would probably be labeled a liberal Republican by Tea Party elements and his legislative accomplishments, particularly the 1983 Social Security legislation and the 1986 Tax Reform Law, would have been forcefully opposed by the likes of Cruz, Lee, and Paul. Matthews is very insightful in a number of areas. Early on he points out the weakness of the Carter presidency, the aloofness of the man from Plains, Ga. When Reagan assumes the presidency in 1981 “his plan was to charm rivals and potential allies alike,” and Tip O’ Neill was his first major target. By pointing out the political problem that aloofness in the Presidency can create, it is obvious who Matthews is pointing to. From the outset O’Neill rejected an obstructionist strategy in dealing with Reagan’s proposed economic plan as he realized that the American people had spoken at the polls. He decided that he would assist Reagan in achieving his agenda as much as he could, as it was his duty as an American patriot. O’Neill’s biggest problem in dealing with Reagan was his “star power,” as the President was the consummate actor in addition to being shrewd and cunning in dealing with the Speaker. Matthews’ role in the Speaker’s office was to assist O’Neill in adapting to using the media as a tool in dealing with Reagan. It is from this vantage point that Matthews presents his narrative. If O’Neill had considered any thoughts of creating roadblocks for Reagan’s legislative agenda they would have been immediately cast aside after the assassination attempt on the President. Reagan’s handling of the attempt on his life was out of a Hollywood script and after being closer to death than the American people were led to believe he emerged as a “true American hero.” For O’Neill this meant doing his best to lessen the assault on his liberal self, and in 1981 and 1982 Reagan was able to work with O’Neill and gain congressional approval for his tax cut, increase in military spending, all of which was to lead to a balanced budget by 1984. It was very clear that what Vice President George H. W. Bush termed “voodoo economics” during the 1980 presidential campaign was not going to work and because of that O’Neill was able to gain Reagan’s cooperation in reforming the Social Security system and putting it on a firm financial footing for the future. The most interesting aspects of Matthews’ book center around his description of the how the O’Neill-Reagan relationship developed and how they were able to work with each other despite their divergent political philosophies. Matthews quotes freely from Reagan’s diaries and O’Neill’s memoir, and statements and speeches he was privy to. In so doing he seems to create a conversation between the two men which reflected anger at times, but always mutual respect for each other. The mutual respect was the key and they both believed that after 6:00pm politics would be set aside as they met frequently and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. What is amazing is that despite their ideological differences and their battles over the budget and spending and tax issues they never lost their affection for each other. The first third of book is a comparative biography of both men where Matthews does not present any new material that has not been gone over by the likes of Lou Cannon in his book on Reagan entitled, PRESIDENT REAGAN: THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME and John A. Farrell’s excellent biography, TIP O’NEILL ANDTHE DEMOCRATIC CENTURY. After completing this section of the book, Matthews begins his account of the legislative battles between the two men and their disagreements on foreign policy. Matthew’s description of O’Neill’s mood swings as he dealt with Reagan is fascinating. In particular the Speaker’s anger when Reagan characterizes his liberal principles as demagoguery. As a result he finally realized he had to graduate to the media age against a president who had mastered it for years. Despite his periodic anger at Reagan, O’Neill always realized that no matter how weak the economy became after the Reagan agenda became law, the president always remained popular. In addition, O’Neill was always wary of being seen as an obstructionist. For Matthews, his role was to make O’Neill relevant again despite legislative defeats and not appear as “over the hill” as Republican strategists tried to make him out to be. His media “remake” of O’Neill was successful and it forced the public to begin to question Reagan’s economic program and resulted in Democratic gains in 1982. By 1983 Reagan began gearing up for his reelection and did not want Social Security to be an issue for the Democrats. Hence, Reagan and O’Neill realized there was a political center in American politics that would benefit the entire country. On foreign policy O’Neill took the position that the President needed Democratic support in dealing with the Soviet Union and events in Lebanon. But Reagan’s position on the Sandinistas in Nicaragua reminded the Speaker of the slippery slope that led to the Vietnam War. O’Neill was a major force in limiting the administration’s action in Latin America through the Boland Amendment and greatly resenting being “told” about the invasion of Grenada which he saw as an attempt to turn the focus of the American people away from the terrorist bomb that led to the death of 241 Marines. Matthews is correct in pointing out that Reagan could not escape the Cold War paradigm that he believed in and accept the idea that there were numerous confessional rivalries in Lebanon as well as ignoring the history of resentment against American imperialism in the Americas. (276) O’Neill’s final year in office was highlighted by the 1986 Tax Reform Bill as once again he and the President moved to the center in compromising their goals in the name of the American people. Obviously many of the examples that Matthews presents seemed designed as lessons for today’s politicians many of whom only know how to say no instead of doing what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole. Every day pundits reinforce the idea that nothing will can accomplished due to the current political environment, but Matthews has provided an honest historical portrait of two men who showed despite their differences what could be accomplished.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This political season has gotten me down. All of the negativity. While society gets better every day, our politics is still broken. Civility is gone. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria! I needed a pick-me-up. That's why I picked up "Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked." It didn't end up being very encouraging but it was an interesting two-for-one biography of Tip and the Gipper. The problem is it was only 2/3's of a good book. The other one third was Chris Matthews story. I couldn' This political season has gotten me down. All of the negativity. While society gets better every day, our politics is still broken. Civility is gone. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria! I needed a pick-me-up. That's why I picked up "Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked." It didn't end up being very encouraging but it was an interesting two-for-one biography of Tip and the Gipper. The problem is it was only 2/3's of a good book. The other one third was Chris Matthews story. I couldn't care less about his story and his attempts to make his portions sound as interesting as the other important stories he was telling was just sad. It was like if a mouse lived in the White House and was telling you stories about all the amazing things he saw there and you're going along and you're loving it and then he tells you a story about this piece of cheese he found. To the mouse, this story is just as exciting but you're sitting there going "Cheese? Well...good for you!" I was happy to see that although there's a lot of hero worship in this book, Matthews is pretty even handed with both of them. I was particularly interested in the Iran Contra Scandal. I hadn't really had a firm grasp on the details before but now feel like I get it. I listened to the audio version of the book and it was read by Matthews who sounded like he'd had a few drinks and then put a bag of marbles in his mouth. He mispronounced a few words that I've never heard humans mispronounce before. His mush mouth was half the fun of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Larraine

    At a time when we are living in such politically divided times, this book was written, according to Matthews, to demonstrate that it is possible for government to work. I read a book review in the New York Post that said that the author didn't know what he was talking about: Reagan and O'Neill didn't like one another. Really? Considering Matthews was actually THERE, I doubt it. Plus I remember those years and remember reading about their surprising friendship. It's nothing new. The book goes int At a time when we are living in such politically divided times, this book was written, according to Matthews, to demonstrate that it is possible for government to work. I read a book review in the New York Post that said that the author didn't know what he was talking about: Reagan and O'Neill didn't like one another. Really? Considering Matthews was actually THERE, I doubt it. Plus I remember those years and remember reading about their surprising friendship. It's nothing new. The book goes into some detail, using both Matthews' own recollections plus Reagan's own diaries to record what both were thinking plus the results of their often heated collaborations. It's an interesting and informative book although it's definitely written from a liberal POV.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Yosef Shapiro

    This book shows us how government can actually work. As I was reading this book, the government was shut down. In his introduction to the book, Chris Matthews mentions that "these days we have a government by tantrum". He also mentioned shutdowns in the intro. The main points of this book were really driven home as I watched the government shutdown continue on endlessly. Tip and the Gipper disagreed on many things. But , they understood that they were sent to Washington to solve problems. Toge This book shows us how government can actually work. As I was reading this book, the government was shut down. In his introduction to the book, Chris Matthews mentions that "these days we have a government by tantrum". He also mentioned shutdowns in the intro. The main points of this book were really driven home as I watched the government shutdown continue on endlessly. Tip and the Gipper disagreed on many things. But , they understood that they were sent to Washington to solve problems. Together, they saved Social Security. Many things can be accomplished if both parties are willing to talk and compromise.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Curt Blair

    Chris Mathews can some times be self absorbed as in his book Hardball. In Tip and the Gipper he successfully curtailed the tendency. I liked Tip O'Neil both personally and politically. I was not a fan of Reagan. However, this book provides a good read into the relationship of two strong, successful politicians that understood the value of working together for the county's benefit. A quality we do not currently find much in Washington.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diana C. Nearhos

    I'll be honest. I didn't finish this. I got sick of Chris Matthews. I really liked the topic, but couldn't take the style. I hate an author inserting himself in the story (I realize he worked for Tip and that was the basis for the book, but it was supposed to be about them, not him). I also just did not like the writing style, I wanted to pick up my pen and edit all the passive voice and clunky sentences.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris Keck

    I want to start with the caveat that I enjoy Chris Mathews books. Look at my list, you can see I’ve read a number of them. I like that he can speak of politics and government from first hand knowledge. The first 4 or 5 chapters are slow. I said I liked his books and kept reading this one because I liked them. I was rewarded. Once he gets into the heart of the book, sharing stories of the rivalry between President Reagan and Speaker O’Neil I really enjoyed it. That’s when he speaks from first han I want to start with the caveat that I enjoy Chris Mathews books. Look at my list, you can see I’ve read a number of them. I like that he can speak of politics and government from first hand knowledge. The first 4 or 5 chapters are slow. I said I liked his books and kept reading this one because I liked them. I was rewarded. Once he gets into the heart of the book, sharing stories of the rivalry between President Reagan and Speaker O’Neil I really enjoyed it. That’s when he speaks from first hand knowledge and his experience working for O’Neil during the Reagan presidency. It’s a great story of how those two men battled hard on policy. Sometimes winning and sometimes losing, but always striving to move their agenda forward. They found middle ground and gave deference to each other when they knew they had lost. I wish we could be more like this today. Acknowledging differences and fighting for how we believe is best to move America forward. Acknowledging that, while we may think the other side is wrong, they believe they are fighting for what is best for the country. There are many American superpowers- Drawing from the best of many cultures, an enteral hope that tomorrow will be better than today, striving to fulfill our promise of equal rights and equal opportunities- This books is about the American superpower of compromise.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nick S

    More accurate title would have been “how I spent the 80s trying to undermine Reagan while Grandstanding for Tip O’Neill”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Landers

    It's good to have a book to jog your memory! I can't believe the stuff that happened back when I was in high school. Of course, I really couldn't believe it back then either! But back then, I had nothing else to compare it to.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    This book provided a great amount of information into the background of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan’s rise to power. Matthews worked as a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter and was an aid to Speaker Tip O’Neill so he is writing as an insider. Matthews’s eyewitness account of the collapsing Carter campaign in 1980 is one of the strongest sections in the book. The 1980 election made Ronald Reagan, who was the most conservative Republican to date, President. The Republicans got control of th This book provided a great amount of information into the background of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan’s rise to power. Matthews worked as a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter and was an aid to Speaker Tip O’Neill so he is writing as an insider. Matthews’s eyewitness account of the collapsing Carter campaign in 1980 is one of the strongest sections in the book. The 1980 election made Ronald Reagan, who was the most conservative Republican to date, President. The Republicans got control of the Senate but the Democrats controlled the House. Matthews paints Reagan and O’Neill as mirror images of Irish American politicians. O’Neill fits the type but Reagan was a product of a protestant small Midwest town and southern California and down played his Irish heritage. Matthews misread Reagan as affable when his election depended on his very public meanness, his zest for the punitive ---the vow to crackdown on “welfare Queen’s” and domestic spending. Reagan began his political career working for Barry Goldwater. Reagan launched his campaign for presidency in the heart of KKK country to counter Jimmy Carter. Matthews portrayed O’Neill as a blustering, tough Irish Bostonian who came up through the ranks of Congress, a consummate political insider. Reagan by contrast likes to portray himself as an outsider somehow innocent of the machine. His politics are still being played out today in the suspicion of all government programs and the conviction that all taxes are bad. Reagan the actor was head of the Actor’s Union and former Governor of California. The book is instructive with lessons on legislative flexibility and budget protocols that are now often ignored. Political scholars will profit from Matthew’s emphasis on documentation in his recounting of the pivotal role played by James A. Baker III, Reagan’s chief of staff, in the Reagan-O’Neill deal. Baker was not too proud to trek to O’Neill’s home at night to craft the compromise. Tip was able to rescue a tottering Social Security system and keep it going a good long time to come with the help of Reagan and Bob Dole. Tip’s support was crucial to Reagan achieving a historic nuclear arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union whom Reagan called the “evil empire”. On the other hand, the 1981 fight over the budget O’Neill failed to stop the slashing of taxes on the rich. O’Neill supported Reagan on deploying Marines to Beirut and tried unsuccessfully to thwart the President’s domino fixation on Nicaragua and the Contras. I am a middle of the road independent and I was wondering how a democrat was going to portray a republic president. I must say for the most part Matthews just laid out the facts and did not add political commentary. The book is interesting and entertaining. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Chris Matthews did a good job narrating the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I was a little unsure how objective this book might be considering it was written by Matthews, who worked under both the Carter administration as well as staffer for Tip O'Neil. But I was pleasantly surprised. The book follows the careers of two great Irish-American leaders who came from diametrically different backgrounds and perspectives yet somehow managed to work together, in a bi-partisan way, to seek the best for the people of the U.S. Clearly the two had major differences on policy opinio I was a little unsure how objective this book might be considering it was written by Matthews, who worked under both the Carter administration as well as staffer for Tip O'Neil. But I was pleasantly surprised. The book follows the careers of two great Irish-American leaders who came from diametrically different backgrounds and perspectives yet somehow managed to work together, in a bi-partisan way, to seek the best for the people of the U.S. Clearly the two had major differences on policy opinions, which Matthews clearly articulates. But he also notes how these two gentleman transcended the crass politics that brewed in their era. I very much enjoyed insights about each man that Matthews obtained and shared. Admittedly, there were times when I thought his bias/favoritism toward Tip was evidently; but honestly, I thought he was trying to be fair to Reagan as well. It was wonderful to read of this era in American political history. It also made one long for the day when we might be able to return to such perspectives instead of the antagonistic, partisan, and 'destroy your opponent' perspective we see today. Two great gentleman and politicians, indeed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lonnie West

    Three words caught my attention: "When Politics Worked." It's probably evident that I'm on a kick: political books. If you are shocked, no more so than me. This was a great book. The lesson in working together was far different than I expected. It was not an "aha moment--you were right, I was wrong." It was about two passionate men who saw different sides and different solutions to the same problem. It was about finding some middle ground. (for more on that, I wrote a blog: lonnie60.blogspot.com Three words caught my attention: "When Politics Worked." It's probably evident that I'm on a kick: political books. If you are shocked, no more so than me. This was a great book. The lesson in working together was far different than I expected. It was not an "aha moment--you were right, I was wrong." It was about two passionate men who saw different sides and different solutions to the same problem. It was about finding some middle ground. (for more on that, I wrote a blog: lonnie60.blogspot.com) I didn't vote for Ronald Reagan years ago--"He's an actor, afterall. Likely to deceive us." Years after, I wished I had. But--for man of "character," -- if I were to judge by this book, I'd give the award to Tip O' Neil. There were times when he disagreed with the President but stood behind him for the good of our country. Tip and The Gipper: fierce adversaries and friends. I've grown to respect, with some of my latest readings, the men and women who represent us in government. I think I should send a couple thank you notes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    Surely, no two leaders ever had a broader difference of opinion than Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan. But as Chris Matthews so ably illustrates, these two men managed to breach the vast gulf of their differences for the good of the country. "I am an American first, and a Democrat second" said Tip O'Neill. Mr. Matthews was the Speaker's right-hand man and plums his first-hand experience to prove that when the country comes first, honest brokering can succeed. Mr. Matt Surely, no two leaders ever had a broader difference of opinion than Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan. But as Chris Matthews so ably illustrates, these two men managed to breach the vast gulf of their differences for the good of the country. "I am an American first, and a Democrat second" said Tip O'Neill. Mr. Matthews was the Speaker's right-hand man and plums his first-hand experience to prove that when the country comes first, honest brokering can succeed. Mr. Matthews has a depth of personal experience and an honest fairness to all works. You don't have to be a political junkie to enjoy Mr. Matthews insightful, thoroughly documented, first hand account of the Reagan/O'Neill years. Mr. Matthews "Hardball" is still used in Political Science college classes throughout the country. If you missed his "Kennedy and Nixon" you are in for a treat. First class writing for a first class story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Farrell

    Friendly enemies? Maybe the Cold War kept a cap on the kind of partisan enmity we see today. But there was a time, strange though it may seem, when skilled, principled politicians engaged in give and take and were content to take home 80 percent of their top priorities. And so stuff got done. Matthews gives us an engaging, inside perspective (with creditable modesty about his own important role) of the mighty struggle between Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill, and how they bent, when they ha Friendly enemies? Maybe the Cold War kept a cap on the kind of partisan enmity we see today. But there was a time, strange though it may seem, when skilled, principled politicians engaged in give and take and were content to take home 80 percent of their top priorities. And so stuff got done. Matthews gives us an engaging, inside perspective (with creditable modesty about his own important role) of the mighty struggle between Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill, and how they bent, when they had to, to the national interest. There are many books written by Reagan's White House staffers, but this is the only account (aside from O'Neill's charming memoir) from inside the Speaker's office, and a valuable addition to American political history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Charles M.

    This is revisionist history at its worst! I remember Pres. Ronald Reagan as repeatedly beating House Speaker Tip O'Neill in his legislative agenda in the great conservative wave during the 80s...and succeeding in giving back America its pride and resourcefulness. I also remember Democrat Tip O'Neill being the old crusty, big machine and corrput DC politician, who even gave Dem. Pres. Jimmy Carter headaches!. Chris Matthews "remembers" it all quite differently; re-writing history to make Reagan l This is revisionist history at its worst! I remember Pres. Ronald Reagan as repeatedly beating House Speaker Tip O'Neill in his legislative agenda in the great conservative wave during the 80s...and succeeding in giving back America its pride and resourcefulness. I also remember Democrat Tip O'Neill being the old crusty, big machine and corrput DC politician, who even gave Dem. Pres. Jimmy Carter headaches!. Chris Matthews "remembers" it all quite differently; re-writing history to make Reagan look like a bungling president, who had to be rescued by O'Neill's legislative expertise, etc. It is one thing to cast one's opinion, but Matthews has significantly tainted this period of presidential history into a pack of lies and falsehoods, which would put his college history professor to shame!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Mathews has written, from an insider's perspective, an excellent history of the six years that Ronald Reagan served as President while working with and against the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill. Covering the years 1981-1987, Mathews served as O'Neill's spokesperson and key political and policy advisor. He describes the issues (Social Security, tax reform and immigration) that the two compromised on for the good of the country, as well as the issues (budget and Central American policy) on whi Mathews has written, from an insider's perspective, an excellent history of the six years that Ronald Reagan served as President while working with and against the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill. Covering the years 1981-1987, Mathews served as O'Neill's spokesperson and key political and policy advisor. He describes the issues (Social Security, tax reform and immigration) that the two compromised on for the good of the country, as well as the issues (budget and Central American policy) on which they fought. The principal theme of the book--from part of the title "When Politics Worked"--is a yearning for Washington's leaders, the President and the Congress, to work together for the good of the country. (Rob's review)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff J.

    Interesting mix of biography, history, and memoir. Matthews provides a balanced analysis of the working relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill. Very timely given the current impasse in Washington. I was particularly intrigued by a few brief passages comparing media relations in the 1980s with the current 24-hour news cycle, I'm hoping he'll write more on this given his unique perspective.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jim Blessing

    Chris Matthews weaves an interesting read about the rivalary and partnership of President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. These two leaders show that compromise and working together is the way to go about doing business in a divided government. This should be required reading for Tea Party types.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    7 days seems to be my usual for reading these books. I decided to get away from the late 1800s and early 1900s that my recent binge reading has been drawing me to, too look at some history that happened while I have been alive. The presidency of Ronald Reagan happened for me between the ages of 8-15, I did not know a lot of what was going on during that time because I had more important things on my mind. But looking back, seeing the relationship between Republican President Reagan, and Democrat 7 days seems to be my usual for reading these books. I decided to get away from the late 1800s and early 1900s that my recent binge reading has been drawing me to, too look at some history that happened while I have been alive. The presidency of Ronald Reagan happened for me between the ages of 8-15, I did not know a lot of what was going on during that time because I had more important things on my mind. But looking back, seeing the relationship between Republican President Reagan, and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil was the last time it felt for me where government worked. Where compromise ruled and these two kept the country running while simultaneously hating each other and being good friends. Delving into the book shines a light on these two that most people could not access, but Matthews could since he was there, from behind the scenes politicing, to an examination of the biggest events in the 80s, Gorbachev, Challenger disaster, assassination attempts, Iran hostages, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Iran Contra, social security, the budget and more we get a view of history from those who lived it. An entertaining, insightful, and interesting look at a time in History not so long ago, and an era where working together is not a sign of weakness, instead it shows live of country. These two showed us how it was done, and if they would’ve been alive today to see what is happening, both would be angry and sick to their stomachs.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    The first half of this book is the strongest written section, and that makes sense since that's the section where the author obviously had the most first hand information. However, I found the last half to be lacking: many details of important legalisation of the 80's is painfully short on details..... And honnestly, it feels rushed. It's information flow is choppy and often changes topic very fast with little lead up (occasionally confusing the reader). I can easily accept that Reagan and Tip si The first half of this book is the strongest written section, and that makes sense since that's the section where the author obviously had the most first hand information. However, I found the last half to be lacking: many details of important legalisation of the 80's is painfully short on details..... And honnestly, it feels rushed. It's information flow is choppy and often changes topic very fast with little lead up (occasionally confusing the reader). I can easily accept that Reagan and Tip simply did not have much of an impact on these sections (which are really stories that need to be seen from the broader perspective of Congress itself). I was however happy that Chris Mathews did not mount the centrist horse and decry both parties for the gridlock of our time (although he does come close in the begining). Sadly, the book would had been better if it had focused on the difference between the GOP coalition of the 80's and the one we have today (which is the primary reason any bipartisan legislation got done at all during the 80's, not necessarily because of Tip or Reagan). Despite it's flaws, I enjoyed the book. It's a good primer for the political history of the 80's, and each topic it goes over can be greater expanded with other books that focus on them. I just wish it's second half was as good as it's first 3/5

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    Not dated at all, but highly relevant today. I picked it up with an awareness of how badly our government has collapsed. In this study of two powerful Irish Americans from very opposite political arenas, Chris Matthews shows how respect for institutions and human decency could rule even the most passionate political differences. When Reagan accuses Speaker Tip of demagoguery, O'Neill calmly seeks out the Hill press and speaks of respect for institutions, and Reagan calls and apologizes within ho Not dated at all, but highly relevant today. I picked it up with an awareness of how badly our government has collapsed. In this study of two powerful Irish Americans from very opposite political arenas, Chris Matthews shows how respect for institutions and human decency could rule even the most passionate political differences. When Reagan accuses Speaker Tip of demagoguery, O'Neill calmly seeks out the Hill press and speaks of respect for institutions, and Reagan calls and apologizes within hours. Think about today. Matthews notes in the closing pages how Tip always referred to Ronald Reagan as The President of the United States, and remember that Reagan's vision of a city upon a hill included respect for its institutions and the balance of power. THERE WAS NO TWITTER! Frustrations, differences and yes true feelings were consigned to private diary pages opened only years later. Written with warmth and well researched by an insider, I felt nostalgic for the 1980's, and I never voted for Ronald Reagan. And while I admire Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I am lukewarm to her tearing up the State of the Union address. While Tip would not have done it, Ronald Reagan never would have used the State of the Union to humiliate the speaker, refusing his hand and honoring a virulent critic of the speaker-right there-with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. How far we have come-and sunk.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Chris Matthews shares plenty of himself, along with plenty about why Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill were able to work with each other, when possible, for the good of the country. The cliche about these two men, often heard, is that "at the end of the day, after their battles, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill would have a drink together." As though it were that simple. As Matthews makes clear, no, it was not simple, and no, it was not always friendly. I was surprised to discover how much credit Matth Chris Matthews shares plenty of himself, along with plenty about why Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill were able to work with each other, when possible, for the good of the country. The cliche about these two men, often heard, is that "at the end of the day, after their battles, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill would have a drink together." As though it were that simple. As Matthews makes clear, no, it was not simple, and no, it was not always friendly. I was surprised to discover how much credit Matthews was able to assign to Reagan-- Matthews, of course, was working for the Speaker at the time these events take place. The anecdotes are entertaining, but even more compelling are the accounts of conflict and cooperation over policy. When leaders understood the potential for policy to make a difference in people's lives. You can hear Matthews's voice clearly on every page. If you are an MSNBC fan, this should delight you. But even if you're not, the sub-plot of Matthews struggling to become a part of the Washington scene adds liveliness and sparkle to this well-composed book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Karen Levi

    It was interesting to read about the not-so-distant-past when politicians--and Americans--were more polite and respectful and when these politicians rose above the fray to compromise in the interest of the country. Elected politicians actually behaved like leaders, what a concept! I was never a fan of either of these men, but I have a newfound respect for them. I listen to Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Though he still refers to these "good old days", I do believe he thinks this new President is atypi It was interesting to read about the not-so-distant-past when politicians--and Americans--were more polite and respectful and when these politicians rose above the fray to compromise in the interest of the country. Elected politicians actually behaved like leaders, what a concept! I was never a fan of either of these men, but I have a newfound respect for them. I listen to Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Though he still refers to these "good old days", I do believe he thinks this new President is atypical and an anomaly and would not extend the standard of gentlemanly agreement to this person. There are rules to normal engagement and compromise. I gave the book three stars because some of the details were unnecessary for my purposes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Joynton

    I did not read all of this book. Politics is not something I enjoy reading about. I like political theory, but, even for a book club discussion, I just didn't want to know more about Tip and Reagan. I will say my husband, Olin, read it and enjoyed it. He even told me, "Oh, you will really like this one, it is set during a time we were involved and knew about the incidents on a personal level." No, I guess not me. So, it's not true I "read" the book, but that I read enough of it, and really tried I did not read all of this book. Politics is not something I enjoy reading about. I like political theory, but, even for a book club discussion, I just didn't want to know more about Tip and Reagan. I will say my husband, Olin, read it and enjoyed it. He even told me, "Oh, you will really like this one, it is set during a time we were involved and knew about the incidents on a personal level." No, I guess not me. So, it's not true I "read" the book, but that I read enough of it, and really tried to get through it. Too many others waiting to force an interest.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Reading about the success that Reagan and O'Neill had working together was encouraging on one hand, while equally disheartening, in light of the current activities coming out of Washington. A well written account, with insights from both sides of the relationships. I like politics a lot better in the historical context; when you don't have to actually live through it.

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