An insightful biography of esteemed journalist and philosopher Walter Lippmann (1889-1974).
The material that Goodwin (Emeritus, Economics/Duke Univ.; Art and the Market: Roger Fry On Commerce in Art, 1999, etc.) has culled from the extensive Lippmann archives at Yale, his published works, correspondence and the newspaper column “Today and Tomorrow,” which ran from 1931 to 1967, is at once shocking and provocative. A successful journalist and opinion-shaper, Lippmann wrote for the New York Herald Tribune and other papers and authored numerous books. An extensive cast of friends and acquaintances—including economist John Maynard Keynes and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter—allowed him to be privy to policy discussions at the highest levels. Goodwin builds the scaffolding of his narrative on the successive phases of Lippmann's career, and the lessons the author draws from Lippmann's thinking, discussions and writings about the causes of the Great Depression are eerily familiar and timely. Lippmann’s critiques of efforts to organize recovery through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal are exemplary, and the questions Lippmann explored could have sprung straight from the pages of today's newspapers. His profile of the almost schizophrenic nature of the New Deal also resonates powerfully today. Lippmann, who was unaffiliated with party or faction, sought to educate and strengthen the political center against what Goodwin calls “two competing approaches at the extremes,” progressivism and conservatism. Some still label Lippmann an elitist and anti-democratic for his views, but Goodwin disabuses such notions and highlights how Lippmann's thinking about government was based on a desire to strengthen both equality and freedom.
Opening up new perspectives on past political debates, Goodwin delivers a finely limned portrait of a man whose career was based on standards and purposes that seem to have largely disappeared from public life.