In Praise of Public Life
, a slim book by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, succeeds at being several things: a call to public service, a plea for banishing cynicism from American politics, and a glimpse of what the life of a senator is like and how the Senate really works. Lieberman begins by complaining that today's public servant "must face questions not only about how he is doing his job but how he is living his life--and how he has lived his life." This poisonous atmosphere of ad hominem politics and attack-dog journalism has created an environment in which young people don't want to enter public life, writes Lieberman. He offers his own career as a tonic, describing the challenges and joys of working his way through the party ranks and achieving his dream of becoming a senator.
No book by an office-holding politician would be complete without its share of clichés ("It is leadership that the American public is asking for in its government today"), but Lieberman also offers some genuine insights for lay readers on how the Senate functions. Personal contacts are tremendously important to passing legislation, patience and persistence are perhaps a senator's two most useful character traits, and foreign trips (derided as "junkets" by the good-government crowd) represent one of the best opportunities to get to know colleagues (and therefore do business). The prose is breezy, making In Praise of Public Life an easy, quick, and welcome read. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
In this slender volume, the junior U.S. senator from Connecticut makes a heartfelt case that the ills of American society can be corrected by working within the current political system rather than by overhauling it. While acknowledging that the federal government is far from perfect, Lieberman contends that it has many more good people than bad and that the process succeeds more often than fails. During his two terms in office, Lieberman has staked out a position as a moderate Democrat, firmly embracing the title of "New Democrat" first articulated by Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. Through cooperation and compromise, Congress has supported the Clinton administration in passing a number of crucial pieces of legislation (e.g., the 1993 balanced budget, NAFTA and GATT trade agreements) that the senator believes have helped spur the country's record economic growth. Lieberman also contends that the entertainment industry has played a major role in the decline in America's moral values; the entertainment industry doesn't reflect social norms but rather shapes values and influences behavior, Lieberman argues, and steps need to be taken to make the major media outlets act more for the public good. With so many politicians writing about burnout and their frustrations with serving in elected office, it is refreshing to hear the point of view of someone who still finds politics a noble calling.
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