The Public Interest

Moynihan’s legacy

Jeffrey O’Connell & Richard F. Bland

Winter 2001

AS the new century begins, the career of the man whom he Almanac of American Politics calls “the nation’s best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson” comes to a close. Retiring in 2001 from a coveted Senate seat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his career were at least temporarily overshadowed by the race to be his successor. Perhaps in an anticipatory move to stem such a tide of attention, Johns Hopkins University Press has published Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The Intellectual in Public Life, † a probing, while highly celebratory, compilation of essays about Moynihan from authors in fields as diverse as Moynihan’s accomplishments. (This book has been strangely overlooked by reviewers, especially in contrast to the widespread and immediate attention devoted to a later Moynihan biography by Godfrey Hodgson.)The 12 authors range from former Senator Bill Bradley writing on what it’s like to serve with Moynihan, to Nathan Glazer on Moynihan’s contribution to the concept of ethnicity, to NBC’s Tim Russert on Moynihan’s “wit and wisdom” as seen through his 25 appearances on “Meet the Press.” The compilation not only catalogues Moynihan’s accomplishments but also explores what it is about Moynihan that has enabled him to be on the vanguard of so many modern issues, and examines why, in a time of bitter partisanship, Moynihan is arguably the most widely respected Senator on both sides of the aisle.

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