Mark Twain's Tale of Today: Halley's Comet Returns--The Celebrated Author Critiques American Politics Donald Tiffany Bliss Author
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Second Edition, March 2017: As America's first global celebrity, Mark Twain was a much-sought-after political commentator. He warned against politicians who put loyalty to party above the national interest, the corrupting influence of money in the legislative process, the irelevance of political campaigns that sidestep issues of voter concern by resorting to platitudes and demonizing the opposition, and the false patriotism that rallies support for unjust wars. Twain's cogent, insightful commentary retains an uncanny relevance to the challenges facing American democracy today. Mark Twain's Tale of Today traces the evolution of Twain's views about politics, government, social and economic issues, capitalism, foreign policy and American-style democracy. It describes the parallels between Twain's Gilded Age and contemporary America-- boom and bust economic cycles, partisan trench warfare and gridlock, risky speculation in the financial markets, rapid technological and cultural change, and rising income disparity. It is worth remembering Twain's admonition: It cannot be well or safe to let present political conditions continue indefinitely. They can be improved, and American citizenship sould rise up from its disheartenment and see that it is done. Twain offered solutions-- extensive civic education begining on the mother's knee and continuing throughout the educational spectrum, an informed, engaged and activist citizenry, and the election of representatives of integrity, regardless of political affiliation, who think and act independently and have the courage to lead rather than bend to the fickle breezes of public opinion or party platitudes and platforms. The book describes the forces that shaped Twain's political views, his childhood in the border slave state of Missouri, his work as a printer's devil in his brother's Hannibal newspaper, a teenager's visit to the nation's capital, his frontier reporting on the Nevada territorial legislature, his brief stint in 1867-68 as a congressional aide to Nevada Senator William Stewart in Washington D.C., his reporting on Congress, reconstruction legislation and Andrew Johnson's impeachment proceedings, his marriage into a progressive Republican family, and his many visits to Washington to lecture, lobby, advise presidents and testify before Congress. From Twain's countless books, essays, newspaper stories, magazine articles, short stories, satires, speeches, lectures, letters, and unpublished dications and stories, the author has presented a portrait of an American genius, who, mostly known as the Lincoln of our literature or a widely quoted humorist with a maxim for every occasion, was also in many ways the first talking head, whose observations remain as relevant as any Sunday morning round table guest, cable TV or radio talk show host, or contemporary political blogger. Twain believed that the truth about American politics goes down better with a dose of humor, and that a refom message resonates more fully in a story rather than in a lecture. He is the progenitor of political satires that find expression today in the works of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Second City, the Capitol Steps, Maureen Dowd, and countless others. But there is a depth and seriousness to his commentary that is worthy of revisiting today. That is the reason for the title of this book, which is a take-off on Twain's first novel (written with Charles Dudley Warner) about Congreesional corruption and market speculation, The Gilded Age, A Tale of To-Day. The author, Donald Tiffany Bliss, is the great-grandson and grandson of Twain publishers and he draws upon some family history in the book. Ambassador Bliss (retired) also spent thirteen years in the federal government and thirty years in the private practice of law in Washington D.C. where he has had a ringside seat on the workings of government and politics.


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