Historian and former university president Sheldon Hackney recounts how he became an unwitting combatant in the Culture Wars when his nomination to become President Bill Clinton’s chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities came under fire from right-wing conservatives. Hackney meticulously describes the background of ideological maneuvering that was behind not only the attacks on him but also the fierce campaign to bring down Clinton. He says, “I believe my story illustrates how the Culture War and the current media environment combine to polarize discussion until the public has no chance to understand complex issues. Not only are moderates trampled underfoot, but the great gray areas where life is actually lived, the areas of ambiguity and tradeoffs between competing values, are rendered toxic to human habitation. This is not healthy for a democracy.”
Read this engrossing account of Sheldon Hackney’s disemboweling by the Wall Street Journal and the other ‘true believers’ of the conservative establishment media, and you’ll begin to understand why so many Americans of merit, liberal or conservative, are unwilling to drop what they’re doing and come to Washington to serve their country. They’re reluctant to put themselves through the too-often ugly process of confirmation by an excessively partisan Congress.
—Mike Wallace, co-editor, CBS 60 Minutes
A brilliant and readable memoir about politics by an honest non-politician who was caught in the crossfire of a confirmation battle that was part of a culture war. Understanding that the controversy was not about him, Hackney tells the story in a self-effacing, entertaining, and compelling manner. A must-read for all Americans who wonder why so few people with Hackney’s credentials are willing to chance a confirmation fight.
—Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard University, author of Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge
Welcome to Planet of the Apes
meets Advise and Consent
. It’s Newt Gingrich’s Washington, where one of America’s most distinguished scholars and university presidents is transformed into a tribal sacrifice in the neoconservative culture war. Sheldon Hackney’s harrowing and gripping memoir of this bloody political ritual is an essential historical document of a time of primitive madness in the capital.
—Sidney Blumenthal, former assistant and senior adviser to President Clinton, author of the The Clinton Wars, The Permanent Campaign, and The Rise of the Counter-Establishment
Sheldon Hackney’s eloquent story of the ordeal he endured at the hands of the Congressional-Presidential-media complex rings with truth. If the truth will make us free, this lively book, widely read, should help us deal far better with our always fragile freedom.
—The Honorable Harris Wofford
Presidential appointments can be used effectively or ineffectively. Author Sheldon Hackney reflects on his time as a presidential appointee in The Politics of Presidential Appointment: A Memoir of the Culture War
, his memoir of being an unwilling combatant in a major conflict between the left and right during the time the National Endowment for the Humanities was formed. Hackney seeks to dispel lies and misperceptions about his tenure in this inside look enhanced with a foreword by Vernon Jordan. The Politics of Presidential Appointment
is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the dark side of letting the president choose his co-workers in charge of the country.
—The Midwest Book Review
Sheldon Hackney tells a troubling tale of how easily a small clique of right-wingers spun truth into lies, manipulated the mainstream media, and poisoned the debate in the U.S. Senate for its own ideological purposes. Happily, in this case the good guy (Hackney) took on the conservative labyrinth and won.
Sheldon Hackney’s story on his ordeal by slander at the hands of political and media assassins is harrowing though alleviated by a fine sense of humour. The author’s eventual triumph over partisan bigotry is testimony to his own resilience and courage, and the tale is a fascinating one.
—William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner