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Heroes, Hacks, and Fools: Memoirs from the Political Inside [Hardcover]

Ted Van Dyk
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)


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Book Description

October 31, 2007
Ted Van Dyk, a shrewd veteran of countless national political and policy fights, casts fresh light on many of the leading personalities and watershed events of American politics since JFK. He was a Pentagon intelligence analyst during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and an aide to Jean Monnet and other leaders of the European movement before serving at the Johnson White House as Vice President Humphrey’s senior advisor and alter ego. He was involved in that administration’s Great Society triumphs and its Vietnam tragedy.

In the late 1960s, Van Dyk moved to Columbia University as vice president to help quell campus disorders which threatened the university. Over a period of 35 years he was a senior advisor to presidential candidates Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Ted Kennedy, Mondale, Hart, and Tsongas; contributed regular essays to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Fortune, and other national publications; and led two national think tanks. In 2001 the Bellingham, Washington, native returned to the Northwest to write a regular editorial-page column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Van Dyk’s memoirs contain many previously untold stories from an historic period of national politics, portray brilliant and not-so-brilliant leaders and ideas, and also illuminate politics’ darker side. They bring to life the flawed realities and enduring opportunities of public policymaking in our time.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Well worth the attention of political junkies, students of American history, or anyone else who wants to know how politics really worked in the glory days of the Democratic Party. . . . Too often our histories of politics are colored by political biases and attempts to shade the truth. To invoke an old cliché, Van Dyk tells it like it is. His memoir is a great read, a wonderful primer for those who might seek to enter politics themselves, and a terrific walk down memory lane. His idealism and honesty are reminders of what once made the Democratic Party great―- and could again."―Boston Phoenix

"Van Dyk's book is a helpful primer on what goes on behind the scenes and a reminder that it's important to pick presidents with character as well as competence."―Bellingham Herald

"Ted Van Dyk is telling us exactly what happened and what he honestly thought about it. It's as pure a political memoir as we're ever likely to see. . . . [with] the kind of filthy detail that most political memoirs are too polite, and too deadly boring, to share."―The Stranger

"Heroes, Hacks, and Fools is about Democrats. It is a well-written and detailed autobiography..His story, particularly of the Humphrey-McGovern years, is one of the best accounts of that era in a long time."―Seattle Times

"It is precisely [Van Dyk's] willingness to stick his neck out, to study and opine and participate, that makes his arguments so compelling."―Bookmonger: Kitsap Sun

Review

"Van Dyk uses telling anecdotes to show what it was like to be part of the Humphrey, McGovern, and other liberal Democratic presidential campaigns from 1968 to 1992. Any Democrat who wants to rebuild the party for the future will do well to read this cautionary account. This is one of the best inside political accounts that I have read."―William Rorabaugh, author of Berkeley at War and Kennedy and the Promise of the Sixties

"Van Dyk provides valuable insights into, and newsworthy revelations about, the many important events he’s been involved in and the many public figures he has been associated with, and their role in shaping the public policies of the late twentieth century."―Albert Eisele, Editor at Large, The Hill, and press secretary to former Vice President Walter Mondale


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; F First Edition Used edition (October 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295987510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295987514
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,403,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
(11)
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book filled with political insights November 2, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a terrific look at some of our greatest political leaders. The greatest of these was Hubert Humphrey, my early hero and mentor, and the person to whom I am dedicating a book I am writing. Most important, it raises important questions about the polarization of America
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise words from a keen political observer March 5, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in Democratic politics in the last half of the 20th century. Ted Van Dyk grew up during the Great Depression, became a journalist and a dedicated Democrat, and eventually worked his way up to a high-powered consultant who worked in numerous presidential campaigns, from Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to Paul Tsongas in 1992. Van Dyk can tell you where the bodies are buried and how things really worked in high-level, high stakes political races of the past. He's also an astute and keen observer of the current national scene.

Van Dyk doesn't pull many punches in this book (your stomach may turn at his descriptions of how LBJ treated his vice-president, Humphrey, and his opinions of Carter and Clinton are pretty scathing). But overall, this memoir is very insightful and surprisingly fair. I appreciated Van Dyk's perspective on how the Democratic Party has lost its way since the days of the New Deal, and how it might fight its way back to a strong national constituency.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Described as Fly on the Wall Namedropper August 3, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was impressed by much of the book. The narrative of how the author's father came to the Pacific NW by way of both South Africa, then Chile and finally Canada made an interesting read.
Van Dyk was there at the hey day of liberalism. We can all play "what if?" all day long. Van Dyk engages in that to an amazing degree. He paints realistic portraits of the worst most power-hungry politician to ever occupy the White House and the idealistic man who struck a devil's bargain to be Veep to the mercurial LBJ. Humphrey didnt anticipate the nation rejecting the liberalism of JFK/LBJ tainted as both were by our no-win war in Viet Nam. Poor old Hubert never stood a chance between the ego and do-whatever's-necessary, no-holds-barred, bare-nuckle tactics of Johnson and Tricky Dick. Humphrey was as sadly linked to the LBJ disaster as Gore would be later to the sleeze of Clinton.
I got a tad turned off by self-serving statemts (however accurate they may have been) along the lines of "Despite my cautioning him not to commit troops to a land war in SE Asia, neither Johnson nor McNamara .." Note that isnt an actual statemt but there are many close to it.
It is educational to understand the loathing so many had for Nixon. The author points out that the "race quota" aspect of much-maligned affirmative action actually took hold under Nixon. Prior to Nixon, all the Great Society programs had been "income based". Nixon pushed for racially based "affirmative action" and oddly this was initially opposed by McGovern the megaliberal. But McG saw the black civil rights establishmt was on board with race based quota systems and he backed away from the liberal traditional call for a "color-blind society".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Memoir of Political History March 12, 2008
By SS
Format:Hardcover
I recently reviewed this book in the Boston Phoenix ([...] As I wrote there, "Van Dyk's recent work is . . . well worth the attention of political junkies, students of American history, or anyone else who wants to know how politics really worked in the glory days of the Democratic Party.

Too often our histories of politics are colored by political biases and attempts to shade the truth. To invoke an old cliché, Van Dyk tells it like it is. His memoir is a great read, a wonderful primer for those who might seek to enter politics themselves, and a terrific walk down memory lane. His idealism and honesty are reminders of what once made the Democratic Party great -- and could again."
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Van Dyk Gives An Inside View August 30, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading "The Last Campaign" which chronicled Bobby Kennedy's run for president and "Boom" which showed Tom Brokaw's views, as a journalist of the late 60s, I was ready to dig into this recap by Ted Van Dyk. Van Dyk is a free lance columnist for the Seattle PI. His opinions run across the board, some that I can agree with and some that I cannot, but all come from his knowledge of being inside the system. In adddition to his work in politics, Van Dyk has been involved with private business and academia.
His insites are very eye opening espessially when he recounts Walter Cronkite's seemingly disregard of the truth during the Viet Nam years. Although the revelations seem startling, they are only touched on in the book.
His observations of the Clinton family and of Bill Clinton's presidency seemed to bear fruit during Hilary's ill fated campaign.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Van Dyk's Colorful Political History is a Great Read April 17, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Ted Van Dyk vividly captures the turmoil, egos, and inspired (as well as uninspired) political leadership of the 1960s, 70s, and beyond. What makes this memoir qualitatively different from other insider accounts is Van Dyk's compelling, non-gossipy narrative style. No cheap shots, just a mix of analysis and anecdotes that illustrate the limits, hubris, and, yes, virtues of the political class.

There's a delightful consistency to Van Dyk's approach--the equivalent of throwing a Jesuit or a Greek scholar into the political maw. Take a Depression-era kid from the Northwest with values cut like glass and set him in the moral murk of Washington, DC. Opportunists and hypocrites beware! It's instructive, only occasionally grumpy, and altogether entertaining.
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