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The career of Wayne Morse, Oregon's maverick senator (1944-68), offers insights on political issues that shaped the twentieth century and continue to echo in the twenty-first. Best known for being one of two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that initiated U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, Morse also maintained outspoken, principled stances on McCarthyi The career of Wayne Morse, Oregon's maverick senator (1944-68), offers insights on political issues that shaped the twentieth century and continue to echo in the twenty-first. Best known for being one of two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that initiated U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, Morse also maintained outspoken, principled stances on McCarthyism, labor rights, civil rights, equal access to education, the death penalty, and the importance of the checks and balances written into the Constitution. Morse could be eccentric and contradictory, but he was consistent in his readiness to speak against prevailing opinion and party politics in support ofhis personal convictions. Drawing on archival research, oral histories, and interviews with scores of Morse's contemporaries, Mason Drukman captures the vitality of a man who became dean of the University of Oregon Law School at age thirty-two, was involved in labor struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, and became the member of Congress most responsible for improving American education during the years of the New Frontier and the Great Society. In a balanced account and with lucid prose, Drukman offers a critical look at several decades of U.S. politics.


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The career of Wayne Morse, Oregon's maverick senator (1944-68), offers insights on political issues that shaped the twentieth century and continue to echo in the twenty-first. Best known for being one of two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that initiated U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, Morse also maintained outspoken, principled stances on McCarthyi The career of Wayne Morse, Oregon's maverick senator (1944-68), offers insights on political issues that shaped the twentieth century and continue to echo in the twenty-first. Best known for being one of two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that initiated U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, Morse also maintained outspoken, principled stances on McCarthyism, labor rights, civil rights, equal access to education, the death penalty, and the importance of the checks and balances written into the Constitution. Morse could be eccentric and contradictory, but he was consistent in his readiness to speak against prevailing opinion and party politics in support ofhis personal convictions. Drawing on archival research, oral histories, and interviews with scores of Morse's contemporaries, Mason Drukman captures the vitality of a man who became dean of the University of Oregon Law School at age thirty-two, was involved in labor struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, and became the member of Congress most responsible for improving American education during the years of the New Frontier and the Great Society. In a balanced account and with lucid prose, Drukman offers a critical look at several decades of U.S. politics.

34 review for Wayne Morse: A Political Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    At the end of Mason Drukman's biography of Oregon Senator Wayne L. Morse it was remarked that covering the Senate would be a lot duller without Morse in it. I'm sure it was. Morse was originally from Wisconsin where he and his family were followers of the independently progressive brand of politics practiced by Robert M. LaFollette. He came to Oregon accepting a position as Dean of the University of Oregon law school and during World War II served on the War Labor Board where he negotiated settlemen At the end of Mason Drukman's biography of Oregon Senator Wayne L. Morse it was remarked that covering the Senate would be a lot duller without Morse in it. I'm sure it was. Morse was originally from Wisconsin where he and his family were followers of the independently progressive brand of politics practiced by Robert M. LaFollette. He came to Oregon accepting a position as Dean of the University of Oregon law school and during World War II served on the War Labor Board where he negotiated settlements between labor and management. A dust up with the equally flinty Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes convinced Morse that maybe the legislative branch of government was more suited to his taste. I'm not so sure, but in any event like his idol LaFollette he ran and beat a right wing Republican drone named Rufus Holman for the seat. Holman was a pre-war isolationist and they were getting scarcer and scarcer after Pearl Harbor. In the Senate as a Republican Morse was at the extreme liberal end of that party. More often he was supporting Harry Truman than was he against him. In 1952 after supporting Ike Eisenhower for the nomination he repudiated his own candidate and left the GOP. It was because Ike had a powwow with his opponent Senator Robert Taft to get the party unified for November. For Morse this was an abandonment of principle. For the next two years Morse was an independent and in 1955 he declared himself a Democrat and ran for re-election in 1956 as one. The Eisenhower administration put up Ike's Secretary of the Interior Douglas MacKay a former governor of Oregon as an opponent. He turned out to be a dud of a candidate and Morse trounced him. The voters in Oregon under whatever political label liked Morse seeing him as an incorruptible independent. In Washington it was less so. The iconoclastic Morse was less than influential with his colleagues because he couldn't bridle his tongue. On both sides of the aisle they were the objects of some Don Rickles like barbs. He was a brilliant man and totally convinced he was the most brilliant in the room at any given point. A former student of Morse's, Richard L. Neuberger was elected Oregon's other Senator in 1954 and I won't tell the whole complex story about the relationship of the two going back to the early 30s, but they developed a nasty personal feud as colleagues in the Senate, refusing to talk to each other and sending nasty and insulting notes between them. When it all got public it made both men look petty, Morse the more so. Neuberger died just as he was preparing for re-election in 1960 and his widow Maurine Neuberger ran in his stead and won. She served one term and would not acknowledge Morse's existence in that time. Morse did have some far reaching ideas about foreign policy and the limits of even a superpower like the USA. Sadly few would listen because his own personality got in the way. Hard to convince folks when you were getting nasty and personal with them. In 1964 he was one of two Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that later was used to justify expanding American involvement in Vietnam. For that bit of farsightedness Morse has gone down well in history. But he lost to Republican Robert Packwood in 1968 with a considerable number of Oregon Democrats supporting Packwood. In fact the Democratic members of the House of Representatives delegation from Oregon were by that time also feuding with Morse over one thing or another. Morse made two unsuccessful attempts to get back in the Senate when he died in 1974. I can't help thinking that he might have had more influence had he put a hammer lock on his tongue. Then he wouldn't have been Wayne Morse. Whatever else he was, he was interesting.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Figueiredo

    A good biography gives you a full picture of its subject and in this regard, Drukman succeeded in painting a picture of former Senator Wayne Morse as bold, dedicated, and brilliant yet also egotistical and vituperative. In a lot of ways, Morse reminds me of weaknesses I noticed in myself and have worked on, so I found personal resonance. Drukman is a highly-skilled writer, conveying the dualities that characterized this enigmatic Senator and peppering his book with fascinating anecdotes. For exa A good biography gives you a full picture of its subject and in this regard, Drukman succeeded in painting a picture of former Senator Wayne Morse as bold, dedicated, and brilliant yet also egotistical and vituperative. In a lot of ways, Morse reminds me of weaknesses I noticed in myself and have worked on, so I found personal resonance. Drukman is a highly-skilled writer, conveying the dualities that characterized this enigmatic Senator and peppering his book with fascinating anecdotes. For example, Morse tried to start a cattle business with Senators Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey alongside a former Interior Secretary (342). He supported civil rights and would bring his African-American patronage staffers to the segregated cafeteria and make Southern Senators introduce themselves, just to get under those Senators' skins. He made his staffers work on the farm, a definite ethical violation which came back to bite Rep. James Traficant many decades later. Most important is how well he captures Morse as a maverick. One second, Morse was the conscience of the Senate, a proponent of education investment in the Great Society era, an anti-Vietnam War scion (but not an isolationist; he was a great believer in the potential of the UN). The next, he could hold mighty grudges against colleagues (like Edith Green who did not endorse him in 1960 and watered down many education bills), zig and then zag on policy issues, and mount quixotic campaigns, "blinded by the glare of flaming ambition" (such as backing a primary challenger doomed to lose or running for President himself in 1960) (333). Morse didn't care much for either party, leaving the Republican Party once he recognized it had gone astray from his Midwestern progressive sensibilities. He fit in better with the Democratic Party but still butted heads with people like LBJ, who ended up dooming his career by assigning him to deal with intractable late-1960s labor struggles that caused Morse's allies to turn on him. I only wish Drukman had elaborated more on his later campaigns. Perhaps Morse liked animals more than people, perhaps he spent a lot of his energy stirring the pot for its own sake, perhaps he worked too hard and spent too little time with his family, but whatever you might say about Morse, a true maverick he was.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Will

    After reading Robert Caro's monumental books on LBJ, I decided to read up on many of the figures in those books in order to have a better understanding of LBJ. I also wished to get an idea of the quality of Caro's research and see just how good his picture of the 1950s US Senate is. Wayne Morse was first on the list of those politicians because he's a big part of Oregon's liberal heritage. After reading Caro for almost 2 months and becoming very impressed with his writing, research and pure brill After reading Robert Caro's monumental books on LBJ, I decided to read up on many of the figures in those books in order to have a better understanding of LBJ. I also wished to get an idea of the quality of Caro's research and see just how good his picture of the 1950s US Senate is. Wayne Morse was first on the list of those politicians because he's a big part of Oregon's liberal heritage. After reading Caro for almost 2 months and becoming very impressed with his writing, research and pure brilliance, I expected to read some biographies of lesser quality. Drukman's book on Morse lived up to those somewhat lower expectations. All of the usual biographical tricks are employed to highlight the tremendous ambition, energy and occasional madness in Morse. Parallels to LBJ are easy to draw. The early chapters on Morse's move to Oregon are particularly good. Morse moved to a new state and instantly waged war with and defeated several entrenched state officials as an untenured law professor. Drukman does a fantastic job with depression-era Morse. As with successful people, the book suceeds despite its occasional incompetence. It's a great read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Wayne Morse does not get his due in history books or the common American conscious. This biography is one step toward changing that. Well researched, exciting and far more than just a political biography as the title suggests. If you want to get a basic idea of who the book is about I suggest you click on the following links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Morse http://youtube.com/watch?v=JiLV-Xeh8bA http://youtube.com/watch?v=DyFq9yco_Kc He was one of two senators to vote against giving the pres Wayne Morse does not get his due in history books or the common American conscious. This biography is one step toward changing that. Well researched, exciting and far more than just a political biography as the title suggests. If you want to get a basic idea of who the book is about I suggest you click on the following links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Morse http://youtube.com/watch?v=JiLV-Xeh8bA http://youtube.com/watch?v=DyFq9yco_Kc He was one of two senators to vote against giving the president the right to wage war in Vietnam and was the maverick, moral objector to countless other dumb ideas in the Senate. He was one of the few, real "maverick" politicians the country has ever had as evidenced by the fact that he spent time as a Republican, Independent and Democrat. If you're at all interested in cold war history, the vietnam war, the senate or even politics in general you have to read this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Wayne Morse was a tremendous and important man in American politics. His life and career demonstrated the significance of taking a stand, having a backbone of steel and not being subject to the whims of those who fund your campaigns. I count him as a hero. He represents the American history that we must embrace now if we are to reclaim our government from the plutocracy which has dominated DC for the last 40 years. I'm fortunate to have a close friend who grew up in a family that interacted clos Wayne Morse was a tremendous and important man in American politics. His life and career demonstrated the significance of taking a stand, having a backbone of steel and not being subject to the whims of those who fund your campaigns. I count him as a hero. He represents the American history that we must embrace now if we are to reclaim our government from the plutocracy which has dominated DC for the last 40 years. I'm fortunate to have a close friend who grew up in a family that interacted closely with Morse in Oregon. All of that said, the book is tediously written, doesn't flow well and makes for a better reference than just a sit down and enjoy reading kinda book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randy Stapilus

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ejcarter

  8. 4 out of 5

    Neal Lemery

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam Henig

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Savoian

  11. 4 out of 5

    dusty

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim Leahy

  13. 4 out of 5

    Claire Hall

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  17. 4 out of 5

    David Bart

  18. 4 out of 5

    Una Dickens

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julia Chapman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Coleman

  21. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Allan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Fisher

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Pullman

  24. 5 out of 5

    Diana Bell

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julian Russell

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emma Clarkson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Dickens

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Fraser

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Wilson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric King

  31. 5 out of 5

    Adam Clarkson

  32. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Hughes

  33. 4 out of 5

    Claire Robertson

  34. 5 out of 5

    Dan Cornish

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