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Main Author: Drew, Elizabeth
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Review by Kirkus Book Review

When Elizabeth Drew unveiled John C. Culver, Democrat of Iowa, in The New Yorker last year, he was next to unknown nationwide; yet she called him ""one of the most effective members of the Senate."" Why is Drew's story, a personal profile in the diary form she used memorably in her Watergate book, Washington Journal. Culver, 46, is a big, expansive man, quick to laugh or show anger; a highly intelligent, thorough, principled political operative. Leadership, he tells Drew, is pursuing objectives, however ""uncomfortable"" or unsexy. He takes on only a limited number of issues, ""ones that make an important point. . . and on which he has a reasonable chance of winning."" During the ten days Drew spends with him, in Washington and back in Iowa, he is very much involved in managing his first major bill, an amendment to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 providing for arbitration in case of conflicts between environmentalists and builders: an amendment which both sides can be expected to oppose--environmentalists as a retreat, builders as still too obstructive. As a supporter of SALT and a critic of nuclear ""deterrence,"" he is angling for the release of an intelligence report on Russian civil defense: do they feel, as the Right claims, that they can safely launch a nuclear war or do they simply--as Culver suspects--""have their signs in their subways,"" as we do? For home consumption, he is drumming up support for a resolution critical of the President's action increasing the imported-beef quota--and penalizing newly-prosperous Iowa cattlemen. Whatever the issue, Culver is looking ahead, avoiding facile assurances, warning his constituents that he can't support them on every single issue--and generally inveighing (to Drew) against self-centered, mistrustful ""single-issue politics."" His grinding schedule has its lighter moments--a softball game against the Kennedy staff, a family outing on the Mississippi near their restored inn/home--but Culver is unmistakably fired beyond weariness by the task at hand. This small book, a tribute to his tenacity and to the Senate's potential, is a prize for anyone who wants to feel good about government again. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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