What We’ve Lost

'Daniel Patrick Moynihan,' 'Age of Fracture'

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary
Edited by Steven R. Weisman
PublicAffairs, $35, 608 pp. 

Age of Fracture
Daniel T. Rodgers
Belknap/Harvard University Press, $29.95, 360 pp.

 

How are we to think about the politics of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the maverick senator and public intellectual who died in 2003? “I am not a ‘neoconservative,’” Moynihan told the author of a 1979 magazine profile, “but instead a liberal much as John F. Kennedy was liberal, [even] a bit more so.” He insisted to the New York Times that his “ideological roots are in the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Mostly, he chafed at the attempt to pin him down. “God save us from labels,” he complained to the historian Christopher Lasch.

Any label we might place on Moynihan seems inadequate, too narrow to encompass his varied and improbable career. Just as improbable for a politician these days is the publication, from a respectable publisher no less, of a thick book of letters. (Try to...

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About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.