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Democrats' Dilemma

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    The Mysterious Walter Mondale

    The Democrats' Dilemma is a very readable, little-known book by respected historian Steven Gillon about Walter Mondale and the Democratic party from Truman to Clinton. Although it starts off slowly, with the obligatory background information and 'early years' discourse, the reader soon gets to know a very human Walter Mondale--a man consumed, in thought, word, and deed--by political motivation. Gillon's Mondale is a completely virtuous fellow possessing less depth than one might expect. Gillon offers a thoughtful political analysis of the post-Watergate era. We learn--from Mondale's perspective--what made Jimmy Carter tick, both personally and within his White House. Discussion of the 1976 election and Carter's foreign policy are the most enlightening parts of the book, second only to Mondale's tormented time during the 'Crisis of Confidence' speech and Cabinet purge. However, there is too little discussion of Mondale's challengers for the 1984 Democratic nomination (except Gary Hart) and how they influenced his positions, and him as a candidate. Gillon completely overlooks the candidacy of George McGovern and how Mondale both differed and was influenced by McGovern, especially on foreign policy. Some attention should have been paid to the McGovern vs. Mondale dialogue during the Atlanta debate. There is no mention that the Mondale-Ferraro 'new realism' theme had been McGovern's 1984 primary theme. Hart's position on the military is not accurately stated. The man that emerges is less than courageous. Let's just say that Mondale was a less than daring statesman. The final chapter--on the liberal legacy-- should be a 'must-read' for any serious student of the Democratic party. Overall, it is a really good book.

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