NO-FAULT POLITICS by Eugene McCarthy


Modern Presidents, the Press, and Reformers
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A collection of humorous political doodlings from one of America’s foremost political doodlers. Former senator (and one-time presidential candidate) McCarthy’s writings have always seemed like a blend of Robert Benchley and Edmund Burke, and this collection of essays is no exception. As journalist Burris explains in his excellent introduction, the famously liberal McCarthy is in fact a conservative man. He believes in the value of institutions that have stood the test of time; he is skeptical of the innate goodness of human nature. Still, he retains a desire for justice and a deep compassion. His humor is always telling, but always just this side of vicious. McCarthy’s target here is political reform. He finds it to be mostly —postmodern— and mostly bad. Postmodern reform is one without substance. It neither knows nor cares about tradition, history, loyalty, and responsibility. Change is its own reason for being, and above all else there is the belief not in values but in, as he puts it, —process.— Thus, we end up with election reforms that make elections less democratic, government reform that creates more ineffective government, foreign policy whose purpose is created and justified as it unfolds. When it all doesn—t work, there must be more reform and redoubling of efforts, reorganization. At the same time, perhaps contradicting himself, he believes very strongly in the —process— of government that the Constitution created (he even has a kind word to say about the Electoral College). The problem is that government institutions no longer work as they were intended: Presidents are not presidential, senators are not senatorial. Along the way, McCarthy skewers any number of personalities, some obvious, some not so obvious: Clinton, for instance, but also Paul Fisher, the inventor of the ballpoint pen. This book might not be of lasting significance, but it is sustained by its grace and wit. The same might perhaps be said of Eugene McCarthy’s political life.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8129-3016-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998