Benjamin Harrison (The American Presidents #23) by Charles W. Calhoun
Confession: The whole Cleveland-Harrison-Cleveland timeline was a bit confusing for me. I kept stumbling over the events and things I read in the Cleveland biography I read in March. This made me feel like a real Presidential Challenge failure, but alas, it’s the truth.
Anywho – This book was good, and short, but still packed in a lot of information. Some of it I ended up skimming, because honestly I just can’t read about the same political events month after month without snoozing.
I did finish this book with a new found appreciation for how much Harrison actually accomplished in his presidency. I think he’s one of the presidents that I just kind of forget about, but he really did work hard to push through congress.
Being Poppy: A Portrait of George Herbert Walker Bush, by Richard Ben Cramer
I was happy to find this book- it seems like most of the books on these modern presidents take some sort of political stance which colors everything that they have ever done in their lives. This one isn’t exactly like that because it is mostly not political. This was actually (I found out after buying it) taken from a longer book that the author carefully researched about the 1988 election- he basically removed the parts about Dole and Dukakis and their campaigns and published this small book just about George H. W. Bush. So it’s a little more balanced politically than most books out there, which was a plus….
The downside, which I also didn’t realize when purchasing? It just went up to the very, very beginning of his presidency. If I have time this month, I’ll probably grab another book about him that mostly covers his presidency, since that’s a big part of what I’m interested in obviously.
The biography was mostly a character sketch, which was written in this nearly breathless way. Never in my life have I see more ellipsis or dashes. I’m not joking when I say one excited sentence was 189 words long and included two sets of dashes and two sets of parenthesis and 23 commas. Yeah, I stopped and counted because it was some kind of feat of the English language. Let me repeat- it had twenty three commas. Eek.
I did think that George H. W. Bush’s life was really interesting. He was born super rich. Didn’t really act that way. Went into the military, survived a crazy plane crash. Came home, married Barbara who he genuinely loved (Reading about their marriage was one of my favorite parts of the book.). Became an oil man. Was incredibly friendly and charismatic, made friends easily. Got bored with oil. Decided to do politics. Became President.
It was almost frustrating reading, after really liking him as a person, about his accent to President because it seemed like he just didn’t know what else to do so he went into politics and then he was friends with the right people so he ended up Veep then whoops! He’s president! I wanted to cheer for him as a person but knowing how ill equipped he was made it hard. When he was first asked why he wanted to be come President he said, “I have a huge family and lots of friends.” That’s it. Later someone primed him on the real answer about helping and changing and blah blah blah, but the fact is that he did it just because he thought he could. Which is a little disheartening, right?
So there ya go, we’re now into presidents whose time in office I actually have a vague memory of. Ca-ray-zee.