No-Fault Politics: Modern Presidents, the Press, and Reformers

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9780812930160: No-Fault Politics: Modern Presidents, the Press, and Reformers
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The former senator and presidential candidate offers a free-wheeling, irreverent assessment of the state of American politics, the news media, and the courts, skewering such sacrosanct figures as Billy Graham and Walter Cronkite. 17,500 first printing.

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Eugene McCarthy might have been president. At the time of the Democratic National Convention in 1968, he actually led Republican Richard Nixon in the polls, as America's rebel youth cut their hair and "got clean for Eugene;" his party, however, chose to nominate fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey, and the rest is history. Since then, the onetime peace activist has become a political gadfly who cannot be easily pegged as liberal or conservative.

In No-Fault Politics, he skewers federal-election laws, arguing that they do not promote fair democratic competition, but merely support the interests of a two-party political system and thereby stifle reform. Far from being a dry policy tome, however, No-Fault Politics is often hilarious: McCarthy says that presidents should take a vow of chastity and he proposes Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for baseball commissioner. He also attacks members of Congress who have perfect voting records: "A member who has been in office for several terms should work his attendance record down to 65 percent to 75 percent." Voting more often than that, he writes, is "wasting time." Reading McCarthy, on the other hand, is time well spent. --John J. Miller

From Kirkus Reviews:

A collection of humorous political doodlings from one of Americas foremost political doodlers. Former senator (and one-time presidential candidate) McCarthys writings have always seemed like a blend of Robert Benchley and Edmund Burke, and this collection of essays is no exception. As journalist Burris explains in his excellent introduction, the famously liberal McCarthy is in fact a conservative man. He believes in the value of institutions that have stood the test of time; he is skeptical of the innate goodness of human nature. Still, he retains a desire for justice and a deep compassion. His humor is always telling, but always just this side of vicious. McCarthys target here is political reform. He finds it to be mostly postmodern and mostly bad. Postmodern reform is one without substance. It neither knows nor cares about tradition, history, loyalty, and responsibility. Change is its own reason for being, and above all else there is the belief not in values but in, as he puts it, process. Thus, we end up with election reforms that make elections less democratic, government reform that creates more ineffective government, foreign policy whose purpose is created and justified as it unfolds. When it all doesnt work, there must be more reform and redoubling of efforts, reorganization. At the same time, perhaps contradicting himself, he believes very strongly in the process of government that the Constitution created (he even has a kind word to say about the Electoral College). The problem is that government institutions no longer work as they were intended: Presidents are not presidential, senators are not senatorial. Along the way, McCarthy skewers any number of personalities, some obvious, some not so obvious: Clinton, for instance, but also Paul Fisher, the inventor of the ballpoint pen. This book might not be of lasting significance, but it is sustained by its grace and wit. The same might perhaps be said of Eugene McCarthys political life. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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