Author – David S. Holland
Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes
Lean Left — Target Right
David described his book as a “snarky look at presidential elections.” I anticipated a comedic analysis of the voting habits of Americans. The book did not disappoint from that perspective. The author does a very credible job in describing the foibles and gaffes of each presidential nominee (and some VP’s thrown in for good measure) since the 1964 election. But he does it as an artist painting a caricature portrait. You know, we’ve all had them done. We think it’s a great idea at the time; only to look back and see the worst of our facial features heavily exaggerated. The author here takes depiction of presidential flaws to an SNL-level. Readers will move through the book easily, anxious to read his description of presidential events. From the vantage point of David’s book, it is not any wonder that there is such a complete degradation in political campaigns. You can feel the reverse evolution.
I have been fortunate enough to live through each campaign David narrates. My favorite all time gaffe during any campaign, there have been many including this year’s primary season, remains the Dukakis helmet incident. The race for the Oval was essentially over. There was little doubt Michael Dukakis was not going to beat George HW Bush. HW was whisked into prominence on the euphoric coattails of Ronald Reagan. HW would go on to capture 426 of the electoral votes. Based on the advice of his campaign manager, believing Dukakis could turn opinions around, but to do so he needed to look presidential and commander in chief like. They instructed that he, the five foot nothing candidate, climb into an M1 tank. First mistake, because the diminutive Dukakis appeared even smaller. To make matters even worse, someone slapped an oversized helmet on poor little MD. The helmet not only hung down to his eyes but for a moment, all that was visible from his position in the tank was the top of the helmet. MD and his small head were crushed in the general election. Not much has changed, now candidates discuss smallish but different body parts.
David Holland has an eclectic background. He is a retired military officer, a non-practicing lawyer, a federal employee, and consultant; but if you audited his tax returns you’d find his profession shown as “unknown author.” David, I share your pain! David is a clever writer. His book is an easy read filled with lots of humorous anecdotes.
The motivation for his effort was a debate he watched between Fox News hosts, Bill O’Reilly, and Juan Williams. The discussion got very heated with O’Reilly believing people voted for a candidate or a party; William convinced of the opposite. So David decided he’d perform a self-analysis of his voting decisions since 1964. In the thirteen election cycles, he voted against a candidate seven times, three times for, two toss-ups and one no vote cast. He states his voting habits resemble that of a “Cranky Old Man.”
I have been eligible to vote in the most recent 12 elections. As I waded through the book jotting notes about how I voted, in reflection my outcome is the complete opposite. I voted for the candidate or party each and every time. Hence, the debate rages on. I encourage all Zebra readers to perform a similar self-analysis.
David is passionate that the 2016 presidential primary and this general election is an inflection point in the transformation of the American political scene. Citizens are angry. Fringes of Democrat and Republican parties are deeply entrenched in their extremist positions. The vast “gray” middle is rebelling against stereotyped politicians because of their inability to get things done. Americans want to see a compromising government willing to make concessions to help everyone have an opportunity for a better life. Wealthy politicians do not appreciate nor can they relate to the day to day economic pressures families face. My take is without term limits, career politicians have evolved into an “elite elected ruling class”, akin to an aristocracy. Democrats to the left are embedded in their position of “freebies”, and need a reality check on how things get paid for. The far right wing of the GOP is more recalcitrant on social concessions. What gets lost in all the rhetoric is the mounting debt, soon to be $21 trillion.
While none of the presidents or nominees escaped the sarcastic wit, the author who is a professed moderate, was harsher on the GOP. Ronald Reagan, the ‘Gipper’- the Great Unifier, to my chagrin, was not spared. The author’s criticisms are very much aimed more to the right. For example, he pointed out that the GOP for a quarter century blamed and criticized the Dems for poor relations with China, but fails to point out nearly eight years of blaming W for everything from acne to volcanic eruptions. On the Dem side, there is, of course, Slick Willie, the White House Casanova, who gained national notoriety and impeachment for his dalliances. This year, of course, Mrs. Slick is running. There is the king of spelling bees, Dan Quayle, but certainly not outdone by the stumbling, bumbling Bible-carrying peanut farmer with lust in his heart.
All politics aside, if you are balanced and open to an entertaining look at politics, have at this book. If your skin is not thick enough to handle the roasting of your guys, still read it. Either way, you decide whether you vote for or against. My opinion is to vote your convictions, but stay wary about who pays for all the free stuff, or you could get Bern’d or Trumped!
David is planning on a follow-up project, a post mortem to this presidential election. This is a transformational period for US elections. The game is changing from the impact of technology. Information is immediately available. Soundbite data is thought of as the equivalent of exhaustive research. Facebook and Twitter are having profound implications on voting habits.
Zebra rating – 5 stripes, all polls now closed!