Most helpful positive review
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Forgotten Man provides both Wisdom and a Human Touch!!!!
on October 21, 2010
Loved it, absolutely loved it. First of all, a political biography is always biased, and you expect it to be. A person cannot spend 30 or 40 years living a political life, and at the end say, you know, I was all wrong. That's not why you read political biographies. We read such a book to get a better feel for the same period of time that WE lived through, and see if it adds new light on our own individual understanding of the history of that period.
I doubt if very many who did not live through the 60's and 70's will read this book, so why did I love it? I found it to be honest, candid, real, and just as I thought it would be. Mondale occupied five positions in his life, state attorney general of Minnesota, at 32 he was the youngest in his state's history. He was a United States Senator, Vice-President, Presidential candidate, and US Ambassador to Japan.
There are four words that characterize his life, and they come through on every page of this book. They are Decent, Thoughtful, Likable, and Underestimated. What he says about the Carter Administration where he served honorably as Vice-President can be said about his life. We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace. What more can one expect from a politician.
Before writing more, you need to know that many times I will read a 400 or 500 page book looking for that one paragraph or thought, or that one sentence that made the entire book worth reading. I found it on page 339 in his last chapter entitled, "Looking Forward". Mondale quotes Lincoln, and says the following:
"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities." This sums up Mondale's political life, and the values he based it on.
The most important chapters in the book are the following:
Chapter 4) Lost Trust: Viet Nam and the Election of 1968
Chapter 8) Meeting a New Democrat
Chapter 9) Our First Year in the White House
Chapter 11) America in an Age of Limits
Chapter 13) The Election of 1980
Chapter 14) Mondale vs. Reagan
In retrospect you can see why Ronald Reagan pummeled Carter / Mondale in 1980. One is talking about morning in America while the other is talking about America in an Age of Limits. People always move towards those with an optimistic agenda. Throughout the book, Mondale is adamant about observing and implementing the following philosophy.
* Obey the law
* Do your homework
* Trust the American People
Mondale says that the most indispensible asset of the Presidency is "public trust", once it's gone, you're done. He uses both Lyndon Johnson and Viet Nam, and Richard Nixon and Watergate as examples of this behavior, and he goes into intimate detail about both cases.
He is terribly disappointed in the Viet Nam era. He wanted to break with the Johnson Administration earlier but kept getting talked out of it by his fellow professional politicians. It took an extra year or two for him to realize that he and the American people were being lied to. It took even longer for him to effectively align himself with the left and try to find a way out. In retrospect he calls Viet Nam a sink hole, how appropriate.
His description of Senate life then and now is very appropriate, accurate, and worthwhile. You get a terrific understanding of what it was like to be in the CLUB as they say. It was an era of civility, as compared to partisanship today, and why not? At the peak of their power in 1965, the Democrats controlled 68 seats, and the Republicans 32, of course they were civil. We now live in an age where the political composition is switching every few years, and thus it brings much more partisanship into play.
Mondale as a senator is particularly proud of the 1965 Congress which ushered in more social progress in his opinion than any other time in American history. President Johnson pushed for 87 bills in 1965 and Mondale points out that 84 became law, and all passed within 60 days of proposal - no hemming and hewing in that session. These laws included Medicare, the Voting Rights Act, Aid to Poor Children, the Immigration Act, and a tax cut. From Pell Grants, to Head Start, to Fair Housing, these were his proudest moments as a legislator.
Throughout his lifetime, Hubert Humphrey was always the mentor, and Mondale the loyal student. No one worked harder for Humphrey's election to the White House in 1968 than Fritz Mondale. It was heartbreaking, in order to win, Humphrey would need to break with the President over Viet Nam. This was something Humphrey could not bring himself to do until very late in the campaign. The gap immediately closed but Humphrey lost with 42.7% of the vote to Nixon's 43.4%, the remainder going to George Wallace of Alabama. Both Humphrey and Mondale are devastated, and the story is told in exquisite detail in this tome.
If you want to know Mondale's take on the CIA hearings, and the J. Edgar Hoover excesses, he doesn't pull any punches. He tells you why both the FBI and the CIA had free reign over America for decades, and what it took for the Congress to rein in both agencies. From the enemies list to the surveillance and interference in Martin Luther King Jr's life, Mondale lays it out in page after page. It's unvarnished and thrilling, to get an insider's view of this period in America's history.
The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics is Walter Mondale's gift to all of us. A decent man, who did decent things, and in the process is leaving the world a better place for having lived his life. What more can anyone ask of a politician? He was honest, trust worthy, not a hint of scandal, and on top of his game. He did not make it to the Presidency, but then again, how many do? Thank you for reading this review and as a political biography, it deserves 5 stars.
Richard C. Stoyeck