STANDING UP FOR THE PEOPLE: The Life and Work of Estes Kefauver by Harvey Swados

STANDING UP FOR THE PEOPLE: The Life and Work of Estes Kefauver

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Possible contemporary parallels are only gently suggested, but this memorialization of an honest man in politics -- a man whose presidential ambitions were frustrated because he had not been a member of the Senate ""club"" and because his highly publicized investigations ran afoul of organized crime, big business and some members of his own party -- has obviously appeared at an opportune time. One suspects that few of today's teenagers remember Estes Kefauver as anything more than a coonskin cap; therefore, it may not have been necessary for Swados to defend him against ""misconceptions. . . that are cruel and unjust both to him and to ourselves,"" but neither does be try to present Kefauver as an anti-politician (one staff member was employed to search the obituary columns of local papers and write ""dead"" letters) or to gloss over his shortcomings -- he was unable to communicate with intellectuals, he made a tactical error in entering so many primaries in 1952, his motives in pursuing televised investigations may not have been entirely unselfish (""I think it's a good thing for me to have an investigation in an election year -- and this is a safe one""). On the whole Kefauver emerges as a hardworking and principled fighter for populist causes (though ""populist"" is a word Swados prudently avoids) and the impression is confirmed by revealing excerpts from the transcripts of his investigations and by the quoted opinions of such observers as I. F. Stone and Joseph Clark. This is a solid, uncompromising biography of an appealing subject from an era that has been too seldom examined.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1972
Publisher: Dutton