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Christmas Gift Books for Political Junkies

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Tuesday, 20 Dec 2016 09:58 AM Current | Bio | Archive

For readers who enjoy, as I do, giving books as Christmas presents to political junkie friends and relatives, here are my 2016 gift book picks:

"Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior," by Arthur Herman (Random House, $40). This is the finest biography of the five-star general and Medal of Honor winner since William Manchester's "American Caesar" was published in 1978. Herman, an outstanding narrative writer, describes MacArthur's rapid rise to two-star general at age 38; his time as a reform superintendent of West Point; the inside story of his rocky, yet working, relationship with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; his triumphs in World War II; his record as supreme ruler of post-war Japan; and his controversial tenure and clashes with President Truman as commander of the U.N. forces in Korea. Herman also points out that "MacArthur's strategic vision helped shape several decades of foreign policy . . . [and how] he foresaw the shift away from Europe, becoming the prophet of America's destiny in the Pacific Rim."

"Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon," by Larry Tye (Random House, $32).  Utilizing unpublished memoirs, newly released government documents and personal papers that have been locked away for 40 years, Tye, of The Boston Globe, has written what will be the definitive biography of Robert F. Kennedy for years to come. The book honestly reports Bobby's days as counsel to U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy; his crusade to get union boss Jimmy Hoffa; his sometimes difficult relationship with his brother John F. Kennedy; and his movement from tough cold warrior to opponent of the war in Vietnam. Tye explains how Bobby at the end of his life, was able to be tough on crime and welfare dependency, while appealing to working class people — both black and white — during his quixotic 1968 presidential campaign that tragically ended on June 6, 1968 by an assassin's bullet.

"The Cultural Revolution 1962–1976," by Frank Dikotter (Bloomsbury Press $38). This is the final volume of Dikotter's extraordinary trilogy depicting Mao Zedong's reign of terror during which he murdered more people than Hitler and Stalin combined — 70 million Chinese. To eliminate tens of millions of imagined enemies, Mao ordered the "Cultural Revolution" which he privately referred to as the "Great Purge."

The book details how Mao's attempt to control every form of social intercourse. Having a dinner party or the use of humor or sarcasm could be — and were — deemed criminal activities that warranted the death penalty. Dikotter debunks the distorted view of America's elitist intellectuals of Mao. He proves that China's state-run economic system is built on the graves of millions of victims of Mao's depravity.

"A Torch Lit: Great Lives of the 20th Century," by William F. Buckley, Jr., edited by James Rosen (Crown Forum, $22). In this volume, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News has assembled 75 of the conservative icon's best eulogies and obituaries of "the famous and obscure, the heroic and villainess, the charmed and doomed."

Organized thematically with insightful Rosen introductions, each selection "demonstrates Buckley's mastery of the elusive art form of the eulogy."

This book reveals to a new generation of conservatives that Buckley was more than a celebrity. He was a great writer, an intellectual powerhouse, and the undisputed leader of the post-World War II conservative movement.

"JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity," by Larry Kudlow and Brian Domitrovic (Portfolio, $29). This readable and engaging book traces how John F. Kennedy came around to embracing supply side economics. In August 1963, Kennedy declared "our tax rates are so high as to weaken the very essence of the progress of a free society, the incentive for additional return for additional effort."

He called for permanent and significant tax rate cuts "to remove a serious barrier to long-term growth." JFK's plan, signed into law by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, "took the 24 rates of the income tax down from the range between 20 percent  and 91 percent to between 14 percent and 70 percent, phased in over two years."

The upsurge: economic growth between 1965 and 1969 averaged an incredible 5 percetn annually. The book recounts how the Kennedy policy inspired the Reagan administration that brought down federal income rates down to two brackets, 28 percent and 15 percent, producing 4 percent annual growth between 1983 and 2000.

Happy reading in 2017.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.

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