Sunday, June 17, 2007
Team of Rivals, The political genius of Abraham Lincoln
You can't say that Ms. Kearns Goodwin isn't thorough. She spent over ten years researching and writing this 916 page book, the narrative ends on page 754 and she includes over 150 pages of sourcing and index. (Accuse a gal once of plagiarism and her next out will have one heck of a bibliography.)
Ms. KG gets kudos from us for bringing to life the Unions perspective of the Civil War and the machinations of the United States Government. We had some complaints about the editing. The editing was done by Ms. KG's husband which might explain the lack of brevity. It's probably hard to ask your spouse to make you dinner after you tell her the 15 pages she just wrote on some dudes luggage is extraneous. She also languished with pre-presidential candidate Lincoln. While she did an excellent job of bringing some of the early stories back there were some that while interesting didn't impact the political side of Mr. Lincoln.
In similar fashion to the Fitzgerald & Kennedy book the photographs included are placed in an unfortunate order. They give away (in non-fiction?) events that haven't happened yet. A minor complaint to be sure.
We all agreed that no leader today would dare to run their business or political cabinet like Mr. Lincoln. He brought the best of men to the table to achieve goals that were important for the country. His opinion of who was the best did not hinge on men he liked or were his advocates. A couple of these guys were down right anti-Lincoln but continued to do their jobs well so he kept them around. AMAZING!
The description of Lincoln signing the Emancipation proclamation was moving. It was impressive to learn that he had an acute awareness of the magnitude of that action. He also waited to sign it for the right moment, he has the ability to time things to achieve maximum support.
As the book drew to a close we were filled with dread. It is cruel to transform this man from the high school history version into a man of character and heart and then have him yanked away. Perhaps the lesson isn't in his death but in how he lead.
One amazing example was at the close of the civil war he chose to allow the men of the south to return home without facing retribution for their actions, and he let them return home with their weapons as long as they promised never to rise up against their country again. He immediately recognized them as fellow Americans rather than defeated enemies.