NAME-DROPPING by John Kenneth Galbraith


From F.D.R. On
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In his 90th year, Galbraith has produced his 31st book: a slight but enjoyable remembrance of the great, and not-so-great, he has encountered in his adventures in politics. Galbraith first came to Washington, D.C., in 1934 to serve under FDR and the New Deal. He takes us from that time, when his own liberalism and the country’s were being forged, to the end of the 1960s, when the liberal consensus, but not his own belief, had begun to fade. While betraying a certain nostalgia for that era, when much seemed possible and indeed much was accomplished, this is not a political tome. He focuses instead on the people he met and admired along the way. First and foremost in his memory is FDR, “the greatest political personality of the century.” Some he speaks of remain well known (Truman, JFK). Others have perhaps faded somewhat from memory (Adlai Stevenson, Averell Harriman). Only one true villain makes an appearance, Albert Speer, whose semi-rehabilitation still troubles Galbraith, and only two women are profiled, Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy. Galbraith brings them all to life, Speer excepted, by focusing on their humanity, foibles, and above all humor. Galbraith is a witty man and enjoys others who are so inclined, often at his own expense. “Ken,” wrote Stevenson during his 1956 presidential campaign, “I want you to write the speeches against Nixon. You have no tendency to be fair.” LBJ commented on a speech on economics Galbraith wrote: “Making a speech on ee-conomics is a lot like pissin’ down your leg. It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.” Speaking to antiwar protesters outside the 1968 Democratic Convention Galbraith says, “I don’t want you fighting with these National Guardsmen Remember, they’re draft dodgers just like you.” ‘ And so it goes. There’s some criticism here, there could be more. There’s little to no mention of politicians after LBJ. But perhaps these will be part of Galbraith’ s 32nd book.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-82288-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999


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