Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

Book Notes

December 12, 2013

Book proves democracy unpure


Despite Romney’s business acumen and political experience as governor of Massachusetts and as a presidential candidate in 2008, he suffered from foot-in-mouth disease. No matter how hard his campaign tried to prepare him he became a gaffe machine. Sometimes it seemed like he survived the primary fight only because he had fewer gaffes than his opponents.

The biggest one occurred at a private fundraiser that he didn’t think was being recorded (in this day and age a candidate should never think that). Romney basically described the 47 percent of the citizens who don’t pay federal income taxes as mooching off the rest of us. That “47 percent” comment probably cost him the election.

Meanwhile, Obama was vulnerable for several reasons. His signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, was under siege from the moment it passed. The economy and the rest of his agenda sputtered along because the Republicans were doing nothing to help him. Worst of all, he maintained a blasé attitude towards the campaign and the debates. He felt like they were beneath him.

Obama’s first debate performance was a complete disaster as he looked like someone who was out of touch and bored with his job. Romney came across as someone who was excited and knew what he was doing. The contrast was striking and took what appeared to be a certain Obama victory and turned the contest into a toss-up.

Reading about the two campaigns and their efforts to keep their candidates on the straight and narrow was both fascinating and comical at the same time. If episodes of elitism or gaffes didn’t intrude on operations there were always dimwitted surrogates and staff infighting to drag down the candidates and their message.

The one overriding negative was the unimaginable amount of money thrown into the ring. Considering how many people in this country struggle to make ends meet it’s unconscionable to see literally billions of dollars wasted on influencing the outcome. At least one campaign commercial aired 16,000 times. It’s unlikely the Founding Fathers ever expected political campaigns to devolve into such slimy, expensive affairs.

In the end Halperin and Heilemann showed that our democracy is far from pure. Political campaigns are all about winning, and competence, integrity, and spending restraints don’t enter the lexicon. Double Down is a very funny, entertaining, and disturbing read that provides us with lessons we never learned in a civics class.

Text Only
Book Notes
  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

  • Documentary proves Butch, Sundance still enchant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one of the most popular films of all-time. The 1969 Western is based on the real life exploits of two infamous outlaws whose specialty was robbing trains. They became folk heroes because they supposedly never shot anyone.

    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

  • Movie gives clues into real Disney Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. How can you not when Disneyland and Disney World are the most popular family vacation spots around. Add in his historic cartoons and animated features and you have a Hollywood legend. But how many people know what the man himself was like?

    May 29, 2014

  • Wooden bio by Davis feels definitive Any long-time observer of college basketball knows that one school and one coach stand out above all others. In the 1960s and 1970s the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins won ten championships in twelve seasons. Their level of achievement is so remarkable that it will probably never be equaled. Forty years after his last championship the ghost of John Wooden still reverberates at the university.

    May 22, 2014

  • Finding gems in e-book selection For those of us hooked on e-books it's not easy to get a best seller through the Download Zone. Those titles are hot commodities. But just because we have to wait doesn't mean that good books aren't available. I've had plenty of luck finding a "diamond in the rough" when I'm going on vacation and don't want to lug a heavy book around.

    May 15, 2014