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

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick 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: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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I feel I have missed out not being politically aware when Senator Scoop Jackson made his impression on America and the world (I was 9 when he passed). It seems that there is rarely a Senator who has had as great an influence as Senator Jackson. A left wing liberal when it came to most social issues, all economic issues, and a right wing hawk when it came to foreign affairs and national security, Senator Jackson was able to attract just enough people to have influence, but be so rational and honest that he upset just as many.
A lover of Israel and the Jewish people, Senator Jackson was instrumental in ensuring Soviet Jewry's cry for help was amplified to where the world heard it, and saw America and Israel's shared values as so crucial that the ties between them could not ever be broken. I learned two major lessons from Senator Jackson's life. (1) You can beat a sitting President's ambitions if you can clearly show how bad the plans are. I saw this from Jackson's defeat of President Carter's SALT II treaty. (2) Although a supporter of Israel, Jackson disagreed with Prime Minister Begin's defense of Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria. While Jackson felt Israel should demonstrate how Israel could only be secure with the defense that Judea and Samaria provided, Begin insisted on preaching the Jewish people's historic and biblical claim to the land. Jackson disagreed with Begin on tactics, not content, and it's a lesson for all of us making Israel's case. Sometimes it's best to go with a weaker argument, if the stronger argument won't be as persuasive.
I found it fascinating that Jackson gave over 40% of his annual salary to charity, including 100% of his speaker's fees. This was only disclosed once members of Congress were forced to file financial disclosure forms.
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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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