When senators think about running for president, they write books like The Conscience of a Liberal
. Indeed, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota thought about pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, but ultimately backed off. Unfortunately, his death in an October 2002 plane crash ended both a promising political career and all speculation about where it might lead.
The first part of the book explains Wellstone's unlikely ascension to the Senate (he was once a college professor), and some of his campaign war stories are fun reading for political junkies. One of the most amusing passages describes how he once nearly clocked New York Republican Alfonse D'Amato over a disagreement: "When the train reached the Senate chamber, I jumped out and lunged forward, intending to catch D'Amato and deck him. My body was shaking with uncontrollable anger." Another senator held him back, and Wellstone calmed down.
The bulk of The Conscience of a Liberal, however, is given over to laying out a political agenda that includes universal health care, reversing welfare reforms, prekindergarten education, raising the minimum wage, and campaign-finance reform. He closes with a call for a new politics: "This is not a conservative America.... There is a huge leadership void in this country that the Democratic Party, emboldened by political courage and a commitment to the issues that made our party great, can fill." Sadly, one of the politicians who helped fill that void is now gone himself. Still, his ideas live on. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Minnesota Senator Wellstone opens this memoir with his attendance at the funeral service of archconservative Barry Goldwater. Wellstone was there because as a boy he had read Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Paradoxically, he credits his admiration for Goldwater's political integrity with providing the moral basis for his own liberalism. And he is very liberal, indeed. After reading this lucid and personal book, however, even those of opposite views would find it hard not to admire him. Wellstone presents two propositions. The first, that integrity in politics is essential, will be widely applauded. The second, that liberal political values reflect mainstream American values, will receive a mixed reception. At the core of this account is Wellstone's desire to mobilize voters to organize around issues he believes important to the country's well-being. The litany of societal problems addressed is broad and includes health care, education and testing, economic justice (welfare reform) and campaign finance reform. About each, Wellstone provides cogent and thought-provoking facts, figures and expert opinions, as well as personal stories that humanize the damage and loss of human potential he sees flowing from current public policies. He also offers solutions consistent with his view that government is capable of making a positive difference. The book is, for the most part, pleasantly free of partisan invective; his criticisms are generally oblique. Wellstone's 1996 Senate campaign adds drama. The only senator facing reelection who voted against welfare reform, he survived an extremely negative campaign, even by modern standards. Many readers will be glad he did. (May 22)Forecast: With millions of voters disappointed that their man barely (and, some would argue, unfairly) lost the recent presidential election, Wellstone offers reassurance that liberal values are still alive and well in Washington. As he tours New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with his home state, the senator will surely attract die-hard liberal readers with his concise but thoughtful tome.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.