“Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury
S7 Ep 3
Host: Frank Lavallo
Readers: Katie Smith and Peter Toomey
Author: Allen Drury
Year of Publication: 1959
Plot: Advise and Consent is the dramatic 1959 political fiction novel that explores the United States Senate confirmation of controversial Secretary of State nominee Robert Leffingwell, whose promotion is endangered due to growing evidence that the nominee was a member of the Communist Party.
Frank: Hello and welcome. I’m Frank Lavallo and this is Novel Conversations, a podcast about the world’s greatest stories. For each episode of Novel Conversations, I talk to two readers about one book; and together, we summarize the story for you. We introduce you to the characters, we tell you what happens to them, and we read from the book along the way. So, if you love hearing a good story, you’re in the right place.
This week's novel conversations is about the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury and I’m joined by our Novel Conversations readers, Katie Smith and Peter Toomey. Katie, Peter. Welcome.
Katie & Peter: Thank you. Thanks Frank. Glad to be here.
Frank: And now onto our show. Before we start our conversation, let me tell you a little bit about Advise and Consent published by Allen Drury in 1959. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel Advise and Consent begins when the president of the United States nominates a controversial and well-known liberal, and possible communist sympathizer, to be the new Secretary of State before the Senate can advise and consent to this nomination. However, the entire Washington political system springs into action: liberal versus conservative, senator versus senator, the Senate versus the President, and the Press versus everyone. In his novel, Allen Drury reveals Washington's intricate political, diplomatic, and social worlds, while also showing us the all too human politicians that inhabit those worlds.
Frank: How timely it all feels and so I definitely wanna talk about some of the timeliness that's in this novel.
OUT: But before we get into some of those themes, I want to take a quick break. Right now you're listening to novel conversations we're having a conversation about the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury. I'm Frank Lavallo. We'll be right back.
IN: Welcome back to Novel Conversations. I'm your host Frank Lavallo. Today I'm having a conversation about the novel Advise a Consent by Alan Jury and I’m joined in conversation today by Katie Smith and Peter Toomey.
Frank: All right Peter, let's talk a little bit about some of the main characters in our novel. We've got to start with the president who has made this controversial nomination for his Secretary of State. Peter, tell me the name of the president.
Peter: The President, interestingly enough, is never named and it's not obvious at all until you maybe you've read the book about five times. I didn't pick up on it until you pointed out to us.
Frank: They never mentioned the president's name? Katie let me ask you… is this president who not named a Republican or is he a Democrat?
Katie: No. We don't know that either. You kind of have to draw your own conclusions. And the names of the parties are never mentioned in the entire book…
Frank: The word Republican and Democrat, never appear in this novel.
Katie: Nope. Never.
Frank: All right I've struck out twice here. Let me ask one more question. What's the date of our novel?
Peter: We don't know that. (Frank: We don't know that either!) There are certain markers that make it pretty obvious.
Frank: Tell me what those obvious markers are and when is this…?
Peter: Hanging over this thing is the Cold War and probably the height of the mania about the Cold War. As you probably know as the ‘Sputnik Era’ in the very late 50s which sets the stage between the McCarthy era and new frontier and JFK. The entire country is being run by Democrats, by liberals… there was really no room for conservatism, in that… you have a guy who's writing a book who wants to make it difficult to tell who the good guys and the bad guys are.
Frank: So Katie, do you agree that the fact that we don't know if this is a Democratic president or a Republican president, makes it hard to know who the good guys and bad guys are?
Katie: I agree. And there's characters that we think are good characters who are not necessarily good characters - by the end of the book.
Frank: All right. Now let's talk about what is in the book. We've mentioned three things that are not in the book. We don't know who this president is. We don't know Republicans or Democrats and we don't know exactly when this novel takes place although we can place it sometime after Sputnik and clearly before we get to the moon. We do know he was the governor of California. Katie this book is set up in a very interesting way. It's actually divided into five books…
Katie: … Four of which are named after four senators that are characters in the book and give a feel for their stories. And the last one which rounds out the plot and comes to the conclusion is called ‘advise and consent’…
Frank: … which of course is the title of our novel. Tell me a little bit about those five books and then let's start with the first book.
Katie: Bob Munson’s is the first book. And he is the Senate majority leader. Seabright Cooley is the second book, but they call him Seab Cooley. He's the character who started out as this difficult guy from South Carolina. And by the end of the book we were sympathetic towards him and his actions.
Frank: He's an older senator who's been there a very long time.
Katie: The third book is Brigham Anderson's book. He’s the senior senator from Utah. The fourth book is Orrin Knox's book. He is a senator from Illinois. And then the last book was Advise and Consent.
Frank: So really Allen Drury tells us - in the way he's divided this novel - who he thinks are the most important characters.
Peter: Yes I would agree, except Orrin Knox, I'm not sure he has the weight of the others.
Frank: All right. Well, we'll talk about Orrin when we get to his book but let's start with the first book of our novel, which is Bob Munson's book. Katie, what do we know about Bob Munson? You mentioned he's the Majority Leader.
Katie: Right. And the first thing that happens in the book is he finds out the president names Leffingwell, Secretary of State. (Frank: … and he finds that out?) … through the newspaper.
Frank: Now wait a minute. The President of the United States named Bob Leffingwell to be his new Secretary of State. And he doesn't tell the majority leader… the leader of his own party?
Katie: No he didn't tell him. And of course, Bob Munson wasn't real happy about that.
Frank: But he's not only upset that he wasn't told who the new secretary of state nominee was going to be. He's a bit upset over who the actual nominee is… this Robert Leffingwell.
Peter: Yes, but I think the more important thing is that Munson’s role is carrying water for the White House, same party. And yet his other colleagues certainly in his own party one of the young guys has a great line. He says, “You're the great Earth father to us all,” which I don't think I've ever heard of Earth father; but you immediately understand what they mean. He really is the father confessor. So, he knows that even though personally might not have a problem with Leffingwell, he obviously knows his Senate colleagues enough to know that it's going to kick up a lot of opposition and that he's going to have to deal with it.
Frank: So as majority leader, Bob Munson knows that not only will the opposition party be against this nominee there's members of his own party that are going to oppose it as well.
Peter: Right. And I thought the most interesting part about it was how he's really thinking about the whole country even though he realizes he's elected by one state. There's a wonderful little segment where he gets a call from both the chairman of GM. Remember at that time the saying was, ‘what's good for GM is good for the country.’
Frank: We should mention that Bob Munson is the majority leader but he's the senator from Michigan.
Peter: Michigan, which again, is another signal to a close reader that Republicans didn't come from the auto capital. He’s probably a Democrat. But he gets this same call with a similar pressure from the chairman of GM and the head of the United Auto Workers. What really, I think helped bring alive is pragmatism, is that each guy was sure that he was going to do the right thing. He's a classic LBJ type. LBJ is famous for hovering over people and really working him until they couldn't but agree. He was able to do that even with the chairman of GM.
Frank: Alright but Katie, even though this is Bob Munson’s book this is where Robert Leffingwell is introduced to us. We're not told what the specific concerns that Bob Munson has with Leffingwell.
Katie: I actually found a passage in the book that covered that and it appears about a third of the way through the book… we are in Cooley's mind, he's the senator from South Carolina who is very much opposed to Leffingwell. In fact a lot of the controversy in the book is the fact that people think he's against Leffingwell for personal reasons…
Frank: Which he is of course but there are political reasons as well....
Katie: …And one of the other reasons I probably wrote down this quote is it also gives you a feel for the type of writing Alan Drury does. He uses words that are very specific, very colorful, and the book moves along because of this; but what the senator from South Carolina thinks about Leffingwell is that he has a tendency and this is a quote, “…to slide smoothly just between the sharp edges of clashing principles and there find a glib soft woozy area of gummy compromise and rationale that effectively blurred everything, innovated all issues, weakened firmness and sapped (or zapped) resolve in a way that hamstrung his own country and made it easier for her enemies to move a few steps farther along the path they had set themselves.” I think that kind of sums up what the issues were with Leffingwell on both sides of Congress. I think that both parties were concerned about his ability to be Secretary of State.
Frank: Because of his perhaps, soft feelings, or at least his sympathies with the Soviet Union. (Katie: Yes.) Peter, did you feel that right away as well?
Peter: I guess I saw even a little more layered thing going on here. I think the real highlight here between Leffingwell - who is kind of painted as a traditional Ivy League eastern seaboard intellectual money - (Frank: Foggy Bottom and striped trousers?) You got it. CIA coming from the Ivy League… the whole thing. All the things that conservatives hated about these guys… there were just all a little too smooth. On the other hand, his kind of chief nemesis, Cooley, is from the south. He got to Harvard but on a radically different path. He was essentially without parents, so a wealthy guy in the Deep South paid for him to get to Harvard … kind of a ‘brightest boy from the county’ kind of thing. So Drury is very tricky there. This was Ivy League Against Ivy League if you want to look at it that way. But two very different worlds clashing here…
Frank: Western seaboard versus Southern gentlemen.
Peter: Right. Senator Cooley, we should point out here too is an incredibly powerful guy at other levels. He is not only President pro-tem (tempore) of the Senate. That is really fourth in line to succeed to the presidency, just ahead of the secretary of state. He's also even more importantly, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Reporters know that as the College of Cardinals. All the other committees decide what to do and make plans. None of it matters a bit until the Appropriations Committee actually gives the authority to go into the purse.
Frank: But Peter as Katie mentioned there was a personal angle to this animosity that Cooley had for Robert Leffingwell that went way beyond the politics.
Peter: That was a little faint, that Drury throws in just to make you think that he's being petty and personal, and it powers it along for about a hundred pages. Later on you find out that Senator Cooley, contrary to what you were expecting, is actually a man of principle and he wouldn't let something as small that, stand in the way of a good Secretary of State - who could actually lead the country during this Cold War.
Frank: But what were the personal issues?
Peter: Apparently in a previous testimony on a very obscure committee… (Frank: Wasn’t it an Inspector of Materials?) Something like that, right. So, he apparently gave an answer that was not particularly respectful of Cooley. And he ranted and raved about that a little bit to his friend Senator Munson. They live in the same building and they sure cab in the way in.
Frank: Katie, it was actually even a stronger reaction than that. Cooley believes Robert Leffingwell called Steve Cooley a liar. And Steve Cooley will never forgive him for that. (Katie: Exactly.) All right, so we are about one hundred and sixty pages into this almost 600 page novel and we still aren't really sure what the opposition to Leffingwell is going to be. But we do know that we have the first two books. Senator Manson's book and Senator Cooley's book. Senator Cooley and Senator Munson have to make a decision on how they're going to handle this nomination. Obviously as we said, Senator Cooley is opposed, Senator Munson is for; they’re both of the same party. Katie what happens next?
Katie: Well we move into the third book which is Brigham Anderson's book and Brigham Anderson is a Senior Senator from Utah and he is going to start testimony on this nomination of Bob Leffingwell as Secretary of State. And he is appointed to a committee and the committee starts arguing. We get a lot of back and forth, hearing what different people have to say about different things, and we learn a lot about the Senior Senator from Utah, Brigham Anderson.
Frank: Tell me a little bit about Brigham Anderson. You said he's the Senior Senator but he's only 37 years old.
Katie: Right. He's young, he has a young family. He has a wife and children and you get a little feel that he's got some issues in his marriage. We learn about the issues between the husband and wife. And we learn about his concern about spending time with the family. You know it made me think about the fact today people are juggling careers and families. And I didn't really think about the fact that they were dealing with that back in the late 50s early 60s. I guess I thought that was a new problem. So, I was kind of intrigued by that.
Frank: So, Peter. Brigham Anderson is only 37. How does he become a Senator from Utah - Never mind the Senior Senator from Utah?
Peter: He's a war hero, for a start. He's kind of a classic American, young man who moves quickly ahead because of his great people skills.
Frank: I understand you have a quote that you wanted to read about his experiences in the air force…
Peter: Yes. And this is another place where we're anchored in time. We know that he's 37 now and yet there's a reference here to World War II when he served there about 15 18 years before the book. He talks about how he was one of those officers, quote: “One of those officers exercising authority with an appealing grin and an air of being born to it, whom enlisted men worship and superiors marked for speedy promotion.” And then it really leads you into how, once he gets into politics, it's the same kind of meteoric rise - but for all the right reasons.
Frank: He becomes a Senior Senator of course, when the older senator from Utah dies. And he's now the senior senator at 37 years old.
Peter: And he's somebody who is Junior in every other way and yet kind of instantly trusted by other Senior guys that have been there for 30 years longer than he has.
Frank: And that's why the two leading members of this party - we're not sure which party, I think we all agree it's probably the Democratic Party - but the two leaders of the party, Senator Bob Munson and Senator Cooley, appoint him to hold the hearings on the Leffingwell nomination.
Peter: He chairs the subcommittee that's going to basically vote on passing this to the full committee and then the full Senate. The one thing that really distinguishes him for everybody is, he's the one senator - I think everybody agrees - that really can't be bought. That neither side can bribe or intimidate him and that he's the one guy that's going to do whatever it takes. All right down to losing his place of the Senate to do what he thinks was right.
Frank: Let me ask you Peter, up to this point, do you have any concerns about Brigham Anderson?
Peter: No. We talked earlier about how many plot twists there are. He's the guy in whom probably there are more plot twists and surprises than anybody in the entire book.
Frank: Katie, how about you? He's about to chair these hearings and take testimony on the Leffingwell nomination. Bob Munson is not concerned. Senator Cooley is not concerned. Do you have any concerns?
Katie: I had no concerns at this point in the book either.
All right. We're gonna take a break here and when we come back we're gonna go into this hearing room and find out exactly what questions they have for Leffingwell and what Leffingwell’s responses are to those questions. Right now, you're listening to Novel Conversations. We'll be right back.
Welcome back to novel conversations. I'm your host Frank Lavallo and today I'm having a conversation about the novel, Advise and Consent written by Alan Drury in 1959 and I'm joined in my conversation today by Katie Smith and Peter Toomey. All right, Katie, Peter, when we left, Senator Brigham Anderson from Utah is about to start his hearings and take testimony from Robert Leffingwell the nominee for secretary of state. It goes very well for Robert Leffingwell at first, doesn't it Peter?
Peter: It does. And in a very modern way too… this Ivy League candidate with the full support of the White House with all the backing from the press core… bats away hard questions like flies. He's obviously been prepared.
Frank: I know you have a quote that you want to read first that sort of embodies the spirit under which these hearings are going to be heard…
Peter: … and what this book is about. Near the beginning of the book, Senator Munson is recalling that during an earlier hearing – the fellow who you know was going to chair these hearings, Senator Anderson - he kind of remarked bitterly during debate, quote: “We deal with men as they are reputed to be… a not with men as they really are.” That is an important scene setter because this is all about reputation versus reality. That quote in fact, is gonna later on, bight Brigham Anderson in a deadly way.
Frank: And Katie, we should mention that the press makes a big appearance during this time as well. Most of them appear to be for Robert Leffingwell. And they're making their editorials clear about that as well.
Katie: That's correct. And we get a real sense that the press influences public opinion, influences what the senators know, what they don't know, and you get a lot of side talking with the press. In addition, I think it's really interesting… one of the devices that the writer uses, he doesn't call the reporters by their names. It's Newsweek or the AP.
Peter: They speak with the authority of their company, not of themselves. (Katie: Exactly.)
Frank: To me, the press is a Greek chorus. It is a Greek chorus that throughout, is peppering each other.
Peter: But the main thing is that there's very little disagreement.
Frank: And Katie as you mentioned, the press is really united for Leffingwell. There there's very little press dissent for this nomination. (Katie: That's correct.) All right so let's get into this hearing. We have Leffingwell… he answers the questions… he hits all these talking points. Things go very well for him. The second day of the hearings… things change. Katie, tell me a little bit about the call they get from Herbert Gellman.
Katie: Senator Cooley took a call the night before from Herbert Gellman… who claimed that he's got some information… and then he came to the hearing the next day and he told about a secret society that were communist sympathizers… and claimed that our candidate for Secretary of State Leffingwell, was part of that.
Frank: Peter, he drops a bombshell.
Peter: Automatic disqualifier for the head of the State Department in the middle of the Cold War. The interesting thing we haven’t mentioned here, is that this guy Leffingwell is really the president's intended instrument to a rapprochement to the Soviets, and to kind of start fresh again. The historical period here is Khrushchev banging his shoe at the podium of the U.N. along with Sputnik. But Nixon the vice president as his famous kitchen cabinet debate with Khrushchev. So, there certainly was an attempt to put a human face on these two enemies.
Frank: That's right. Let's be clear about this. The opposition to Leffingwell in the first place was this man might be too soft on the Communists. He might sympathize with the Soviet Union. Turns out he is a communist. When he was at the University of Chicago, he ran a communist cell.
Peter: Of course, when you get to the detail, the question is, ‘Well, if it happened - it was a brief window in his life when he was younger…’
Frank: But Katie, Leffingwell does not say this was a youthful indiscretion. ‘I was searching for some information. I was trying to learn. I was at the University of Chicago we were experimenting with philosophies.’ That's not what he does. What does he do?
Katie: He just denies it.
Frank: Denies, denies, denies.
Peter: Torpedo full speed ahead. (Katie: Right.) It’s gonna to be a showdown.
Frank: And it comes back the very next day. It starts with Herbert Gellman. The forces that are arrayed for Leffingwell, immediately bring out the ammunition on Herbert Gellman.
Katie: It comes out at that point that this witness who's talking about the Communist sympathies of our candidate Leffingwell, had couple mental breakdowns, and was fired from his previous job by Leffingwell himself. So, he's discredited as a witness.
Frank: So, Peter the Press basically paints this guy as a crazy man. But Senator Cooley, he's got one more card up his sleeve. The senator finds the other member of this communist cell.
Peter: And at that point, it becomes impossible, even for the White House to push this thing through.
Frank: Even faced with proof that Leffingwell lied about being in this Communist cell… was in fact in this Communist cell… the president decides he's going to push on.
Peter: And at that point the entire weight of the government moves from a defensive position to an offensive position against the one person who's blocking this which was Senator Brigham Anderson.
Frank: Right. Essentially what happens is Bob Munson and the President get together and they decide to call in every chip, every favored owed, every arm they can twist, and they more or less convince all the members of their party that we still need to vote for this guy. Unfortunately, the only member of his party that they can't pressure is Senator Brigham Anderson.
Peter: So apparently, there's no lever to pull with this Senator Anderson… nothing bad on him… he's a boy scout from Utah who's lived a perfect life according to their reputation.
Frank: And then, by a stroke of luck, a bit of information falls into the president's hands that gives him all the power over Senator Anderson that he's ever going to need…
Katie: Amazingly… just when ammunition is needed against Senator Anderson… an incriminating photograph ends up in the hands of the Senate Majority Leader and then eventually into the President's hands.
Frank: Peter, an incriminating photograph of who?
Peter: It's certainly suggestive, and later a means for proof, that Senator Anderson in the Air Force while he was in Hawaii… he had that in a intimate encounter with another male. Which obviously, is all the offense that the White House would need to finally get something over him.
Frank: For me, this seemed to serendipitous. This seem too easy. All of a sudden just when the President needs a photo to go after Senator Anderson… there's the photo in his hands. Does that ring true for you?
Katie: You know it really did seem pure fabrication that this could have all happened. But on the other hand, it didn't bother me because I really liked the writer, I really liked what he was doing with the book.
Frank: Peter this is a well plotted novel, but I still feel that this incident just does not ring true. It’s a little too fictitious to me.
Peter: Well, I always tend to think that fiction is easier to conceive in certain ways because if you don't have the facts that you need… you invent them. There's something subsequently that happens to Senator Anderson that to me, is much more of a false note. So this one didn't really stick out that way.
Katie: I agree with you on that point.
Frank: I think I know what scene you're talking about, but we'll get there in a moment. Right now, what I want to know is what does the President do with this photograph of Senator Brigham Anderson in an incriminating pose with another man?
Peter: The president has a twofold strategy. He is getting ready to set a trap through a fellow Senator to spring this evidence on the Senate and embarrass Senator Anderson and to force him out. At the same time, he needs to forestall a quick vote turning away the nominee. So, he has to stall for time. He invites Anderson in for cigars and drinks to take care of it. Anderson is not going to be moved but he also understands that he needs some help from some senior people that know the President's tricks. He will only make that meeting on condition that he's joined by two senior people that he trusts… Vice president Charlie Hudson and Senate Majority Leader Bob Munson.
Frank: And in this meeting the president lies to all three of them.
Peter: He does. Only the two senior guys have a sense that something's not right. The junior fellow is pretty well duped even though he goes in being a skeptic - thereby setting the scene for even deeper effect on him and a worse shock.
Frank: And what's the second prong of the President's attack?
Peter: The President - being a good politician - knows he's not in the position to go before the country and use some of this dirt himself… he has to take the high road and like all presidents he has somebody doing his bidding in the Senate. He finds the instruments is Senator Fred Van Ackerman from Wyoming who is a guy that'll do whatever it takes to get a little higher on the totem pole.
Frank: And Katie, Allen Drury gives the junior senator from Wyoming, Fred Van Akerman a McCarthy moment…
Katie: At a rally of Leffingwell supporters, Van Ackerman goes before all of them and holds up a piece of paper and says, ‘I have proof that Senator Anderson is not who we think he is.’
Frank: Again, that goes back to Peter's quote, that the reputation is more important than the reality.
Peter: Right, the charge is more important than the substance of the charge.
Frank: What's the immediate effect of this charge that Senator Fred Van Ackerman makes to the world?
Peter: As the White House - and everybody else associated with the White House, well knew - it would just take the mere suggestion of this damaging bit of information for Andersen to completely fold. And he does.
Frank: But Peter, Senator Anderson does more than fold. And this is a scene I think that you have trouble with.
Peter: He commits suicide. It’s almost a ritual suicide. It was such a traumatic thing.
Frank: Katie how about you, you weren't so satisfied with this result either.
Katie: No. I knew that he cared a lot about his daughter. I knew he cared a lot about what he stood for and I guess I thought he was the kind of person who would get through it and that was the easy way out and I wouldn't have seen him doing that.
Frank: And as we can imagine, the suicide deals a body blow to not only the Senate but to the body politic and also to the President himself.
Katie: Everybody's upset by this. But the President is not going to have any defense.
And so, we see him fall apart. He actually ends up having a stroke and he dies. All of a sudden, the Vice President figures out that he's going to be the President. He's been kind of struggling with this idea of becoming President.
Frank: Peter, how do things change when Harley Hudson becomes the President of the United States?
Peter: All of a sudden, the kind of man that we think of a civics textbook that should be president… becomes president. He’s a guy that everyone trusts. He's not a braggart. He's not tricking and scheming. He's a deeply good man that everybody trusts.
Frank: We haven't talked very much about Harley Hudson, the Vice President. The Harley Hudson you just described is not really the Harley Hudson we meet early on in the novel.
Peter: That's where the reputation versus reality kicks in… where this is a guy that had a lousy reputation… he was a laughingstock… and yet the guy himself was such that people trusted him and the cream rose to the top at the end of the novel.
Frank: How does Harley Hudson wrap up our novel?
Katie: Of course, Leffingwell was defeated. So, first thing the new President does is come up with his own nomination.
Frank: He nominates one of the fellow senators Orrin Knox, who is confirmed by a claim.
Peter: That's not all the new president does. He quickly signals that he is above politics and that he's going to heal the wounds of the nation by announcing that he is not going to run for another term. He also has to heal the wounds of the party. And he does that by going to the man that everybody trusts, Bob Munson, who has - out of true moral qualms - about his small role in the suicide… resigned. That only took for a few days and the entire Senate essentially insisted that its father Earth come back and take his old role which he does. (Who is father Earth? Remind the listener)
OUT: With that wrap up, let’s take a break here and when we come back, I want to know what made this a book worth reading for both of you. Right now, you're listening to Novel Conversations. We'll be right back.
IN: Welcome back to Novel Conversations. I'm your host Frank Lavallo. And today I'm having a conversation about the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury. All right before we took a break, I said that I wanted to find out what made this a book worth reading for you.
Frank: Ok, with that wrap up, I want to know what made this a book worth reading for both of you. But I also want to mention briefly, before we get into our last segment, that this is a 600 - page novel. We've tried to give you a quick synopsis of the plot and the characters, but we've left out so much that you've got to go into this novel and read for yourself. We didn't even have time to mention that the Russians were on the moon and I'm not even gonna say anything more about that. I want you to go and read this novel for yourself and find out how the Russians got to the moon. But now, Peter tell me what made this book worth reading for you.
Peter: First of all there's luminous writing in it. It is timeless in a way that someone that was watching very closely how power works… brought it to life in a way that is timeless. There are lots of touches that anchor it in a particular era but there are an awful lot more whole portions that sound as though was ripped right from the headlines which is almost chilling. There is a whole conversation about renouncing preventive war. There were complaints about how nominees get tarred reputations and that'll keep good nominees from public service. You hear that all the time.
Frank: I have a quote that I do want to read, and I've got to tell you, this quote by Leffingwell reminds me of something that Peter Bolton could have easily have said:
“What is the position you have put me in here Mr. Chairman? What will they say now when I meet them in conference? Oh yes they will say. This is the man that the Senate smeared. This is the man the highest legislative body in his country. Yes, in many ways the greatest legislative body in the world has attacked and slandered and attempted to destroy. That is what they will say and how many years do you think it will be before I can meet them as an equal after the shameful shabby episode. I ask you Mr. Chairman I ask you.”
That's part of what made this a novel worth reading for me. The precedents that Allen Drury showed. I guess the more some things change the more they stay the same.
Katie: In this book as Peter mentioned the writing was spectacular in a number of places and the description of Washington, the way Washington works. One of the quotes that I wrote down was: “Washington takes them like a lover and they are lost.”
And this quote is a comment on us, the quote continues: “The Golden Legend crumbled overnight. The fall began. The heart went out of it. Two complacent uncaring people awoke to find themselves that the winds of the world howling around their ears.” End quote. And there were themes throughout the book, comments on the Cold War and the way the government works on the press.
Frank: I'm glad you mentioned the press. I have a great quote here that I've got to read as soon as I read it, I knew that I had to bring it up at this discussion. It's actually a series of headlines from the newspaper: “Munson Quits as Majority Leader in Protest at Anderson Death… Says President Hounded Senator from Utah Declares Hands Off on Leffingwell… Refuses Re-election… Re-election Seems Certain.” The press wants it both ways. They continue to get it both ways. Peter do you have a quote you want to read?
Peter: I think what the book is really about after he (who is he?) takes you through this incredible saga. He really has this wonderful civic prayer about the vitality and the strength of democracy and how it can outlast all this foolishness of man because it was so well constructed. And he (who is he?) talks about nearly the end the book. This is Munson really musing aloud as an omniscient thinker, quote: “The system had its problems and it wasn't exactly perfect. And there was at times much to be desired and yet unbalance admitting all its bad points and assessing all the good. There was a vigor and a vitality of strength that nothing, he suspected, could ever quite overcome, however evil and crafty it might be.” End quote. And that really is what the book at the end leaves you with that the system is going to prevail.
Frank: It's got a reputation for being a paranoid Cold War thriller… and like we have mentioned before, it’s so well believed as it relates to us today.
Peter: It is so well done… so knowing of the eternal verities of man that I think it ends up really being a timeless classic. I can speak to just as well… that what's going on today… as it did in its day.
Frank: The verities of man… and politicians… and American politics.
Peter: You've got it.
Frank: All right let's end our discussion of the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury. I want to thank both of my guest readers today, Peter Toomey and Katie Smith. I hope you really enjoyed the book and the discussion.
Katie and Peter: Thank you Frank. We certainly did. Thanks for having us.
Frank: You’re very welcome. Once again, I want to thank my readers, Katie and Peter. You’ve been listening to Novel Conversations.