Packwood: The Public and Private Life from Acclaim to Outrage

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9780062585493: Packwood: The Public and Private Life from Acclaim to Outrage

Portraying the Packwood case as more than the story of one paradoxical politician's rise and fall, an exploration of Packwood's career reveals the far-reaching effects of his case on sexual harassment, employment policy, and ethics legislation.

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From the Publisher:

A tale of political rise and fall and sexual harassment. The most critical gender relations issues of our time intersect in this compellingly told story of power, politics, secrets, and scandal.

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When news of U.S. Senator from Oregon Bob Packwood's career-long history of sexual harasssment became public, people could hardly believe it. Packwood was a champion of women's rights and the first sponsor of a congressional bill allowing women the right to abortion. Yet, here he was accused by numerous women (48 eventually came forward publicly) of kissing, fondling, and groping in as boorish a manner as one could imagine. Oregon journalist Kirchmeier does a good job of tracing Packwood's life, beginning with his childhood as a shy boy who hid behind his coke-bottle glasses, through his school days when he finally began to shine, to his rise in the Senate and his desire to hold his seat "longer than Strom Thurmond." Kirchmeier also leads readers through the forest of allegations made against Packwood, with special attention to how the senator twisted his original mea culpa stance into a campaign to smear his female accusers. The book is only weak when it tries to explain why rather than how Packwood fell. Kirchmeier asserts that in reality there was no inconsistency in Packwood's career because he "never saw the feminist movement as anything more than a device to advance his own career." This coupled with his need to control people, especially women, allowed him to do just that until social mores changed enough for women to fight back. Still, it would probably take a psychiatrist to analyze just why Packwood's private life was so different from his public postures and why he found it necessary to self-destruct. Ilene Cooper

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Mark Kirchmeier
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