Time Present, Time Past

Bill Bradley started at the top when he ran for the most prestigious legislative office in the land at the age of thirty-five, and he was well aware of the extent to which he owed his election to his prominence as an athlete in and near his adopted state of New Jersey. Yet Senator Bradley showed the same dogged determination to make himself into an effective legislator that he had in overcoming the criticism that he was too slow to play the backcourt in professional basketball and too small to succeed as a forward. As he made himself into a vital cog on a championship team, so he won the respect of his colleagues in the Senate.

Bradley’s TIME PRESENT, TIME PAST is an unusually rich memoir, arranged thematically and developed by the establishment of an impressive historical and anecdotal contest. Chapter 8, “Money is Power,” is a good example. In it, Bradley begins by describing Mark Hanna who virtually invented modern political fund-raising on behalf of William McKinley in 1896, and shows how the practice grew and drew criticism from various political leaders. Bradley goes on to detail his own success at campaign fund-raising, for which he paid a price in self-respect, and closes by ruefully imagining Mark Hanna approving him.

He weighs irksome pressures, such as the incessant need to raise money and to spend precious time campaigning all over the nation for Democratic colleagues and the frustration of being checked in efforts for reform by the wily tactics of Senate adversaries, against the exhilaration of serving in what he considers to be the greatest elective job in the world. Writing this candid and thoughtful book put his legislative experience in perspective and helped Bradley decide to turn to other modes of public life in the future.