PACKWOOD by Mark Kirchmeier

PACKWOOD

The Public and Private Life from Acclaim to Outrage
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A breezily written but meaty biographical sketch of Senator Bob Packwood, accused serial sexual harasser and adulterer. Former Portland Oregonian journalist Kirchmeier locates the roots of Packwood's alleged behavior towards women ``deep in his family's history.'' In Kirchmeier's depiction, his subject's alcoholic, workaholic father and a self-absorbed, unloving mother produced a physically unattractive, socially awkward son who grew up ``feeling like a misfit.'' Not until law school at New York University, the author states, did Packwood ``blossom'' academically and socially, charting his political career and earning a reputation as a ``skirt chaser.'' In Kirchmeier's view, Packwood has been an active and effective member of the Senate since 1968, when the 36-year-old, relatively unknown, liberal Republican state legislator became Oregon's junior senator. He played a leading role in shaping the sweeping 1986 tax reform bill; he worked to encourage free international trade and business deregulation at home; he took strong, controversial stands in favor of abortion rights and equal rights for women. But accusations made public in 1991 charged that at the same time Packwood drank to excess, carried on many extramarital affairs, and sexually harassed scores of women. The author gives detailed examples of his typical MO, which allegedly included unexpectedly confronting women- -friends, strangers, colleagues, and employees--in elevators, restaurants, and his Senate office (among other places), wrapping his arms around them, forcibly kissing and fondling them, then pushing for more. Although Kirchmeier claims to have conducted more than 200 interviews for his book, his scanty footnotes refer primarily to previously published newspaper and magazine articles, and he makes extensive use of journalistically dubious reconstructed dialogue. Nonetheless, overall, this is a solid and gripping account of Packwood's misadventures, a strong indictment of power misused for sexual purposes. (16 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-258549-5
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995