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Mr. Chairman: Power in Dan Rostenkowski's America Paperback – October 11, 2002

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Product Details

  • Series: Power in Dan Rostenkowski's America
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (October 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809324733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809324736
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,258,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Reading Mr. Merriner’s rollicking account is what I imagine it would be like to be a guest at a Polish-American picnic in Chicago, being regaled with stories—some admiring, some damning—about big Joe Rusty’s cocky kid. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Merriner’s detailed, colorful and anecdotal reports of life and politics in Chicago’s old 32nd Ward.”Washington Times


Merriner “paints Rostenkowski as a dealmaker who worked hard for special interests, whether it was a $288 million tax break in 1984 for 333 Chicago options traders, tax breaks to finance a new Comiskey Park, or $200 million in advantages for Commonwealth Edison. He details Rostenkowski’s crimes and leaves no doubt that many serious misdeeds were at stake, not just the usual congressional corruption of favors-for-donations that Rostenkowski dealt with on an everyday basis at Ways and Means. As Merriner puts it, ‘Dan Rostenkowski all but wore a sign around his neck that flashed I want power.’”Chicago Sun Times

“Merriner’s vivid portrait of Rostenkowski as a larger-than-life figure hinges on his extensive examination of Chicago politics in the twentieth century. . . . [He strives] to be fair and take due note of Rostenkowski’s shortcomings as well as his achievements. . . . [P]olitical junkies will find much to savor in the stories retold here.”Chicago Tribune
“[Mr. Chairman] is a good wrap-up on a key political figure— with more than a few good insights into the person and the process. Too often individuals like Dan Rostenkowski are victims of journalistic overgeneralization—this book provides a more balanced view of one of Illinois’s most important twentieth-century congressmen.”—Paul M. Green, coeditor (with Melvin G. Holli) of The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition

About the Author

James L. Merriner covered Chicago and national politics for more than two decades as political editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Constitution. He was the James Thurber Journalist in Residence at Ohio State University in 1996. Merriner is coauthor of Against Long Odds: Citizens Who Challenge Congressional Incumbents.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jim Ritter on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Author Jim Merriner covered politics for the Chicago Sun-Times, and he brings that insight -- and razor-sharp writing -- to this book. There are two biographies of Rostenkowski out right now, and for some reason, reviewers and bookstores have given more prominance to the other book. But Merriner's book is the better of the two. It is written by a pro who knows politics, knows Chicago and, despite his years as a newspaperman, has an aversion to cliches. Rostenkowski's story is an engrossing one, and Merriner does it justice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marc Korman on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great read for those interested in how Congress operated from the 60s until the early 90s, and how it changed over that time. It is also a good primer on Chicago politics, particularly the years between the two Mayor Daleys.

Rostenkowski was a product of the fabled Chicago Democratic machine. He used the lessons he learned in machine politics to work his way into intimacy with the House leadership and then to the chairmanship of Ways and Means. In the 1980s, Rostenkowski had a great impact on US tax policy working with President Reagan to enact a series of tax reforms. These included several tax increases that most conservatives and Republicans who venerate Reagan have forgotten.

The book spends a good deal of time on Rostenkowski's scandals. The big ones that took him down, as well as smaller ones that just tripped him up a bit. As for what finally did Rostenkowski in, his actions were certainly unethical and illegal in the early 90s. But they were the regular order of business when he arrived in Congress. Most of the other old bulls were gone by that time and never had to adjust to the new, more ethical way of operating.

The book has a few flaws. The author tends to use unnecessarily large words that left me grabbing for the dictionary instead of reading on. The author also referred to Rostenkowski as a "Korean veteran," which gives the misimpression that he served in the Korean War. As the book explains, Rostenkowski served in the Army in Korea but it was before the war.

The book is a good read on Congressional history and power politics.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is very well written. Easy to read for even those of us who may not be "politicaly oriented". Gave me a great insight and understanding of American politics. Definitely would recomend it! Covers a time span from early Chicago to present day.
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