Synopses & Reviews
The towering figure of the postwar Democratic Party, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill was one of the last of the great political warhorses, a man who cared as much about his family and friends as he did about the issues, someone who knew how to have a good time and do a good deed. Now, based on previously untapped records, interviews, and private correspondence, prize-winning journalist John A. Farrell gives us the first full-scale biography of this legendary American: a garrulous, legislative titan who fought with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich, and prevailed because he never forgot from whence he came.
Tip O'Neill came from the third floor of a three-decker in a neighborhood of Irish immigrants in North Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a leader in the local Democratic Party machine and instructed his son in the ways of precinct captains, organization politics, and patronage jobs. In 1948 Tip became the first Irish American, the first Roman Catholic, and the first Democratic Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. By 1952 he had arrived in Washington, an early soldier in the civil rights struggles. O'Neill had a surprisingly complex relationship with the Kennedys and split with Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. It was Tip who bridged the gulf between the old and new wings of the Democratic Party during the Vietnam era, Watergate, and the post-Watergate reforms. The man who believed "all politics is local" now found his stage to be national. He was elected Speaker of the House in 1977 but watched his party crumble during the Jimmy Carter years and the Reagan Revolution. Yet in the darkness, Americans came to recognize that Tip O'Neill represented a set of political values-justice, generosity, loyalty-that were as important as the entrepreneurial, conservative ideals of Reagan. Tip O'Neill had kept the faith.
In Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, John Farrell has crafted an epic biography, not just of a person, but of politics. Full of larger-than-life personalities and historic moments, it is a grand waltz through the corridors and back rooms of American power. And like Tip himself, Farrell's dazzling book is majestic, powerful, important, and utterly winning.
"Boston Globe reporter Farrell's biography of Thomas P. 'Tip' O'Neill (1912-1994) is much like the subject himself: large, rambling, sentimental and thoroughly fascinating....With wonderful detail from describing ward politics in Boston to deal making in Congress O'Neill's story is also the story of America in the past half-century, and the tale is thoroughly mesmerizing." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Beautifully written, lively, and highly informative, this book excels not only as the best available biography of O'Neill but also as the most readable book for those who want to understand modern Congress." Library Journal (starred review)
"A gracefully written, involving biography of a major twentieth-century political figure." Booklist
Welcomed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review -- and now in paperback -- the definitive life and times of the legendary Speaker of the House who was one of the most influential political leaders in postwar America. To read this book is to revisit many of the greatest moments of late 20th-century American politics: its most colorful characters, its grandest triumphs, its most bitter ideological wars and crises.
About the Author
John Aloysius Farrell has been reporting on national politics for the Boston Globe since 1987, most recently as the newspaper's prizewinning White House correspondent. Before arriving at the Globe, he covered national affairs and worked as an investigative reporter for newspapers in Baltimore and Denver. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife, Catharina, daughter, Caitlin, and son, John.