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Publisher's Summary

Howard Fineman is one of our best-known and most trusted political journalists. Mixing vivid scenes and figures from the campaign trail with forays into 400 years of American history, Fineman shows that every debate, from our nation's founding to the present day, is rooted in one of 13 arguments that - thankfully - defy resolution. In an enlightening book that cuts through the din and makes sense of the headlines, Fineman captures the essential issues that have always compelled healthy and heated debate - and must continue to do so in order for us to prosper in the 21st century. The Thirteen American Arguments run the gamut, from issues of individual identity to our country's role in the world, including:

Who is a Person? The Declaration of Independence says "everyone", but it took a Civil War and the Civil Rights and other movements to make that a reality. Presently, what about human embryos and "unlawful enemy combatants"?

Who is an American? Only a nation of immigrants could argue so much about who should become one. There is currently added urgency when terrorists are at large in the world and twelve million "undocumented" aliens are in the country.

The Role of Faith. No country is more legally secular yet more avowedly prayerful. From Thomas Jefferson to Terri Schiavo, we can never quite decide where God fits in government.

Presidential Power. In a democracy, leadership is all the more difficult - and, paradoxically, all the more essential. From George Washington to George W. Bush, we have always asked: How much power should a president have?

America in the World. Uniquely, we perpetually ask ourselves whether we have a moral obligation to change the world - or, alternatively, whether we must try to change it to survive in it.
©2008 Howard Fineman (P)2008 Random House, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By C. Valenzuela on 12-22-08

Argumentatively biased

The introduction was wonderful and I felt that the book would discuss the need for continued discussion and "argument" of the key topics of America. However, with the first chapter I found that I knew exactly which side of the arguments the author was on and that he was interested in converting readers to his side, and not to promote the idea that our country should continue to argue these points. I was hoping for a less-biased push for more communication and discussion by all of America, what I feel that I got was an argument for the author's beliefs. It is too bad because if one is looking for arguments for both sides and why we should continue to arguments, then this is not the book. I find that it is good to hear arguments from the "other side" even if I do not agree. It helps me develop my arguments, understand others arguments and opens my mind to new ideas and points of view. This book did none of that, nor did it make me feel that "argumentation" is good.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Richard Scarbrock on 02-16-09

Lost Potential

What a great concept, but the author ruins the idea by his blatant bias and misstatements of history. His inaccuracy about the War Powers Act and the story of Richard Nixon leaving office are but two (of many) examples. His continual railing against the Bush administration and sympathetic treatment of limousine liberals ruin any enjoyment of what could be a good argument. Not worth your time.

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2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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