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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Review: The President and the Assassin

The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century - Scott  Miller

A “Review” of The President and the Assassin


With a title like The President and the Assassin, you'd think this book was about a president and an assassin. And it is. Sort of. This book is less about the individuals and more about the period and the prevailing attitudes at the turn of the century. Granted, William McKinley is not one of the most well-known presidents. And surely there isn't much information regarding Leon Czolgosz. Still, I hoped for a little more sustenance regarding the two figures.


But there's plenty here about industry, military, anarchy, politics, and society in the late nineteenth century. The author does wonderfully to portray the facts and withhold personal feelings. The late 1800s was a time that mirrors our own, and the United States was on the brink of huge change. The United States, having recovered from the Civil War, was considering a bold rejection of its anti-imperialist past in exchange for a bridge of U.S. islands that led straight into China. First, however, the U.S. needed to convince its people, so Teddy Roosevelt went scuba diving under a U.S. battleship, blew it up, and insisted revenge be taken on Spain. Problem was, the President himself wasn't completely convinced because he was actually one of the more decent presidents and wasn't about to go rushing into war when he suspected something fishy was going on (speaking of which, McKinley's relationship with his wife was out-and-out adorable, wasn't it? They should've had their own reality show. I mean, really, how many men out there can say they can show up William McKinley?) So the people are hungry for war with Spain and McKinley's backed into a corner and after so much time he relents (because for some reason he's now a little blood-thirsty himself) and wages war on... the Philippines? Oh yeah, bridge to China. Throw in a dash of desperate workers and all-too-knowing anarchists and you've got a good story.*


So, interesting times indeed. A good book. Unlike the author, however, I've let my personal feelings jade this review. At least I can hide my rant under a misleading title and claim I was merely inspired by the author.




*(Some readers may wish to take the above summary and insert the following words where appropriate: Dick Cheney, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Also, for proper parallels to be drawn, the sentence that begins “Problem was, the President...” must be removed. Some readers, on the other hand, may wish to beat me with a wooden spoon.)