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Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism Kindle Edition

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Length: 416 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eugene McCarthy's place in history as a cynosure of the antiâ€"Vietnam War movement is universally acknowledged. Yet McCarthy remains an enigmatic figure to supporters and opponents alike. Sandbrook's biography attempts to take the measure of the 1968 Democratic presidential candidate as a man and as a politicianâ€"and McCarthy (b. 1916) fares badly in both categories. Sandbrook, a British scholar of American history, argues that as a politician McCarthy, who served for two decades in the House and the Senate, achieved far less than contemporaries such as John F. Kennedy, Johnson or Humphrey, despite his superior intelligence and natural charisma. Specifically, Sandbrook contends that McCarthy brought no new ideas into the political arena, never won his party's presidential nomination and gave his name to no major bills. Given the rarified sphere that McCarthy occupied, and the scope and depth of the accomplishments of those to whom he is compared, it is arguable that Sandbrook's view is too harsh. But the comments by contemporaries of McCarthy's personal qualities are often damning indeed. Sandbrook quotes from a variety of McCarthy's fellow politicians, friends, family and the press to present the picture of a man who, for all his gifts, was, in the words of historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. "indolent, frivolous, cynical," or as described by Gilbert Harrison, a friend and former editor of the New Republic, "lazy," "unresponsive" and "insensitive." McCarthy's reported response to the assassination of his 1968 campaign opponent Robert Kennedy was a callous "[h]e brought it on himself." Sandbrook's biography will command attention and spark discussion about this controversial career and McCarthy's role in the end of the New Deal liberal consensus.--e brought it on himself." Sandbrook's biography will command attention and spark discussion about this controversial career and McCarthy's role in the end of the New Deal liberal consensus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As the nation's current Democratic presidential candidates raced the icy roads of New Hampshire, journalists remembered another harsh New Hampshire winter, when the junior senator from Minnesota and his "Clean for Gene" troops lost a primary but did well enough (42.4 percent) to convince Lyndon Johnson not to run for reelection. For Sandbrook, a U.S. history lecturer at the University of Sheffield, Gene McCarthy's political career "reflected the rise and fall of the liberal consensus between the 1940s and the 1960s." McCarthy's liberalism grew from his deeply felt Catholicism, which led him to reject unrestrained modern capitalism's cruelties as well as Communism's godlessness. (McCarthy in fact got his political start driving "Reds" out of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party.) In the U.S. House and then the Senate in the 1940s and 1950s, McCarthy was a man of his time: firmly anti-Communist, a pragmatic, ambitious "rising star popular with the southern party barons." His 1968 challenge to LBJ manifested the collapse of the faith that had held liberalism together for a generation. Enlightening political biography; includes notes and a detailed bibliography. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By David M. Dougherty VINE VOICE on August 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is more about McCarthy than liberalism, and the weakest presentations comes when the author attempts to describe Postwar (WWII) American liberalism and its supposed fall. Needless to say as of this writing (2008) American liberalism is alive and well -- quite the opposite of the author's supposition.

Sandbrook spends sufficient time on McCarty's upbringing and development, particularly as a student at St. John's, to place his subsequent actions and politics into context. Only in a few instances was this development wanting. For example, McCarthy was an excellent athlete in baseball and hockey (until 1938 in the book), even to the point of possibly being good enough for professional baseball, but then suddenly is given a 4-F classification in 1942. Unfortunately, his supposed infirmity (bursitis in his feet) fails to slow him down later. One is left wondering how this deferment came about.

McCarthy made his mark in 1948 in defeating and expelling the communists from their position of influence in the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota. He built an awesome political machine in Ramsey County (St. Paul) and displayed enormous organizing talent. Until 1972, this machine of Irish and German Catholics supported McCarthy in whatever he wished to do, and gave him the opportunity to tweak the lion's tail without having to watch his back.

The author points out that McCarthy received the support of the oil companies, but fails to connect the dots concerning why and how that came about. Well, allow me to clear the air. Oilman J.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on March 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Eugene McCarthy that emerges in the pages of Dominic Sandbrook's biography is a strange, unpleasant, embittered man. McCarthy's place in the liberal pantheon was forever secured by his challenge to Lyndon Johnson's renomination for the presidency in 1968. Yet Sandbrook argues persuasively that while McCarthy may have won the battle by forcing Johnson into retirement, he--and American liberalism--ultimately lost the war.
This book is primarily a political biography, but Sandbrook gives us the basics of McCarthy's childhood, education, and pre-political career. He emphasizes the great role European Catholic thought played in shaping his values--an influence that was deeply felt throughout his political career. The Eugene McCarthy who was elected to the U.S. House in 1948 and moved up to the Senate a decade later was a classic postwar liberal, working to fulfill and extend the New Deal and the Fair Deal, and like his colleagues, unquestioning in his acceptance of the dogmas of the Cold War.
In Sandbrook's view, 1964 was a pivotal year. It represented both the high tide of postwar liberalism and the apparent end of the political road for Eugene McCarthy. His hope to be the first Catholic on a successful presidential ticket had been dashed with John F. Kennedy's election. But 1964 seemed to pose a new opportunity, as Lyndon Johnson flirted for weeks with the possibility of choosing McCarthy as his running mate The eventual selection of McCarthy's Minnesota colleague, Hubert Humphrey, appeared to spell the end to his hopes for higher office.
Then came the escalation of the Vietnam war and the summers of racial unrest.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steve Iaco on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
History will forever record Eugene McCarthy as the anti-war insurgent who felled a sitting President. But as Dominic Sandbrook demonstrates, McCarthy's legacy is much more nuanced and tortured than popularly imagined.
If you fondly recall McCarthy's '68 campaign (this reader is too young to have any recollection of it whatsoever), Sandbrook's book is sure to give you pause. It portrays a reactionary eccentric often lost in the "Golden Age" of the Thirteenth Century; a lazy, often disengaged lawmaker with little to show for a 22-year legislative career; a spiteful, mean-spirited loner given to caustic mocking of friends and rivals alike; an untrustworthy person of questionable ethics despite strong Catholic convictions (a daily churchgoer who twice enrolled in the Benedictine order); a venal, self-absorbed politican who time and again puts himself ahead of loyalty to patrons and Party.
This reader was struck by how thoroughly the Politics of Personality animates this book:
* McCarthy supported first Humphrey then Stevenson in '60 because he believed that he -- not JFK -- deserved to be the first Irish Catholic President. ("I'm twice as liberal as Humphrey and twice as Catholic as Kennedy.")
* McCarthy's personal animus for LBJ (his one-time patron) had its origins not in Vietnam policy, but McCarthy's treatment during the '64 VP selection process. ("What a sadistic son of a bitch.")
* McCarthy's stated reason for launching his '68 campaign was to either compel LBJ to change his Vietnam policy or prod RFK to enter the race. When RFK finally did announce for President, McCarthy reneged on this commitment. (McCarthy's nonplussed reaction to news of RFK's murder: "He brought it on himself, demagoguing to the last.
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