Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed, the Man Who Broke the Filibuster

James Grant. Simon & Schuster, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4165-4493-7
A progressive Republican congressional leader deserving of attention illuminates a Gilded Age political scene that seems otherwise very up-to-date in this rollicking biography. Grant (editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer and biographer of Bernard Baruch) celebrates Thomas B. Reed (1839–1902), who became Speaker of the House in 1890, for his embrace of civil rights and women's suffrage, his anti-imperial foreign policy leanings and razor-sharp, Twainian wit (excerpted at luxuriant length). Grant's Reed encapsulates a political era that is the mirror image of our own, an age of chronic recession, shaky currencies, brazen corruption, and legislative gridlock in which Democrats were the party of small government and Republicans the champions of big budgets and expansive federal powers. The story's climax is Reed's overturning of House quorum rules that let the minority stymie legislation, the equivalent of the Senate filibuster. Grant's droll, urbane narrative revels in absurdist House parliamentary wranglings, while his lucid exposition of contemporary debates over tariffs and the gold standard lets him soapbox for his own free-trade, hard-money predilections. The result is a lively, opinionated, and timely study of irresponsible politics grappling with a dire economy. 16 pages of b&w photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4516-1109-0
Paperback - 426 pages - 978-1-4165-4494-4
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