Tag Archives: U.S. Capitol

When our Capitol Burned

Washington Burning by Les Standiford

This is a beautifully written, and ultimately moving, tribute to the founding and building of the nation’s capitol.   It is also a history lesson on the terrors of war; in this case, the destruction of the Capitol by British soldiers in the War of 1814.   In a brief 24 hours, 22 years of construction was destroyed with major damage to the White House and the Capitol building.

But the author’s key goal, well met, is to honor a man who was without honor in his time, the architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant.   L’Enfant was selected by George Washington to design the new Federal City.   His design worked so well that when, one hundred years later, a panel of the nation’s best architects and planners (including Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.) was asked to re-design the city, they declined.   These experts affirmed that L’Enfant’s original plan was the perfect one.

L’Enfant is now buried at the highest point in Arlington after dying as a virtually penniless, abandoned, man.   This nation may never adequately repay the Frenchman L’Enfant for his services to his adopted country.   This book is a fine start.Burning 4  Three Rivers Press, $16.00, 353 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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Big Time

By His Own Rules (lg.)By His Own Rules:  The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld

One would think that an 803-page tome about a two-time Secretary of State would be sleep-inducing.   But this book by Bradley Graham races along like a fine Capitol mystery-thriller.   It is the biography of a man who might have been president, Donald Rumsfeld.   While it is presented in what is now known as a fair and balanced approach, it becomes clear that Rumsfeld’s faults and failures will add up to be larger than his successes.

This is first and foremost a tale of hubris and ego.   The young Rumsfeld, one of the youngest Congressman ever elected, is seen as clean and prepared, like the 1.0 version of Mitt Romney.   The young Rumsfeld made connections with the right people, with names like Ford, Bush and Cheney, which is how he came to have a long and stand out career.   Yes, he eventually ran for president in a campaign that was stillborn and he met his albatross in the Iraq War.

Iraq was the vehicle that fully exposed Rumsfeld’s weaknesses and caused President Bush to accept his resignation; Rumsfeld became McNamara 2.0.   This is a well-written, cautionary, tale.

Public Affairs, $35.00, 803 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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