Reviews for Last Great Senate : Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis
Choice Reviews 2012 July
Shapiro presents an assessment of the Senate in which he served as a senior staffer. Intricately weaving legislative summaries with biographical snippets of courageous senators during the Carter presidential years, the author provides a much-needed contextual study of both legislative processes and characteristics of statesmanship. Both are particularly poignant in this current time of gridlock. There is a deep necessity to return to the framers' design of the fundamental basis of the Senate, where men must be "committed to the national interest." Throughout, Shapiro also raises criticisms of the Republican Party's rightward shift, where decisions are now made to force Democrats to "cast painful votes that could be used against them in future campaigns." Such a shift, according to the author, breaks new ground. But does it? Lacking historical comparison, Shapiro sees the late 1970s body from the inside, lamenting the demise of his Great Senate. The framers foresaw branch conflicts, factional divides, personal quarrels, and inter- and even intra-party conflict as normal. Partisan unity does not a great Senate make--statesmanship, even without crises, does. The "last great Senate" then takes on a whole new meaning. Summing Up: Recommended. Most levels/libraries. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students. G. Donato Bentley University Copyright 2012 American Library Association.
Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #1
From a Washington insider, a scrambled but edifying examination of the last four years of the Senate's "era of greatness"—1977 to 1980. The class of '62 (a Democratic majority) presided over the Senate during the two ensuing decades that wrought the great civil-rights legislation, cut off funding for the Vietnam War, propounded environmental-protection laws and oversaw the Watergate hearings, among other epic national battles. Shapiro, now an international trade law lawyer in Washington, concentrates on the tail end of that brave, progressive and fluidly bipartisan run, when Robert Byrd of West Virginia (known as "the grind," having grown out of his bigoted early conservatism) acceded as majority leader, inheriting the inspired leadership mantle of LBJ and Mike Mansfield before him. By 1977, with the election of Jimmy Carter, the Senate had regained its democratic footing since being unsettled by the "imperial presidency" of Richard Nixon, and was receptive to Carter's urging for strengthening ethics in government. Despite Carter's tendency to circumvent legislators' input altogether, Byrd's diverse, youngish, dynamic Senate passed the ethics code, met the energy crisis, deregulated airlines, raised the minimum wage, passed the Panama Canal treaties, took on labor law reform, saved New York City and Chrysler from financial collapse, protected Alaska wilderness land and agreed to the peace proposal between the rancorous parties in the Middle East. All of these Herculean efforts required the experience and cajoling of now-legendary senators like Moynihan, Javitz, Kennedy, Ribicoff, Muskie, Church and Mondale. The progressive run would come to a screeching halt with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the decisive turn of the Senate, and populace, to the right. A work of broad, archival and anecdotal research by a writer with a good grasp of the messy era and times. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1
Back in the Sixties and Seventies, the Senate cast aside political divisions and passed transformative civil rights and Great Society legislation while challenging the administration regarding Vietnam and Watergate. Then came the conservative triumph of the 1980s. Having worked for Senators Gaylord Nelson, Abraham Ribicoff, Thomas Eagleton, Robert Byrd, and Jay Rockefeller, Shapiro has the wherewithal to explain what was so right about the "Last Great Senate"--and what went so wrong. Important. [Page 59]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 January #1
The U.S. Congress wasn't always gridlocked. Members of the Senate weren't always hyperpartisan. Controversial issues like SALT II and the Panama Canal Treaty would probably be DOA in Congress today, but Shapiro, who was on the staff of several senators during that time, reminds readers that during the Carter administration, the Senate passed controversial landmark legislation with bipartisan support, facing issues on their merits. Shapiro identifies important legislation and treaties debated in the Senate from 1978 to 1980, explaining positions and senators who played important roles on each side. He describes the debate and amendment process used to create a bill that could pass. He also discusses domestic issues the Senate battled over, such as government-backed loans to save New York City from default and a bailout for the Chrysler Corporation. Senators Ted Kennedy, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Robert Byrd, Howard Baker, and Ted Stevens, for example, found ways to compromise, allowing national interest to prevail over partisan and ideological rhetoric. VERDICT Shapiro's thorough analysis and background stories of these senators remind readers that the Senate once worked despite partisanship. Readers interested in political science and government history will enjoy the author's engaging style and historical perspective.--Jill Ortner, Sch. of Information & Lib. Studies, SUNY Buffalo [Page 119]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #2
At a time when the hapless U.S. Congress has received low approval ratings, Shapiro, a former Senate staffer and now an international trade lawyer, looks back at a golden era of lawmakers who performed admirably in a period of domestic and foreign crisis in the late 1970s. Using Capitol Hill documents, media accounts, and interviews with congressional and White House officials, he shows this was a time of active legislators on both sides of the aisle putting aside partisanship and ideology to create a national energy formula, strengthen the Panama Canal treaty, control a tax revolt, investigate Watergate, and stifle numerous crises in the Mideast. Shapiro ably paints the political stumbles of the "outsider" administration of President Jimmy Carter in dealing with a congressional powerhouse consisting of senators Robert Byrd, Howard Baker, Ted Kennedy, Jacob Javits, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Richard Lugar, and George McGovern. The administration and the Senate were at odds over nuclear weapons reductions, OPEC schemes, and saving financially troubled New York City and Chrysler. In his chronicle of Beltway politics, Shapiro's excellent account of wise, capable U.S. senators putting constitutional concerns over party and ideology to do the people's business is a prime example of how Washington can overcome its present deadlock. Agent: Kathleen Anderson. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC