The end result was a clash of titans. The liberal O’Neill saw government as the answer to the nation’s ills while the conservative Reagan saw it as the problem. The only thing these two men seemed to have in common was their Irish heritage.
Fortunately, despite their differences, both men believed in a functional government. They could be brutal with each other in the press and actually despised each other at times, but never severed the lines of communication. They knew they needed each other to get anything done. It also didn’t hurt that they enjoyed each other socially.
Matthews explores many of the critical issues of the day, including Social Security and tax reform. He witnessed first-hand how these two men would constantly clash yet somehow reach common ground more often than not. Compare that to today where gridlock rules and one side thinks talking to the other is the equivalent of treason.
It’s ironic that while living through the 1980s it didn’t seem like a golden era in politics. We had a lot of contentious battles over supply-side economics, the Iran-Contra scandal, budget deficits, and Star Wars. Yet, in the end, it was still a time when politicians could treat each other with respect and manage to get things done. “Tip and the Gipper” proves that government can work during even the most difficult of times and provides an object lesson for the future.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at email@example.com.