On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller….Book Review

Presidential archivist Richard Norton Smith has just released what is likely to be the definitive Biography of the legendary New Your Governor,Vice President and probably one of the best known failed presidential candidates in history.Indeed, for a number of years he gave his name to moderate and liberal Republucanism,even today, one hears the term “Rockefeller Republican” used,often as an epithet, by Right Wingers , toward fellow GOPers insufficiently imbued with the conservative gospel.

Beginning his public career as a State Dept functionary under FDR,Rockefeller goes on to be elected Gov.of New Yorki in 1958,a position he would occupy until the mid seventies.The book gives a detailed overview of his Governorship ,including his shifting coalitions,his feud with fellow liberal Republican NYC Mayor John Lindsay(who later becomes a Democrat)and his penchant for changing positions as requiredin the rough Anford tumble world of New York politics.

Rockefeller was also a philanthropist,an exceedingly generous employer, a womanizer, in many ways sort of a regular guy,despite his great wealth ,and an art connoisseur of some note.All this is covered extensively in the lengthy tome(over800 pages).

Political mavens will find it all here:his several campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination(two declared,in 1964 and 1968 plus the odd non candidacy of 1960),the blandishments from Democrats that he become one of them(as late as 1976 Hubert Humphrey was promoting him as a Democratic presidential candidate),his unhappy and often humiliating service as Gerald Fords appointed VP( a position most of his advisors had opposed him accepting) his “discovering ” of Henry Kissinger, his on again off again relationship with Richard Nixon(who often told intimates that Rockefeller was the only man ,beside him, who really understood foreign policy),his divorce and subsequent remarriage which many people thought cost him the presidency and his strange death.

The author concludes that Rockefeller was,in many ways, a stubborn man, who was never really prepared to do what it took to become President, had a seeming tone deaf attitude toward what was required to do so and ,despite his public persona, often felt insecure in his own candidacies.As the song says though,ultimately his life was a monument to the fact that he lived it “his way”; thus the title and the conclusion.

Well worth the read…..

My Name is Jack…..

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