A thorough, admiring, and not uncritical study of a political lion whose roar is much needed these days.

AGAINST THE WIND

EDWARD KENNEDY AND THE RISE OF CONSERVATISM, 1976-2009

The second volume of the author’s fluent account of Edward Kennedy’s political career in the face of the government’s shift from New Deal liberalism to the beginnings of our current “deep crisis for democracy.”

The liberal consensus, writes Gabler, “had once been the prevailing American ideology.” When Kennedy entered the Senate in 1962 while his brother was president, that was certainly true. Yet, almost immediately, America began a rightward shift, hastened by Richard Nixon and his “fierce Kennedy hatred” and Ronald Reagan, who surrounded himself with hatchet men bent on undoing the administrative state. Yet as the author shows, even the intervening Jimmy Carter, a Democrat now being nominated, it seems, for sainthood, was no ally: Kennedy believed that Carter was “a man without convictions” who tried to play to the middle while running away from fights with conservatives, “whom Carter seemed to fear much more than he feared liberals.” So it was with other centrist Democrats, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who caved in to conservative demands while wondering how they were so often outmaneuvered. The stalwart Kennedy’s efforts at comprehensive legislation on national health care and a higher minimum wage were thus stifled or frittered away. On immigration reform, for instance, amendment after amendment was added to kill Kennedy’s bill, and years of negotiations died with them. “The ‘voices of fear,’ as Ted had called them, those on talk radio and in nativist circles, had won,” writes Gabler. The voices of fear have grown louder since then, and Kennedy’s liberalism is nearly unimaginable. The rightward line the author draws runs through Kennedy not as a prime mover but instead as someone whose longevity in the Senate was such that few had such a ringside seat to history only to watch the right prevail against a brand of politics that “might remind us of our better selves.”

A thorough, admiring, and not uncritical study of a political lion whose roar is much needed these days.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-23862-2

Page Count: 1280

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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