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Mr. Chairman : power in Dan Rostenkowski's America /
James L. Merriner.
imprint
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c1999.
description
xiii, 333 p. : ill.
ISBN
0809322803 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, c1999.
isbn
0809322803 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
3584476
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-05-01:
This ambitious book does not seek to be a mere biography-- note the subtitle. While Mr. Chairman does not really explain power in America, it does have much valuable discussion on a range of topics, including machine politics, Polish immigrants in Chicago, congressional power, and tax issues, such as the tax reform of 1986, which arose under Rostenkowski's tenure as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Merriner also provides a thoughtful and balanced portrait of Rostenkowski the politician (it is a political biography, not a very personal one.) He has no ax to grind for or against Rostenkowski, but he does frequently carp at media elites, whom he calls "the clerisy." This detracts from the book's very educational tour of Rostenkowski's corner of American politics. While not a page-turner, Mr. Chairman is worthwhile for its lessons in politics and its picture of the downfall of a powerful man. Merriner does not spell out enough explicit conclusions, but Rostenkowski comes off as an important but arrogant man who did good things and certainly some wrong things, however "petty" they seemed to some observers. Recommended at all levels. J. Heyrman; Berea College
Reviews
Review Quotes
Merriner "paints Rostenkowski as a dealmaker who worked hard for special interests, whether it was a $288 million tax break in 1984 for 333 Chicago options traders, tax breaks to finance a new Comiskey Park, or $200 million in advantages for Commonwealth Edison. He details Rostenkowski's crimes and leaves no doubt that many serious misdeeds were at stake, not just the usual congressional corruption of favors-for-donations that Rostenkowski dealt with on an everyday basis at Ways and Means. As Merriner puts it, 'Dan Rostenkowski all but wore a sign around his neck that flashedI want power.'"Chicago Sun Times
Merriner "paints Rostenkowski as a dealmaker who worked hard for special interests, whether it was a $288 million tax break in 1984 for 333 Chicago options traders, tax breaks to finance a new Comiskey Park, or $200 million in advantages for Commonwealth Edison. He details Rostenkowski's crimes and leaves no doubt that many serious misdeeds were at stake, not just the usual congressional corruption of favors-for-donations that Rostenkowski dealt with on an everyday basis at Ways and Means. As Merriner puts it, ‘Dan Rostenkowski all but wore a sign around his neck that flashedI want power.'"--Chicago Sun Times
"Merriner's vivid portrait of Rostenkowski as a larger-than-life figure hinges on his extensive examination of Chicago politics in the twentieth century. . . . [He strives] to be fair and take due note of Rostenkowski's shortcomings as well as his achievements. . . . [P]olitical junkies will find much to savor in the stories retold here."Chicago Tribune "[Mr. Chairman] is a good wrap-up on a key political figure with more than a few good insights into the person and the process. Too often individuals like Dan Rostenkowski are victims of journalistic overgeneralizationthis book provides a more balanced view of one of Illinois's most important twentieth-century congressmen."Paul M. Green,coeditor (with Melvin G. Holli) ofThe Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition
"Merriner's vivid portrait of Rostenkowski as a larger-than-life figure hinges on his extensive examination of Chicago politics in the twentieth century. . . . [He strives] to be fair and take due note of Rostenkowski's shortcomings as well as his achievements. . . . [P]olitical junkies will find much to savor in the stories retold here." -- Chicago Tribune "[Mr. Chairman] is a good wrap-up on a key political figure-- with more than a few good insights into the person and the process. Too often individuals like Dan Rostenkowski are victims of journalistic overgeneralization--this book provides a more balanced view of one of Illinois's most important twentieth-century congressmen."-- Paul M. Green , coeditor (with Melvin G. Holli) of The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition
"Merriner's vivid portrait of Rostenkowski as a larger-than-life figure hinges on his extensive examination of Chicago politics in the twentieth century. . . . [He strives] to be fair and take due note of Rostenkowski's shortcomings as well as his achievements. . . . [P]olitical junkies will find much to savor in the stories retold here."--Chicago Tribune "[Mr. Chairman] is a good wrap-up on a key political figure-- with more than a few good insights into the person and the process. Too often individuals like Dan Rostenkowski are victims of journalistic overgeneralization--this book provides a more balanced view of one of Illinois's most important twentieth-century congressmen."--Paul M. Green,coeditor (with Melvin G. Holli) ofThe Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition
"Reading Mr. Merriner's rollicking account is what I imagine it would be like to be a guest at a Polish-American picnic in Chicago, being regaled with storiessome admiring, some damningabout big Joe Rusty's cocky kid. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Merriner's detailed, colorful and anecdotal reports of life and politics in Chicago's old 32nd Ward."Washington Times
"Reading Mr. Merriner's rollicking account is what I imagine it would be like to be a guest at a Polish-American picnic in Chicago, being regaled with stories--some admiring, some damning--about big Joe Rusty's cocky kid. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Merriner's detailed, colorful and anecdotal reports of life and politics in Chicago's old 32nd Ward." -- Washington Times
"Reading Mr. Merriner's rollicking account is what I imagine it would be like to be a guest at a Polish-American picnic in Chicago, being regaled with stories--some admiring, some damning--about big Joe Rusty's cocky kid. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Merriner's detailed, colorful and anecdotal reports of life and politics in Chicago's old 32nd Ward."--Washington Times
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 2000
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Summaries
Main Description
The story of Dan Rostenkowski's rise and fall provides one of the keys to how power is sought, won, exercised, and distributed in contemporary America, argues political journalist James L. Merriner. A literal son of the Chicago political machine, Rostenkowski was installed in politics by his father, Alderman Joseph P. Rostenkowski, and by his mentor, Mayor Richard I. Daley. In his thirty-six year congressional career, he served nine presidents, forming close friendships with many of them. His legislative masterpiece was the 1986 tax reform law. Eight years later, he was indicted on federal charges for misusing tax dollars and campaign funds. In his dealings with the man who tumbled dramatically from his high position as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee all the way down to a cell in a federal prison in Wisconsin, Merriner finds Rostenkowski candid, straightforward, and authentic "except when it came to his own finances." Rostenkowski is not a complex man in need of psychoanalysis on the part of his biographer, and Merriner does not indulge in much of that. Purely, simply, and openly, Rostenkowski wanted power. He wanted wealth. He got both, and Merriner shows us how. Merriner sees mythic qualities in Rostenkowski, characterizing him as the "tall bold slugger" of Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem about Chicago. Noting that this master politician climbed to fantastic peaks only to fall hard and fast, Merriner points out that "Rostenkowski's life ascended from power in the political science sense to tragedy in the classical sense." The Justice Department and the electorate sacrificed Rostenkowski as an embodiment of the excesses of big government. Like the Greek chorus of tragedy, major media reported the scandal to the masses. Yet Merriner does not strain to make his subject fit a classical mold. He tells instead the "story of a great man who was also a little man, a statesman and a crook, an emotional man, an American original." This was also a man unbeaten by his troubles, a man who emerged from prison unabashed. This illustrated biography is not authorized by Rostenkowski, who declined Merriner's interview requests after June 1995. His sources are the public record, previous interviews with Rostenkowski and with many other sources before and after 1995, and his own political acumen gained from decades on the political scene.
Main Description
The story of Dan Rostenkowski's rise and fall provides one of the keys to how power is sought, won, exercised, and distributed in contemporary America, argues political journalist James L. Merriner. A literal son of the Chicago political machine, Rostenkowski was installed in politics by his father, Alderman Joseph P. Rostenkowski, and by his mentor, Mayor Richard I. Daley. In his thirty-six year congressional career, he served nine presidents, forming close friendships with many of them. His legislative masterpiece was the 1986 tax reform law. Eight years later, he was indicted on federal charges for misusing tax dollars and campaign funds. In his dealings with the man who tumbled dramatically from his high position as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee all the way down to a cell in a federal prison in Wisconsin, Merriner finds Rostenkowski candid, straightforward, and authentic-- "except when it came to his own finances." Rostenkowski is not a complex man in need of psychoanalysis on the part of his biographer, and Merriner does not indulge in much of that. Purely, simply, and openly, Rostenkowski wanted power. He wanted wealth. He got both, and Merriner shows us how. Merriner sees mythic qualities in Rostenkowski, characterizing him as the "tall bold slugger" of Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem about Chicago. Noting that this master politician climbed to fantastic peaks only to fall hard and fast, Merriner points out that "Rostenkowski's life ascended from power in the political science sense to tragedy in the classical sense." The Justice Department and the electorate sacrificed Rostenkowski as an embodiment of the excesses of big government. Like the Greek chorus of tragedy, major media reported the scandal to the masses. Yet Merriner does not strain to make his subject fit a classical mold. He tells instead the "story of a great man who was also a little man, a statesman and a crook, an emotional man, an American original." This was also a man unbeaten by his troubles, a man who emerged from prison unabashed. This illustrated biography is not authorized by Rostenkowski, who declined Merriner's interview requests after June 1995. His sources are the public record, previous interviews with Rostenkowski and with many other sources before and after 1995, and his own political acumen gained from decades on the political scene.
Main Description
The story of Dan Rostenkowski's rise and fall provides one of the keys to how power is sought, won, exercised, and distributed in contemporary America, argues political journalist James L. Merriner.A literal son of the Chicago political machine, Rostenkowski was installed in politics by his father, Alderman Joseph P. Rostenkowski, and by his mentor, Mayor Richard I. Daley. In his thirty-six year congressional career, he served nine presidents, forming close friendships with many of them. His legislative masterpiece was the 1986 tax reform law. Eight years later, he was indicted on federal charges for misusing tax dollars and campaign funds.In his dealings with the man who tumbled dramatically from his high position as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee all the way down to a cell in a federal prison in Wisconsin, Merriner finds Rostenkowski candid, straightforward, and authentic-- "except when it came to his own finances."Rostenkowski is not a complex man in need of psychoanalysis on the part of his biographer, and Merriner does not indulge in much of that. Purely, simply, and openly, Rostenkowski wanted power. He wanted wealth. He got both, and Merriner shows us how.Merriner sees mythic qualities in Rostenkowski, characterizing him as the "tall bold slugger" of Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem about Chicago. Noting that this master politician climbed to fantastic peaks only to fall hard and fast, Merriner points out that "Rostenkowski's life ascended from power in the political science sense to tragedy in the classical sense." The Justice Department and the electorate sacrificed Rostenkowski as an embodiment of the excesses of big government. Like the Greek chorus of tragedy, major media reported the scandal to the masses.Yet Merriner does not strain to make his subject fit a classical mold. He tells instead the "story of a great man who was also a little man, a statesman and a crook, an emotional man, an American original." This was also a man unbeaten by his troubles, a man who emerged from prison unabashed.This illustrated biography is not authorized by Rostenkowski, who declined Merriner's interview requests after June 1995. His sources are the public record, previous interviews with Rostenkowski and with many other sources before and after 1995, and his own political acumen gained from decades on the political scene.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Prologuep. 1
Big Joe Rustyp. 7
A House for All Peoplesp. 38
If Danny Says It's Truep. 75
The Whole World is Watchingp. 103
Pigs Get Fatp. 126
The Tuesday Through Thursday Clubp. 142
Rosty's Rotundap. 167
Write Rostyp. 193
A Bird So Highp. 250
A Bladder Full of Windp. 273
Epiloguep. 301
Notesp. 307
Selected Bibliographyp. 321
Indexp. 327
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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