THE SOUL OF AMERICA: The Battle for Our Better Angels, by Jon Meacham. Random House, 416 pp., $30.I heard this guy on the radio plugging his book, and his two favorite presidents were FDR and LBJ!
Historian and journalist Jon Meacham has written biographies of, among others, George H.W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson; that last book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. With “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” Meacham addresses a decidedly loftier subject: the very essence of the nation. He does so by documenting the words and actions of presidents and other historical figures who helped shape the nation’s culture and politics to make the United States into the country it is today.
Meacham’s book arrives at a time when much about the American political system seems broken. People are angry, ambivalent, anxious. But Meacham, by chronicling the nation’s struggles from revolutionary times to current day, makes the resonant argument that America has faced division before — and not only survived it but thrived. “This book,” Meacham writes, “is a portrait of hours in which the politics of fear were prevalent — a reminder that periods of public dispiritedness are not new and a reassurance that they are survivable.”
Historians like him credit FDR with getting the USA out of the Great Depression, but you get a different story from economists. The consensus there is that almost all of FDR's policy made the economy worse.
LBJ was a terrible president for a long list of reasons.