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Advise and Consent

by Allen Drury

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Advise and Consent (1)

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9951921,037 (3.88)115
The President of the United States nominates the controversial Robert A. Leffingwell to be Secretary of State, and as that startling news reverberates throughout Washington a powerful politician commits suicide, a Congressional Committee comes up with a surprise witness, there is a vote of censure by the Senate, and the cynicism and selfishness and altruism and loyalty and ambitions of America's public servants are revealed.… (more)

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English (17)  Hebrew (2)  All languages (19)
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Here I was reading about politics, forming a schema of what government, the senate process, and I don't know what all else. My worldview is probably still affected by what I read here. ( )
  mykl-s | Apr 23, 2023 |
There are good parts of this book--it won a Pulitzer (overturning the committee, as it would 13 years later to deny Gravity's Rainbow, so, grain of salt), and some of the descriptions of pain and fatigue of the politickLing life are very evocative and telling.

Overall, though, politically it's detestable, and even if I agreed with it, its lionization of Senators Doing American Things with honor and dignity is incredibly stupid, especially considering the outcome--reasonable people disagree, but one senator, a shouting, unhinged lunatic, is without nuance and exists to be castigated by absolutely everyone, as does the mustache-twirling villain (?) of the piece. The others don't see real consequences of their actions--well, they do, and feel bad about it, which absolves them.

Overall it's a portrait of the special glory of American Politics, unironically, which is a joke considering that the President blackmails a principled Senator to death.

FOREIGN RELATIONS: This is a book about the dangers of being too soft on the Soviets, a bold and shocking position to take in 1959 (it wasn't), and the jeered strawman slogan is "I would rather crawl on my knees to Moscow than die under an atom bomb!" Which....I would? We all should? Nuclear war isn't just killing people. It's total ecological devastation of all species and their futures, and the destruction of earth. I think being reasonable with the Russians--demonic beings that crave only America's total destruction--should have been a goal of foreign relations, not a derided plea from unreasonable cowards.

Of course, the foreign relations here aren't exactly nuanced. The British ambassador--the only Brit, as the other ambassadors are the only ones of their nationality--is a distant, quippy artistocrat, the Indian ambassador is a nosy, craven appeaser, the Russian ambassador is a hostile and shitty ambassador with no pretense of diplomacy with the US.

At the end of the day, the honorable men make honorable stands. I think the Senate has one woman, one Latino (maybe) and one Hawaiian guy, from Hawaii, but otherwise it's all men, all white, all paternalistic as hell. When the handsome, too-perfect young Senator has a crisis, his wife, to whom he has been emotionally distant for like a decade, is narratively chastised for being upset by his continued failure to open up to her, rather than supporting him unequivocally as he continues to lie to her in the face of anonymous threatening agents. Women exist as wives to support husbands. They may do so intelligently and compassionately, but men are at the forefront.

Overall there are no other people of color. There is surprising sympathy for a probably-gay man whose wartime affair is revealed, but not denounced (although it's in such oblique language it's a little "too awful to mention), although he isn't happy about the consequences.

It strikes me that the hero of the final stretch of the book--a tart, straight-talking Illinois senator who is the President's old rival--denounces the current state of America. You know, the golden age we're supposed to hearken back to?

Do you want a war, Senator?” Of course he didn’t want a war; he just wanted an end to this flabby damned mushy nothingness that his country had turned herself into. And he particularly wanted an end to the sort of flabby damned thinking that the nominee and his kind represented—the kind of thinking, growing out of the secret inner knowledge that a given plan of action is of course completely empty and completely futile, which forces those who embark upon it to tell themselves brightly that maybe if the enemy will just be reasonable the world will become paradise overnight and everything will be hunky-dory. It was quite obvious to Senator Knox that the enemy would never be reasonable until the day he could dictate the terms of American surrender, and it was with an almost desperate determination that he returned again and again to the task of trying to make this clear to his countrymen. It was doubly frustrating because it was quite obvious that his countrymen knew it. They knew it, but they didn’t want to admit they knew it, because that would impose upon them the obligation of doing something about it, and that might bother them, and they didn’t want that."

COME ON. ( )
  Adamantium | Aug 21, 2022 |
Re-reading Advise and Consent(and watching the 1962 Otto Preminger movie by the same name), after a span of several years, I am reminded of my original reading and seeing the film version in the late 1960s. Drury followed up this first novel with a handful of sequels and over a dozen other books, but none of them came close to the popularity of the 1959 hit — ninety-three weeks on the best-seller list, a play, a movie and a Pulitzer (the Pulitzer Board overriding their committee’s recommendation of Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King). In many ways, Advise and Consent would be a fine reading in Cold War history courses or in courses that seek to explain the nature of Cold War politics. As an insight, though, into the nature of the appointments process as currently practiced, it remains locked in its time.
The novel tells the story of the nomination of peace-loving diplomat Robert A. Leffingwell to be Secretary of State. Unfolding in “books” from four senators, the story proceeds quickly and in rich, complex detail, aided no doubt by Drury’s intimate knowledge of how the Senate worked based on his experiences as a Washington political reporter. The first edition of Advise and Consent numbered 616 pages and the level of exegesis and dialogue is deep and broad. All layers of the advice and consent process are covered—from gripping hearing testimony to vitriolic floor debates, from the machinations of the White House to the cloakroom deals in the Senate.
Not only does Advise and Consent access the political dynamics of the Senate’s advice and consent to presidential nominations, the novel also delves deeply into the personal stories of the characters who must manage and judge this process. One widowed senator, the majority leader, is intimately involved with a Washington socialite and there is the past of the nominee, who flirted with communism while teaching in Chicago and is forced to confront this aspect of his personal history to secure confirmation. Another senator, a married Mormon from Utah, is blackmailed by a colleague who has discovered the senator’s intimate, sexual relationship with another man while in the army during World War II.

The narrative depth and the richness of the story’s details make it a fascinating read. It provides a panoramic view of Cold War Washington. It is a story that brings together strands of different actual events and real characters to create a composite vision of the U.S. Senate and its workings in the area of advice and consent. The novel was followed by Drury's A Shade of Difference in 1962 and four additional sequels. While Drury's Advise and Consent is arguably the best of its kind (and may have defined the genre) I have enjoyed others like O'Connor's The Last Hurrah and, more recently, Primary Colors. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jul 31, 2022 |
This is the 1960 Pulitzer award winning book and I read this while in Florida because it was available here in the library. This book is over 600 pages and it took be a long time to engage with the story but then I did and the last couple sections went by much faster. The fact that this book was published in 1959 during the cold war following WWII made the book even more significant to me. The story is about the process of approving a presidential recommendation for Secretary of State by the Senate. The president's candidate is smooth and avoids responding to any question with anything at all that can inform anyone of what he represents or how he will conduct himself. In the course, something is found, and what is found is significant in that it shows that the man has not been honest, that he has willfully lied during his hearings. The knowledge leads to a crisis for one man who is unable to survive the process and other senators who also played a part of in the destruction of their own colleague. The president is unhealthy and there is suspicions of his health, the vice president is painted as weak. The president is also culpable in the event that occurs because he put his desires before treating people decently and respectfully. The Russians are antagonistic and in this book, they are the first country to land on the moon. Interesting in that no one has yet landed on the moon when this book was written. The final chapters of the book had me nearly in tears, it was such a good, good ending. I come away from the book with a better understanding of political process and a renewed desire to know more in spite of the dirty, horrible political climate that is currently apart of normal operations. I do feel that the book was too long, that the author could have shortened it up a bit without losing any of the important parts of the story but I am so glad that I read it. ( )
  Kristelh | Mar 27, 2021 |
I had a hard time getting into this. I'm just not that interested in politics. Some parts are dated. But I don't think politics has changed much. ( )
  nx74defiant | Apr 30, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Allen Druryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Altschuler, FranzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shilstone, ArthurCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For My Parents and Anne

and dedicated to the distinguished and able gentlemen without whose existence, example and eccentricities this book could have been neither conceived nor written: The Senate of the United States
First words
When Bob Munson awoke in his apartment at the Sheraton-Park Hotel at seven thirty-one in the morning he had the feeling it would be a bad day.
It was a party in which the caterer’s representative informed the hostess shortly after midnight that as of that hour her guests had consumed 100 gallons of bourbon, 57 gallons of scotch, 200 cases of ginger ale and soda, 500 pounds of ice, and approximately $5000 worth of hors d’oeuvres, turkey, ham, chicken, celery, olives, salads, and matrons places.
Majority Leader tactics: keeping him off good committees, preventing his bills from ever coming to the floor for debate, floating rumors of contention and dislike in the press, attacking him obliquely in speeches around the country, using all the little cruelties of parliamentary technique to razor a man down to political nothingness inch by inch.
Politics could sometimes be a most cruel and heartless business. Those who entered it took upon themselves always the possibility that it might someday turn without pity upon them.
He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.
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The President of the United States nominates the controversial Robert A. Leffingwell to be Secretary of State, and as that startling news reverberates throughout Washington a powerful politician commits suicide, a Congressional Committee comes up with a surprise witness, there is a vote of censure by the Senate, and the cynicism and selfishness and altruism and loyalty and ambitions of America's public servants are revealed.

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