The Shadow President: Ted Kennedy in Opposition

Overview

At the heart of The Shadow President is a controversial idea - that, more than his brothers, Ted Kennedy has come to be the most influential political figure of this generation. Jack and Bobby may have the stronger grip on the American psyche, but Burton Hersh makes clear that it is Ted who has done the hard work of writing laws and fighting on the issues. Despite decades of tabloid headlines sparked by Kennedy's often chaotic personal life, Hersh argues that much more relevant in judging the man is his ...
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Overview

At the heart of The Shadow President is a controversial idea - that, more than his brothers, Ted Kennedy has come to be the most influential political figure of this generation. Jack and Bobby may have the stronger grip on the American psyche, but Burton Hersh makes clear that it is Ted who has done the hard work of writing laws and fighting on the issues. Despite decades of tabloid headlines sparked by Kennedy's often chaotic personal life, Hersh argues that much more relevant in judging the man is his career-long defense of the core values of the Democratic Party. Respected on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, where he has served since 1963, Kennedy has been a steadfast champion of health care, the interests of working people, racial justice, the environment, and the integrity of the social welfare system. His challenge to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 primaries, his bitter rearguard defense of social programs during the Reagan-Bush years, and the many upheavals in his personal life are all fully treated here. But in this vivid account of Kennedy's professional career, clearest expression is given to Hersh's central argument - that it is Ted, of all of the Kennedy brothers, who will finally leave the deepest impression on twentieth century American politics.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Picking up where he left off in his 1972 book The Education of Edward Kennedy, veteran journalist Hersh has written a lively, sympathetic account of Kennedy's career in the Senate over the last 25 years. Hersh presents a rounded picture of the senator's personal and public life including such notorious episodes as Chappaquiddick, Kennedy's role in nephew William Smith's rape trial, and his troubled first marriage. The author's thesis is that Kennedy, more than any of the Presidents from Carter to Clinton, has played a pivotal role in American politics. Hersh considers him the standard-bearer for traditionally liberal ideals. With rare political acumen and uncommon dedication, the author argues, Kennedy has wheeled and dealed to keep alive the "social safety net" begun by FDR and expanded by LBJ. Based principally on interviews with the senator and his staff and on newspaper sources, Hersh's narrative is full of interesting anecdotes and details about the nuts and bolts of how legislation is enacted. While Hersh's journalistic technique is skillful, he sometimes succumbs to overwriting, describing his subject's opponents with partisan zeal. While it is far too soon to assign Edward Kennedy a place in our political history, Hersh makes a telling case for him as a steady legislator and champion of working people. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
Hersh, a freelance journalist, has followed Kennedy's career closely since 1967. A Kennedy admirer, Hersh emphasizes the senator's political strengths but does not gloss over his moral lapses. His interviews with his subject help illuminate why Kennedy had such staying power in the face of personal and political trials. Hersh devotes a lot of space to the 1994 elections and to Kennedy's steadfast adherence to Democratic ideals in the face of a Republican juggernaut. The senator's shaky relationship with President Clinton is also examined, especially Kennedy's behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the president ideologically on track. The author's previous book on the senator, The Education of Edward Kennedy (LJ 6/1/72), garnered mainly positive reviews. Complementary studies include Murray B. Levin's Edward Kennedy: The Myth of Leadership (LJ 7/80), and Theo Lippman's Senator Ted Kennedy (LJ 1/15/76). Recommended for academic and large public libraries.Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
How Ted Kennedy earned his reputation as a prodigious womanizer, drinker, and eater—and also, according to veteran Kennedy-watcher Hersh, as one of the most effective senators of our time.

In this addendum to his 1972 biography (The Education of Edward Kennedy), Hersh chronicles 25 more years of Kennedy peccadillos and politics, but this time with a redemptive twist: Kennedy has allegedly gone straight, thanks to his 1992 marriage to Victoria Reggie, expedited by exhaustion from age (Jack and Bobby's baby brother became a senior citizen this year); repeated, scandal-driven, near-death political experiences; and liberation, at last, from the unwanted burden of being expected to run for president. Hersh labors not to appear to be writing an encomium to Kennedy, but despite the sordid details, that's what he ends up doing—not just because of his admiration of Kennedy's skills as a senator, but because he believes some mighty powerful demons drove Kennedy to his bad behavior. Ted was scorned as a lightweight by the older brothers he worshiped, and then had to live with the enormous expectations that came with being their survivor. His immediate family, living in constant fear that Ted would be the next to be assassinated, was plagued by alcoholism, drug abuse, and Teddy Jr.'s near-fatal cancer. And, like all the Kennedy brothers, Ted was scarred by having been raised in what many historians believe was a severely dysfunctional family.

Hersh covers ground already well tilled in a multitude of chronicles of the Kennedy family, but his gruff, old-time journalistic style ("Ted Kennedy is larger than his appetites" is one of his better-turned phrases) and the details of how Kennedy works the Senate, scoring remarkable victories for his liberal principles in a conservative era, make this a decent if unspectacular addition to the Kennedy canon.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883642303
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 219
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.94 (d)

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