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Friday: Blincoln Blogs

June 6, 2008

As the Democratic primary race folded and the contest for November began to shape up with advocates on both sides abler to size up the competition, The New York Times Book Review asked several writers what books they might recommend for the future president.

I am not alone in my recommendation: Team of Rivals. To be honest, I didn’t initially think of ToR would but after Professor Drezner mentioned it, I had to immediately conclude he was right.

Goodwin’s book, as it’s title suggests, is not about Abraham Lincoln alone, but rather it covers a specific element of Lincoln and his leadership style. The new Republican Party of the mid-19th Century was looking for a candidate for president and they had their eyes on several people. Goodwin focuses on five: Abraham Lincoln, who would eventually win the nomination and then the presidency; Edward Bates who would serve as Lincoln’s attorney general; William Seward Sr., who would serve as Lincoln’s secretary of state; Edwin Stanton who would serve as Secretary of War; and Salmon Chase, who would serve as Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury.

The three men who were not Lincoln hated or at least did not respect the man who was. Goodwin follows all four men and analyzes how it was that Lincoln decided to fill his cabinet with his previous rivals–who were not just political rivals but were outspoken, highly-regarded, ideological rivals. Such dynamics would almost certainly have destroyed the presidency of a lesser man than was our 16th president.

I would also recommend the Complete Calvin and Hobbes–snowman sculpture has a way of taking the mind off the serious issues of the day.

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