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Senator Mansfield: The Extraordinary Life of a Great American Statesman and Diplomat Hardcover – October 17, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Oberdorfer is one of America’s keenest analysts of the international scene.”—James A. Baker III, former US Secretary of State

“Mike Mansfield, one of the great Americans of the twentieth century, had an epic life, from the copper mines of Butte to the center of power in Washington for four crucial decades. Don Oberdorfer has done justice to his subject, with a biography as solid and understated and praiseworthy as Mansfield himself.”—Washington Post

“There are parts of this fine new biography of Senator Mike Mansfield, as he pleads with Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson not to plunge America into war in Southeast Asia, that could break your heart. . . . This is a thorough biography of a public man who served longer as majority leader than any other.”—New York Times Book Review

“A luminous account of a public servant who was the epitome of integrity, a worthy tribute to its subject.”—Fred Greenstein, Director, Program in Leadership Studies, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

“Don Oberdorfer's magisterial biography matches the stature of the man.”—Sen. Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader

“What an extraordinary statesman, what an extraordinary biographer, what a spell-binding story.”—Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Research Professor and founder of Asia Center, Harvard University

“[An] extraordinarily well-researched portrait of a man at the center of so many tumultuous events. . . . [a] deep and probing biography.”—George P. Schultz, former U.S. Secretary of State

About the Author

Don Oberdorfer is the author of The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History and was a National Book Award finalist for this book,
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books; First Edition edition (October 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588341666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588341662
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on October 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For young soldiers returning from the war in Vietnam, Senator Mike Mansfield was a literal legend in his own time, the consistent voice for greater moderation, caution, and reason during the escalation of the war in Vietnam. As chronicled so marvelously in this new biography by noted historian Don Oberdorfer, from the very beginning of the sordid Vietnam affair Mansfield had cautioned long-time colleagues as friends John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as to the absolute futility and danger associated with pursuing a military victory in Southeast Asia. A long-time member of the Foreign Relations committee in the Senate, he was well aware of the complexities and national aspirations simmering under the surface of the region, and recognized the morass we might soon find ourselves in if we succumbed to the siren song of the so-called `domino' theorists, who posited the loss of South Vietnam would lead inextricably to the loss of Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Mansfield maintained the domino we needed to worry about was Vietnam itself, which might well topple our whole far-eastern strategy if we allowed ourselves to become entwined in its silken grips.
Alas, no one among the `best and the brightest' of either the Kennedy or Johnson administration listened, and instead dragged us into more than a decade of death, destruction, and depravity. Yet in this fascinating biography, we learn that Mike Mansfield had many more facets to his marvelous personality and many more intellectual insights to offer the American people during his long and illustrious career as a public servant. He presided over the U.S.
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This book is mandatory reading for anyone seeking, or currently in, public office. Oberdorfer's analysis of Mansfield's writing, thinking, and speaking style is first rate. For serious students of American politics, Oberdorfer has given them a look at the making of one of the most important men of the century. I know it must have been difficult because Mansfield steadfastly refused to allow anyone to be his biographer. Mansfield believed that biographies should be written only after a person had been dead for 75 to 100 years. Therefore I was extremely happy to see that Don Oberdorfer had accomplished what many Mansfield devotees couldn't...capture the essence of one of the most important men (and his absolutely incredible wife Maureen) of the 20th Century. The 510 pages devoted to Mansfield are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. His influence on members of the Senate, his understanding of world affairs, his unshakable and sometimes frustratingly rigid belief in Montana, and his ability to say so much in as few words as possible, could fill a dozen more volumes.
I wanted to be Mansfield's biographer. I was his foil regarding the complex and vexing problems surrounding US-Japanese defense policy from 1985-1988. During his trips into the Pacific Command, we had long conversations about Asia, American politics (especially LBJ and the course of the Vietnam war), the teaching of history, and getting inside the mind of the Japanese. Ambassador Mansfield, who rarely carried on long conversations, spoke in 50-minute segments and one only got three minutes to answer the questions he would pose afterwards. To engage in a conversation with Mansfield was a dangerous thing if one was un- or ill-prepared.
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Format: Hardcover
Don Oberdorfer's biography of Mike Mansfield brings an extraordinary American to life. Not only does the reader gain deep insights into Congressman then, Senator and, later, Ambassador Mansfield; but also Private Mansfield of the U.S. Marine Corps; and copper miner Mansfield of Butte, Montana; high school and college student Mansfield which he completed simultaneously, and professor Mansfield of the University of Montana in the 1930s and 40s.
Besides a wonderful and inspiring portrait of a truly unique American, the book portrays the relationships Mansfield developed with American Presidents beginning with FDR through Ronald Reagan. The entire middle third of the book focuses on the Vietnam era and Mansfield's heroic, behind the scene, effort as the Senate's Asia expert and Majority Leader to persuade Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford to, first, avoid committing American troops to a mainland war in Asia and, second, to withdraw troops once they were tragically in place in Vietnam.
Mansfield's analysis showed the Vietnam problem to be 9 parts diplomatic/political and one part military. Therefore, he argued American policy in Vietnam could not be resolved using a 9 part military solution to only 1 part diplomatic/political. Essentially, Mansfield believed a military response is rarely indicated and far too often, riding coattails of false intelligence and phony patriotism, militarism acquires a fatal and unstoppable momentum of its own. In retrospect it turns out that the "attacks" by North Vietnamese torpedo boats against the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1965 that were used by President Johnson as a pretext to go to war were a monumental and, likely, willful intelligence failure.
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