Cover image for The gentleman from New York : Daniel Patrick Moynihan : a biography
The gentleman from New York : Daniel Patrick Moynihan : a biography
Hodgson, Godfrey.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
xi, 452 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Material Type
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E840.8.M68 H63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E840.8.M68 H63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E840.8.M68 H63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Coinciding with his departure from the United States Senate after twenty-four years of distinguished service, this major work is the first comprehensive account of the life and ideas of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a great political figure and a brilliant and complex man. Godfrey Hodgson, a highly regarded expert on American politics and history, has known Senator Moynihan for four decades and had full access to him and to his political papers while preparing this book. In addition, he interviewed dozens of Moyhnihan's friends, aides, and antagonists.

Both admiring and critical, this balanced portrait follows Moynihan's rise from an unpromising childhood in a broken middle-class family (not, as many believe, a tenement boyhood in New York's Hell's Kitchen). It explains how a self-described "birthright Democrat" could decide to work for Richard Nixon, and how a man elected to the Senate as the darling of the neoconservatives could come to oppose Ronald Reagan and fight for the goals of mainstream Democrats. It deals at length with Moynihan's sometimes embattled tenure as our ambassador to India and to the United Nations. Above all, it is the history of a mind, portraying Moynihan as a prophet who again and again saw through the conventional wisdom of liberals and conservatives alike, and who expressed his insights with clarity, vigor, and not a little wit. From "benign neglect" to "defining deviancy down," his formulation of some of the central problems of American society are sure to remain part of our national discourse for years to come.

Among the many prominent people who appear in these pages, some in fascinating behind-the-scenes encounters, are Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon; Henry Kissinger; Indira Gandhi; and Elizabeth Moynihan, the senator's wife and a remarkable figure in her own right. This splendid biography powerfully illuminates the life and ideas of a courageous, controversial, truly impressive American, whose entire career embodies a sustained faith in the possibility of a Great Society.

Author Notes

Godfrey Hodgson is director of the Reuters Foundation Programme at Oxford University

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

While the New York Senate race preoccupies the media, journalist Hodgson directs attention to the man both candidates hope to succeed. Hodgson described the late twentieth-century rise of conservatism in The World Turned Rightside Up (1996); he judges Moynihan one of the few people who "have lived and felt the liberal impulse, and at the same time understood the emotions behind the new conservatism." A friend of the senator and his wife for nearly 40 years, Hodgson observes a notable consistency in a career in which Moynihan was often viewed as a traitor by liberals or conservatives or both. As an appointee of New York governor Averell Harriman and in the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, in academia and in the Senate, Moynihan mixed skepticism about the value of social science in defining public policy with a solid "faith in the capacity, and the duty, of government to make society better." A cold war liberal, more of a regular Democrat than a reformer, Moynihan will no doubt be remembered as one of the smarter, more thoughtful elected officials of the late twentieth century. Others will probably produce more critical biographies, but, for now, Hodgson has supplied a fairly balanced overview. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though it may not rank as the definitive Moynihan biography, this informative study brings clarity to the Democratic senator's 24-year career as a legislator and his even longer career as a political thinker. Moynihan has called his career a series of "chance encounters, random walks"; Hodgson (The World Turned Right Side Up), an Oxford-based historian and a friend of Moynihan's since 1962, manages to lend that random walk a narrative coherence. Giving a colorful if not always balanced account of the senator's extraordinary journey from the sidewalks of New York to the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Hodgson, who had access to the senator's political papers and personal letters, peppers his account liberally with charming anecdotes and vivid biographical details. He portrays, for example, a young Pat, back in New York City after three formative years at the London School of Economics, devouring cheese and onion sandwiches between beers at McSorley's Ale House. He also gives a nicely detailed account of Moynihan's momentous 1975 speech as delegate to the U.N., where he denounced anti-Semitism amid a furious debate over a resolution declaring Zionism a form of racism. And he follows the legislator as he went on to become, in the words of the New York Times, an "aggressive debater, outrageous flatterer, shrewd adviserÄindeed manipulatorÄof Presidents, accomplished diplomat and heartfelt friend of the poor." Hodgson's summary of the senator's legislative record is uncritical, and his prose gets cumbersome in places. But as an eyewitness account of Moynihan's colorful career, this biography is a welcome achievement. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



1The Prophet an introduction God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends that plague thee thus!' Why lookst thou so?'With my cross-bow I shot the Albatross. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part IOver the past quarter century, Ginny Van Horn has often walked up McDougall Road to Pindars Corners. It is an idyllic walk through a bowl of wooded hills, with a stream bubbling under tall shade trees alongside. But when Mrs. Van Horn strolled up the gentle slope on the morning of July 8, 1999, she turned the corner by her neighbor's house, and was suddenly confronted by some three hundred reporters, cameramen and photographers. 'There sure is a lot of commotion,' she said. In twenty-five years, she'd never seen anything like it. No wonder; for what she had walked into was that late-twentieth-century political phenomenon, a full-blooded media feeding frenzy.The commotion was understandable. It is not every day that the First Lady of the United States, or FLOTUS, as she is known to the Secret Service, decides to run, or to think seriously about running, for senator from New York. And even when she did make that momentous decision, not every candidate would think of launching her campaign from a hayfield at Pindars Corners in Delaware County.The hayfield belongs to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose farm lies just at the bend of McDougall Road. The hay bales had been tidied away, and when Elizabeth Moynihan, the senator's wife, looked out her window she thought the farm had been visited by space invaders. There were, she calculated, thirty satellite trucks on the hill. The barn was full of portable restrooms, and children prepared iced lemonade for the perspiring reporters in the stable.A long chain of events had conspired to make that innocent upstate hayfield for a few brief hours the vortex of media attention and political calculation. Hillary Rodham Clinton was contemplating a campaign to succeed Moynihan as one of New York's senators. Liz Moynihan had counseled her that if she was to have any chance of success she must make a strong showing upstate. Mrs. Clinton was pleased to take that advice and had traveled to the rustic southern tier of New York State in search of the photo opportunity that might establish her in the voters' minds as a serious candidate for the whole state, and not just New York City.At 10:30 the First Lady arrived with her team at the Binghamton airport. They drove to the white schoolhouse just up the hill from the Moynihan farm. It is a simple wooden building, warmed in winter by a Victorian cast-iron stove, where the senator has written eighteen books. After half an hour's chat there, the First Lady, in a navy pants suit, and the senator, in white chino pants and a button-down blue shirt, waving a white baseball cap to emphasize the points of his discourse, emerged from the schoolhouse and sauntered down the lane to face the media, by now installed on a large woo Excerpted from The Gentleman from New York: A Biography by Godfrey Hodgson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Book I
1. The Prophet: An Introductionp. 3
2. Growing Pains: New York and Londonp. 25
3. Chance Encounters, Random Walks: Harriman, Marriage and J. Edgar Hooverp. 49
4. On the New Frontier 1961-1965p. 73
5. The Dark Hour: The Election and the Report, 1965-1966p. 99
6. The Era of Bad Manners: From Harvard to Nixonp. 121
Book II
7. Tory Men, Whig Measures: Working for Nixon in the White Housep. 149
8. Watergate from Afar: Rethinking Nixon, America and the Worldp. 182
9. Proconsul: Ambassador to Delhip. 195
10. The Other End of 42nd Street: Ambassador at the United Nations and the Zionism Resolutionp. 223
11. To the Senate: The 1976 Campaignp. 259
Book III
12. A Democrat Again: First Term, 1977-1982p. 277
13. Falling Out with Reagan: Second Term, 1983-1989p. 302
14. Money and Power: Third Term, 1989-1994p. 327
15. The Legislator as Magnifico: Fourth Term, 1995-2000p. 364
Notesp. 407
Indexp. 435