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Henry M. Jackson : A Life in Politics Hardcover – January 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Lecture-Book Series in Western History and Biography
  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; English Language edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295979623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295979625
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Henry "Scoop" Jackson may be one of the most underappreciated American politicians of the second half of the 20th century. He was certainly one of the Democrats' greatest cold warriors, and a man who might have saved his party from the doomed politics of McGovernism if he had only won the presidency, an office he sought twice. (He was, in fact, John F. Kennedy's first choice for a running mate in 1960, until Kennedy became convinced he needed a Southerner on the ticket.) The distinguished gentleman from the state of Washington began his congressional career during the Roosevelt administration, and it ended with his death in 1983 during the Reagan years--a tenure spanning nine presidents. Robert G. Kaufman's comprehensive biography sheds some well-deserved light on its neglected subject. Jackson fought against Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, for civil rights in the 1960s, and against détente with the Communists in the 1970s. He's best known for this last crusade: "Jackson contributed enormously to ensuring that the United States fought and prevailed in this epochal struggle against Soviet totalitarianism."

His views prefigured those of the Reagan administration, which was filled with Jackson's neoconservative admirers. Jackson was, in a sense, the very first Reagan Democrat. Kaufman cites Howard Baker, the onetime senator and Reagan's chief of staff: "Jackson made sure we did not lose the Cold War during the 1970s so that Ronald Reagan could win it in the 1980s." If Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics is an admiring work, it's because there's so much to admire. Our TV-driven culture tends to lavish its attention on the executive branch and showboating legislators, rather than uncharismatic men of principle like Jackson. That's why serious biographies like this one are so essential--so that history will recognize the role-players who shaped what we have become. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Political scientist Kaufman informs readers early in his biography of the late senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D- Wash., whose 31 years in the Senate ended with his death in 1983) that Jackson did not drink or smoke, and that there was no whiff of scandal about him. His life was politics, and "Jackson's career refutes the cynical but prevalent view that good character and politics are mutually exclusive." Believing that being conservative on foreign policy (his distrust of the Soviets made him skeptical of d?tente and, coupled with his support of President Johnson's Vietnam policy, ultimately marginalized his influence in the Democratic Party) and a New Deal liberal on the domestic front were not mutually exclusive, but, rather, compatible political positions, Jackson was admired by many (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick) for his political courage (read: independent views). Even among his critics there were those, like Henry Kissinger, who praised him. Disappointingly, Kaufman fails to provide much psychological insight into why Jackson, badly miscalculating, chose to run in the 1972 and 1976 Democratic presidential primaries, despite the ascendancy of the party's left wing. Nevertheless, the span of Jackson's career was formidable and full of historical events and personages; true to his claim, Kaufman cogently argues that Jackson played a pivotal role during the 1970s, laying the basis for America's successful foreign and defense policies in the 1980s, but at times he overwhelms the reader with the details of policy and political machinations. No doubt denizens of both Washingtons, as well as those interested in the history of American foreign policy, will gravitate to this book. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Jackson had on U.S. foreign policy.
Jon Eric Davidson
President reagan follow jackson advice. fought against the lbj,nixon,ford and carter adminstrations over detente. good american and great stateman.
rich weber
The book is a fine political biography, but also a most touching personal portrait.
Oliver Kamm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jon Eric Davidson on July 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There is no doubt that here in Washington state, the U.S. Senate tandem of Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Warren Magnuson were a valuable asset to Washington's - and the nation's - development in the 20th century. So much of our state's infrastructure, institutions, and industries can be credited to these political heavyweights. But yet, so little had been written about their immense legacies up until a couple of years ago. First we got a decent bio of Magnuson written by Shelby Scates. But then came this book - "Henry M. Jackson: A Life In Politics" - which is an outstanding portrait of the man and the legacy.
The author's main focus in this work is the profound and unquestioned effect Sen. Jackson had on U.S. foreign policy. The book brilliantly delves into Jackson's evolution from simple legislator to foreign policy guru. Much attention is made to Jackson's stances on a variety of foriegn policy issues, including his infamous battles with Henry Kissinger over the issues of detente, Soviet dissidents, and pro-Israel issues. Jackson proved a great foil for - and perhaps huge thorn in the side of - Dr. Kissinger, but with time and further examination, their debates likely benefitted U.S. foreign policy in the long run.
Make no mistake: while there is much on Jackson's foreign policy expertise, this is a solid biography of the man in total. We get a good look at his upbringing in and around Everett, his entry into politics, his failed presidential bids, and - eventually - his sudden and surprising death in the early '80's. Also included are the events at the infamous 1960 Democratic convention, where Jackson was very nearly chosen as JFK's running mate.
All in all, this is a very fair and solid biography, presenting an excellent look at the life of Sen. Jackson.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Manny Behar on November 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's about time. Henry M. Jackson, one of the greatest legislators of the 20th century has finally become the subject of a full scale biography.
Robert Kaufman does an excellent job in describing Jackson's work on national security and foreign policy. By providing background information and extensive footnotes Kaufman makes it easier to understand Jackson in context and to fully appreciate his role in shaping policy during the Cold War.
As significant as Jackson's accomplishments in national defense were, Ronald Reagan won the Cold War, in large part, by implementing Jackson's policies, they were only one part of his legacy.
Jackson's work on environmental issues was also highly significant. He understood the need to balance environmental preservation and economic development better than any public figure. His National Environmental Policy Act was one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in history. As Chairman of the Senate Interior Committee , Jacskon was adept at meeting the most important concerns of environmentalists and business interests that came before his committee. I would have liked to see more in the book about Jackson's achievements in this area.
In an era when sound bites and focus groups came to the fore, Jackson represented integrity and well thought out views on issues of public concern. This may have made him boring as a Presidential candidate, but it enabled him to build a significant record of achievement and to leave the world a better place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Rose on June 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I'm 26 years old but I'm a politically-engaged Democrat who is rather familiar with modern American political history. I was not alive during the late 1960s and 1970s when Henry "Scoop" Jackson was fighting against the New Left. During the 1972 campaign, I probably would have supported Humphrey and, during the 1976 campaign, I probably would have supported Mo Udall. That said, while I'm not a "Scoop" Jackson Democrat and I'm not a fan of his neo-Conservative disciples who wrecked such havoc in the Middle East as of late, I do think he was (in the total scheme of things) an admirable public servant who rightly put human rights and military strength on the agenda in his policy views towards the Soviets.

I think Jackson was correct that the Soviet Union was, indeed, an "evil empire" and reading this book, I was impressed with the consistency of his liberalism: at home and abroad.

It's understandable that a biographer admires (or even has affection for) the subject of his biography but Kaufman's very good academic biography felt compromised by this at times. His mention of Jackson's support of the Japanese-American Internment seems more to address critics than to provide any perspective of the indefensible - "everybody was doing it" doesn't seem to cut, especially given Jackson's moral righteousness on so many subjects). Confronted with critics who state that Jackson's political views may have been influenced by Boeing's presence in his state, we are simply told that Jackson's foreign policy views were in the national interest and that Boeing's needs simply corresponded with this interest. This may be true but I don't feel like these statements can be "definitively" made: we are simply told to believe in "Scoop."

In short, I recommend this book with that small caveat. It's - overall - a fine piece of academic/political biography.
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