THE RESPONSIBLES: How Five American Leaders Coped with Crisis by William S. White

THE RESPONSIBLES: How Five American Leaders Coped with Crisis

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

William S. White, political columnist and author of Citadel (the 1968 best-selling novel about the Senate), worshipfully presents us with five ""Responsibles-elect,"" Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and the late Senator Robert Taft, all American politicians who exhibited courage, common sense, great determination, humility and civility -- the necessary Responsibles criteria. (Nixon is unveiled as a ""Responsible-nominate"" since he's finally acquired civility after years of guttering around, says White.) His review of their political careers is just so much McGuffey-gushy stuff those tenth grade American histories are still made of, although the hall-of-fame business adds a cute touch. And White is every bit as conservative as those textbook writers, if not more so; when it comes to defining common sense, great determination, etc., we learn this means standing up to the Commies: Truman's finest hour was when he decided ""the Russians were not to be trusted""; the great moment of the Kennedy presidency was backing down the Bolshies over Cuba; LBJ was simply doing the only thing in Vietnam, fighting off the red and yellow menace, but still those vicious ""doves pecked him very nearly to death."" The overriding problem with this book is that White tries (and fails miserably) to put our last five presidents (including ""nominate"" Nixon) into a very tight consensus straightjacket cut from a threadbare Cold War fabric; some able historians can and sometimes do pull this off, but White can't and doesn't. For example, White flatly states that ""Truman was an abler President. . . than his patron and chief, Franklin D. Roosevelt"" which is laughable nonsense bordering on historical libel. A candidate for the remainder table.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row