William Safire John Kenneth Galbraith - Essay

John Kenneth Galbraith

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On the very first page [of Full Disclosure] Safire makes the kind of mistake that gladdens the heart of the politically hostile reviewer—in an ostentatiously knowledgeable account of the origins of the Secret Service he tells us that it began during the Civil War when the banks were flooding the country with counterfeit specie. Specie is, in fact, just as good as gold (or silver), for that, precisely, is what specie is. Throughout, Safire is casual in his economics….

In spite of these aberrations, I soon found myself very much involved in Safire's story, and, more particularly, with his people….

I once before observed that the characters of amateur novelists are always called one-dimensional by the professionals. They will have trouble with William Safire, for his people are sharply and distinctively etched as to speech, political style and personal behavior. They are always interesting, they are frequently funny, and most are deeply unattractive….

[The] author also brings to his effort a nice sense of excitement and suspense. Some, I am sure, will read into his story a heavy moral—a good man like Richard Nixon harried unmercifully by ingrates, traitors, the networks and The Washington Post. I would like to think that Mr. Safire had only entertainment in mind and if so, he succeeds.

John Kenneth Galbraith, "Can President Ericson Hang In?" in The New York Times Book Review (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 12, 1977, p. 7.