Up ’til Now

Eugene McCarthy served his country, first as a member of the House of Representatives, then as a Senator, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, an exciting and tumultuous time. Liberal in tendencies, independent in thought and action, to many he was a controversial figure, especially with his early opposition to the Vietnam War, capped by his candidacy for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. Indeed, McCarthy’s strong showing in the New Hampshire primary contributed greatly to Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for reelection, for it revealed the depth of antiwar sentiment in the United States at that time.

In his memoir, McCarthy describes the course of his own political career, but he focuses more on his views of his colleagues and his interpretations of the political history of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The first two sections of the book cover his House and Senate experiences and include candid, but temperate, assessments of his congressional colleagues. McCarthy writes with wit and understanding of these times.

In the longest section of the book, McCarthy delineates the political history of this time with a focus on the presidents as he knew them. He assesses Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Johnson as men and as presidents. In this section he also reminisces about his own presidential candidacy.

In the final section of the book, he gives his views of the current political situation, which he sees as entropic, tending towards chaos. He sees great opportunity for the Democrats, but believes that whoever is in charge must pay immediate attention to ten key areas he describes.

UP ’TIL NOW is essential reading for those interested in postwar American politics.