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Common Ground

2007 non-fiction book by Cal Thomas and bob Beckel

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The time has come to change the course of American politics

  • Dec 1, 2008
  • by
I used to consider myself to be a political junkie.  For a good many years I found myself spending at least 1 to 2 hours each weekday evening and a couple of hours every Sunday morning watching programs like CNN's "Crossfire", "Hardball" with Chris Matthews and ABC's "This Week" to name but a few.  Then about 4 or 5 years ago I suddenly stopped watching.  I simply could not take it any more.  I had tired of all of the talking heads bickering and pointing fingers.  I was tired of the gridlock.  I made up my mind that my time was better spent reading about the important issues of the day.  According to co-authors Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas there are lots of folks like me who have tuned out politics.  And if the results of the early primaries in both parties in 2008 is any indication, the American people are seeking fresh approaches to the myriad problems that our nation is facing. "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America" provides the reader with a road map of the events that have led us to this rather sorry state of affairs and offers concrete suggestions as to how to deal with the ongoing problem of polarization in American politics.

Frankly, I found the first two-thirds of "Common Ground" to be a bit tedious at times. Beckel and Thomas rehash dozens of events over the past several decades that have contributed in one way or another to increasing lack of civility and rampant partisonship that is now so prevalant in this country.  The authors point to events like the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Iran-Contra hearings, the battle over national health insurance as well as the ongoing abortion issue as among the key reasons why politics has been poisoned in our country.  In addition, Beckel and Thomas correctly point out that hundreds of special interest groups have a huge financial stake in keeping the people of this country divided. I sort of figured this out a while back and refuse to contribute to these types of highly charged one issue organizations.  Likewise, much of talk radio has become highly partisan and quite inflammatory and no longer lends itself to a reasoned discussion of the important issues of the day.  And that's too bad!  Again, those who have been paying attention will not find a whole lot of new information in "Common Ground" about the events that have caused this phenomenon of polarization to occur.

More interesting to me, however, is the last few chapters of "Common Ground" where the authors point to some key issues where they feel consensus can be reached.  In addition, they make suggestions as to how candidates can sell the concept of compromise in presenting their ideas to the American people.  Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas are also very big on the idea of what they call "second opinion" groups.  Much like the Grace Commission that was assembled by President Reagan in the 1980's to help point out and eliminate waste in government, these "second opinion" groups could help our elected officials do a better job and as the book points out "help promote policies and actions that serve the interests of the most people, rather than the narrow and partisan interests of a select few."  It is just this kind of thinking that has been sorely lacking in Washington over the past several decades.

To sum up, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America" is really not a bad book.   However, if you happen to be someone who reads a lot and pays attention to what's going on then I suspect your time would probably be better spent reading something else.   On the other hand, if you are one of those people who is just trying to get up to speed on some of these important issues then "Common Ground" might be a pretty good choice for you.

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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book


Inspired by their popular USA Today column, conservative Cal Thomas and liberal Bob Beckel show politicians of both stripes how to get beyond partisanship, restore civility, and move our country forward. Thomas and Beckel are a unique pair in today's political climate—pundits from opposite sides who not only talk to each other but work together to find common ground on some of the most divisive issues facing us, from the war in Iraq to gay marriage to the Patriot Act. Common Ground unmasks the hypocrisy of many of the issues, organizations, and individuals who created and deepened the partisan divide at the center of American politics, and makes a strategic case for why this bickering must stop.

Throughout, Thomas and Beckel explode conventional wisdom and offer surprising new conclusions:

  • The Red State/Blue State divide: Myth!
  • A "common ground" presidential candidate can win in 2008: Reality!
  • "Polarizers" like Ann Coulter and Michael Moore are the future of political debate: Myth!
  • Major-party politics faces extinction: Reality!

These guys should know. For years Beckel and Thomas contributed to the climate of polarization in Washington . . . and they admit it. "We're two guys who spent a lot of years in the polarizing business, but on opposing sides," they write. "We helped write the game plan, and we have participated in everything from getting money out of true believers to appearing on television to help spread the contentious message. In many cases, we wrote the ...

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ISBN-10: 0061236349
ISBN-13: 978-0061236341
Author: Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel
Genre: Politics
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Published: October 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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