On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller

On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller eBook

On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller [PDF] ✎ On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller Author Richard Norton Smith – Polishdarling.co.uk From acclaimed historian Richard Norton Smith comes the first complete biography of an American icon Nelson Rockefeller one of the most complex and compelling figures of the twentieth century In On Hi From acclaimed historian Richard Norton Own Terms: PDF Ê Smith comes the first complete biography of an American icon Nelson Rockefeller one of the most complex and compelling figures of the twentieth century In On His Own Terms, fourteen years in the making, Smith draws on thousands of newly available documents and some two hundred interviews, including his subject s own unpublished reminiscences Grandson of oil magnate John D Rockefeller, Nelson coveted the White House from childhood When you think of what I had, he once remarked, what On His Kindle - else was there to aspire to Before he was thirty he had helped his father develop Rockefeller Center and his mother establish the Museum of Modern Art At thirty two he was Franklin Roosevelt s wartime coordinator for Latin America As New York s four term governor he set national standards in education, the environment, and urban policy The charismatic face of liberal Republicanism, Rockefeller championed civil rights and health insurance for all Three times he sought the presidency arguably in the wrong party At His Own Terms: PDF/EPUB Á the Republican National Convention in San Francisco in , locked in an epic battle with Barry Goldwater, Rockefeller denounced extremist elements in the GOP But he could not wrest the nomination from the Arizona conservative or from Richard Nixon four years later In the end, he had to settle for two dispiriting years as vice president under Gerald Ford In On His Own Terms, Richard Norton Smith re creates Rockefeller s improbable rise to the governor s mansion, his politically disastrous divorce and remarriage, and his often surprising relationships with presidents and political leaders from FDR to Henry Kissinger A frustrated architect turned master builder, an avid collector of art and an unabashed ladies man, Rocky promoted fallout shelters and affordable housing with equal enthusiasm From the deadlyprison uprising at Attica and unceasing battles with New York City mayor John Lindsay to his son s unsolved disappearance and the grisly theories it spawned , the punitive drug laws that bear his name, and the much gossiped about circumstances of his death, Nelson Rockefeller s was a life of astonishing color, range, and relevance On His Own Terms, a masterpiece of the biographer s art, vividly captures the soaring optimism and polarizing politics of this American original.


10 thoughts on “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller

  1. Steven Z. Steven Z. says:

    Today the term Rockefeller Republican is still considered a negative characterization to most members of the Republican Party The term stands for moderate republicanism that calls for fiscal prudence, but also a social conscience In the current political environment when a large number of Republicans are calling for the disassembling of major components of the federal government and are trying to limit people s voting rights the ideas of Nelson Rockefeller fall on deaf ears For the former f Today the term Rockefeller Republican is still considered a negative characterization to most members of the Republican Party The term stands for moderate republicanism that calls for fiscal prudence, but also a social conscience In the current political environment when a large number of Republicans are calling for the disassembling of major components of the federal government and are trying to limit people s voting rights the ideas of Nelson Rockefeller fall on deaf ears For the former four time governor of New York bipartisanship and an all inclusive party were a major part of his political agenda for most of his time in office As most of the Rockefeller platform is unacceptable today, it suffered a similar fate in 1964 as Barry Goldwater became the Republican standard bearer against Lyndon Johnson Many would argue that the hatred for Rockefeller Republicanism by Goldwater voters was the precursor of today s Tea Party If so a number of important questions must be asked First, how did Rockefeller s brand of moderate Republicanism come to the fore Second, why was it so successful in New York and rejected nationwide Lastly, why did it provoke such an extreme reaction in 1964 that continues to this day In his new book, IN HIS OWN TERMS, a major new biography of Nelson Rockefeller, Richard North Smith attempts to answer these and other questions as he explores a career that included the governorship of New York, the Vice Presidency, coordinator of Inter American affairs under Franklin Roosevelt, and one of the most generous and widely renown philanthropists of his era.The portrait that Smith presents is a complex one Rockefeller comes across as an ideological follower of Franklin D Roosevelt s New Deal for a major part of his political career Later he would adopt aconservative political agenda as he continued to seek the presidency on at least three separate occasions He comes across as a generous individual who uses his wealth to reward and assist others, but at the same time he could be a stubborn vindictive person who set out to get even with those who disagreed with him Domestically, Rockefeller pursued a liberal agenda, but in foreign policy he was a cold warrior, fearful of the communist threat he supported the Vietnam War for most of his political career On a personal level Smith describes a man who could be a caring father, but at the same time he appears as a serial philanderer His first marriage failed after thirty years, and after remarrying, he seemed to dote on the children of his second marriage angering those of his first The author explores in detail these aspects of the Rockefeller persona and career, and has written an almost encyclopedic biography of one of the most interesting political figures of the twentieth century.Smith describes his thirteen year odyssey in writing this biography Its coverage is impressive as he conducted numerous interviews and thoroughly mined the attendant secondary and primary sources The result is extensive coverage of his subject that brings the reader into the Rockefeller family dating back to its founder John D Rockefeller We witness the wealth that was available to Nelson Rockefeller and how he employed it to satisfy his almost obsessive need to acquire art, design and build numerous residences and public buildings, caring for his many associates and friends when they were in need, and of course, procure his own election as governor on four separate occasions Rockefeller was a serial believer in forming committees and or commissions made up of the leading experts on whatever topic was of interest to him Each role he was tasked, be it, as coordinator for Latin American affairs under FDR, an emissary for Richard Nixon to Latin America, a study to ascertain the best way to rebuild Albany, NY, develop a way to improve the welfare system in New York as well as well as nationally, along with numerous others, Rockefeller in most cases funded these activities with his own money and many of the solutions that emerged, i.e., revenue sharing and enhancing John F Kennedy s Alliance for Progress were adopted by different presidential administrations In a book of this length there are many themes and storylines One that seems to dominate is the evolution of Nelson Rockefeller from a liberal approach to social policy, whereby he was willing to push through increases in taxes, fees and other sources of revenue to implement them Rockefeller supported a myriad of social programs from improvements in Medicaid, purification of water resources, women s rights, the first state minimum wage law, to the implementation of civil rights legislation Rockefeller s approach to executive leadership and legislative tactics are reviewed as well as his philosophy of government What emerges is the type of governor that New York hadn t seen since FDR With the message of taking responsibility for developing problems for the future, he would tackle issues in the present so they would not become problems down the road The issue was his overly ambitious approach to executive leadership always risked alienating conservatives west of the Hudson River With a strategy that would evolve from a pay as you go philosophy that would bring revenues into line with expenditures, thereby eliminating costly borrowing and setting the stage for renewed economic growth, Rockefeller evolved into to a governor who blew up the state budget to meet the needs of his massive infrastructure and building expenses in addition to the budget shortfalls of New York City by borrowing and floating different bond proposals By the time Rockefeller reached the end of his third term in office and was elected to his fourth term he became increasingly fiscally conservative as he faced opposition from the state legislature and probably realized that the political current of the late sixties and early seventies would not help any presidential ambitions he might have if he did not change Another major storyline that dominated Rockefeller his entire life that permeates the book was his life long battle with dyslexia The governor was not aware that he suffered from this affliction, but whether he was attending the Lincoln School in New York, Dartmouth College, or just trying to keep up with the massive amount of reading that a state executive engaged in it was always a battle With his wealth as a cushion, Rockefeller was able to employ numerous individuals to assist in this process whether in preparation of legislation or developing auditory strategies to overcome his reading difficulties.There are a number of fascinating aspects to Smith s approach to his subject as he prepared expansive footnotes at the bottom of each page providing the reader with ancillary information that was not available in the text Rockefeller s private opinions of the likes of John Lindsay and Richard Nixon emerge in a very colorful fashion which made the mining of these footnotes quite entertaining Smith s discussion of deeply personal issues is not blanched over The breakup of Rockefeller s marriage to Mary Todhunter Clark Tod was detailed and very fair as was the coverage of his remarriage to Margaretta Happy Murphy The loss of his son Michael during an expedition to collect primitive art in a remote part of New Guinea shows a father who has to deal emotionally with a loss of a son The relationship of the Rockefeller brothers and their children receives a great deal of attention and produces many interesting insights into the dynamic of such a public family Importantly, Smith does not mince words or coverage in dealing with Rockefeller s numerous extracurricular activities with numerous women throughout his marriages In fact we witness a scandal at the site of Rockefeller s death as to how his body was treated by those who were with him and the medical papers that were prepared to spare the family any embarrassment.Aside from the personal aspects of the Rockefeller story, Smith devotes a great deal of effort in explaining what drove Rockefeller He was an avid and meticulous collector of modern and primitive art and he set as a goal the creation of a museum to house modern art that he would proudly help establish with the creation of the Museum of Modern Art MoMA The second area that fascinated Rockefeller was politics and how it could be used to help people and better his country, a career path that would dominate his life for over forty years The fact that Rockefeller realized that as a scion of wealth he did not have to worry about ordinary things, therefore he was motivated to pursue the extraordinary Rockefeller s battles to create MoMA were his trial by fire, a learning course in the art of political infighting This would also be the case in the creative process and building of Rockefeller Center as he would take lessons learned from these confrontations and apply them in the future in his fights with the legislature, opponents such as New York Mayors John Lindsay and Robert Wagner, as well as national political battles In dealing with transit and garbage strikes, prison issues including the riots and death at Attica, infrastructure and other building projects, Rockefeller s learning curve was applied to many crises Rockefeller s other area of interest was foreign policy, and Latin America in particular His approach to western hemispheric issues was ahead of his time It began as a strategy to block Nazi Germany s inroads in Mexico and South America He agreed with FDR that hemispheric solidarity was the key to changing the perception that the United States was seen as a colonizer in the region In 1942 Rockefeller unveiled his Basic Economy Program that called for improvement in the region s public health problems Rockefeller arranged training for hundreds of professional nurses to assist in creating medical clinics in outlying areas Further, he worked to export penicillin to offset disease in the region In four years, Rockefeller agents trainedthan ten thousand in service workers, nurses, doctors, midwives, sanitary engineers, and home demonstration agents 164 Rockefeller engaged in a fierce bureaucratic battle with Wild Bill Donavan, the head of the Office of Strategic Services at the end of the war over policy toward Latin America After the war facing the fight against communism, Rockefeller was a proponent of foreign aid to the region, but his approach was geared to offset the sensibilities of the countries receiving it to avoid the charactiture of Yankee Imperialism that OSS policy seemed to engender Rockefeller s sensitivity toward third world countries should not take away from his fervent anticommunism, particularly in dealing with Vietnam where he was a strong supporter of Lyndon Johnson and was able to develop a close working relationship with the president Smith does yeoman s work in describing Rockefeller s campaigns for governor and president In both areas Rockefeller s wealth and ability to obtain the necessary support for his candidacies was ever present The elective success he experienced in New York could not be replicated on the national stage as the Republican Party shifted to the right throughout the nineteen sixties His battle against Goldwater in 1964 made him an enemy to conservative republicans and his indecision in 1968 cost him any hope of wresting the republican nomination away from Richard Nixon, which also destroyed any candidacy for 1972 His hopes improved after he was chosen vice president by Gerald Ford following the resignation of Richard Nixon, but any hope of influencing the Ford presidency was offset by major disagreements with Ford s Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld who would block Rockefeller at every turn over policy and political decisions Any hope of higher office was dashed in 1976 as Rockefeller s support for civil rights and the Voting Rights Act made him a political liability with conservative republicans in the south and resulted in the candidacy of Robert Dole for Vice President on the 1976 Republican presidential ticket Overall, Nelson Rockefeller enjoyed an amazing life Art connoisseur, benefactor to countless individuals, a mostly progressive governor, and an influential and sometimes polarizing national figure for decades Richard Norton Smith gives attention to all these aspects of Rockefeller s life and has written an in depth and informative biography that I am certain will be the definitive work on an illustrious career for many years to come


  2. HBalikov HBalikov says:

    Nelson Rockefeller was an East Coast Republican when that term denoted a particular set of principles and actions He was a beneficiary of the Rockefeller fortune along with his siblings and he had a long life of public service.Richard Norton Smith examines the whole transit of Rockefeller s life in over 700 pages of a very detailed biography with an additional 100 pages of notes and indexing He writes with both grace and insight The rest of this review will just expand on those points Nelson Rockefeller was an East Coast Republican when that term denoted a particular set of principles and actions He was a beneficiary of the Rockefeller fortune along with his siblings and he had a long life of public service.Richard Norton Smith examines the whole transit of Rockefeller s life in over 700 pages of a very detailed biography with an additional 100 pages of notes and indexing He writes with both grace and insight The rest of this review will just expand on those points Those who currently remember the Rockefeller years probably isolate the following two political facts 1 He was elected governor of New York multiple times and,2 He ran for President of the USAthan once, unsuccessfully.Some may recall the short time he spent as Gerald Ford s Vice President As a politician, he was labeled both a moderate and a progressive and led the Republican wing often known as Rockefeller Republicans He claimed to have a Democratic heart with a Republican head It is clear that Nelson and most of his siblings felt a special obligation to give back to the citizens of the USA that many of the current 0.01% couldn t care less about See the recent obituary of his brother, David, is as enthusiastic as a hound getting a fresh scent as he takes us through Rockefeller s life And, this analogy may bethan apt because Smith was given access to material particularly Rockefeller s correspondence that had never before been examined We get this man s full enthusiastic life that including his love and collecting of art, his work in Latin America both with the family s business and later in the Roosevelt years with the government s business Aside In much of the 20th Century Latin America was either ignored or subject to many attempts by those in the USA s government to put dictators who favored the USA s economic interest in power Rockefeller was of another stripe very interested in the culture and the people of various countries and interested in encouraging democracy His efforts during World War II were very successful in persuading many South American countries to forsake their German trading partners He never got on particularly well with Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger but he worked hard to keep communications open Smith gives us the political play by play negotiations that eventually made Rockefeller Nixon s Latin American emissary It is interesting to speculate about a better fate for that region if there had been a Rockefeller presidency The New York City skyline and the state s infrastructure still reflect a very substantial contribution during his governorship of fifty years ago His administration established the first state minimum wage He encouraged affordable housing Yet, Smith also has to deal with Rockefeller s infidelities, his repudiation of his early spending policies when he ran for President or tried to be on Nixon s good side And, there is the whole mess of the Attica prison riots for which Rockefeller bears as much responsibility as did Henry II for the death of Thomas Becket The only place where I found that Smith did less than connect all the dots has to do with the financial crises of the 1970s in New York City Did the State s economic policies under Nelson Rockefeller have a share of the responsibility for what happened The book is always interesting, lively and well written and, just when you think you have got the essence of Nelson Rockefeller, Smith will add something to make you reconsider your conclusion If you are going to read a biography of Rockefeller, make it this one


  3. Jean Jean says:

    Richard Norton Smith is a well known historian and biographer He is known for his strenuously researched, fully contextualized, comprehensive biographies True to his reputation he has created an outstanding, comprehensive biography of Nelson A Rockefeller.Nelson Rockefeller was the grandson of John D Rockefeller and was born on his grandfather s birthday His father was John D Rockefeller Jr The author states that because NR did not have to make a living he chose to dedicate his life to pu Richard Norton Smith is a well known historian and biographer He is known for his strenuously researched, fully contextualized, comprehensive biographies True to his reputation he has created an outstanding, comprehensive biography of Nelson A Rockefeller.Nelson Rockefeller was the grandson of John D Rockefeller and was born on his grandfather s birthday His father was John D Rockefeller Jr The author states that because NR did not have to make a living he chose to dedicate his life to public service Smith spends about a third of the book on NR early life.Smith describes NR s first job in government in August 1940 when he was appointed Coordinator of Inter American Affairs by President Franklin Roosevelt He was charged with designing economic aid and cultural programs for Latin America He spent fifteen years in Washington as a special adviser, undersecretary and cabinet member for three successive presidents two of them democrats Smith states NR developed a reputation as a visionary connoisseur of innovative thinking In 1957 he became the Governor of New York While governor he expanded colleges, parks and state infrastructure Smith states NR blazed trails in funding the arts, protecting the consumer, restoring the environment and advancing transportation, human rights, highway safety and so on On the negative side Smith states that in his final years as governor he became a budgetary hawk, did a right ward shift on welfare, did a brutal suppression of the rebellion at Attica state prison in 1971 and created draconian drug laws in 1973.Smith does not wallow in salacious details nor does he close his eyes to Rockefeller s flagrant adultery and its personal and political consequences He pulls no punches in this biography Smith reports that as Rockefeller aged he became evenconfident in his superiority,self indulgent andoblivious to his marginalization within the Republican Party.Smith reveals NR had dyslexia therefore he called in authors, experts to explain their ideas to him instead of reading the reports Because of his wealth he was able to create a brain trust around himself to assist him and to inform him of the latest ideas, knowledge etc Nelson Rockefeller has been the subject of at least ten previous biographies but this one may turn out to be the most definitive one This book is 880 pages or 41 hours in the audio book format but I could hardly put it down it kept my attention throughout Smith spend 14 years doing meticulous research, this included not only the prior biographies but also interviews with early Rockefeller contemporaries and 60,000 pages of newly available oral histories and family archives as well as the newly released letters of NR s first wife Mary Rockefeller This biography is all that an unbiased biography should be I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible Paul Michael did a good job narrating the book


  4. Jim Cullison Jim Cullison says:

    This book should win the Pulitzer Prize for Biography It makes me want to go back in time and campaign for Nelson Rockefeller A magnificent read that is marvelously written.


  5. Marc Marc says:

    Nixon declared that there were only three men in America who understood the use of power I do, John Connally does And I guess Nelson does He was always in the wrong church, concluded Al Marshall He was always in the wrong pew.Richard Norton Smith is a well established presidential historian who worked for Bob Dole as a speech writer and wrote many books on politicians such as Herbert Hoover, Thomas Dewey and currently in the making Gerry Ford His biography of Nelson Rocke Nixon declared that there were only three men in America who understood the use of power I do, John Connally does And I guess Nelson does He was always in the wrong church, concluded Al Marshall He was always in the wrong pew.Richard Norton Smith is a well established presidential historian who worked for Bob Dole as a speech writer and wrote many books on politicians such as Herbert Hoover, Thomas Dewey and currently in the making Gerry Ford His biography of Nelson Rockefeller is highly readable For one, he begins the first chapter with the infamous showdown at the 1964 Republican Convention immersing the reading in the hot San Francisco summer There, Rocky embodied the liberal wing of the GOP fighting for its soul against the conservatives backing Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater while a twice defeated Richard Nixon sat quietly and held his cards until the next election.Reading about Rockefeller is reading about the failure and success of a republican equivalent of JFK The billionaire East Coast New Deal Republican wore many hats He was an art collector, a shareholder, FDR s man in South America during WWII speaking Spanish with ease , a 4 times elected governor of New York and unelected vice president The book is heavy on his south american time and governorship I found it well balanced between politics and policies Although I was a bit lost and bored in the arcane of budget fights in Albany His ill and short stint as Ford s VP is only briefly covered within 37 pages I was surprised because Smith used to be Director of the Ford Presidential Library and I thought he would haveto say about 74 to 77.The most interesting parts for me were passages relating his relationships with powerful men like Nixon, Kissinger, Goldwater, Rumsfeld, Robert Kennedy, mayor Lindsay, Robert Moses, LBJ and the likes.Long read but worth it if you like to read about the GOP


  6. natalie natalie says:

    Wow, this book was so interesting In all my readings, I find so many important people in various occupations are dyslexic, as was Nelson Rockefeller as told in this book The length of this book was tough for me and took me a long time to get through But it was well worth it to see into Nelson Rockefeller s life and its many facets.To my old mind, the Rockefellers and the Kennedys bring to mind the same mindset of wealth and ambition In Nelson Rockefeller s case, he was an almost President, Wow, this book was so interesting In all my readings, I find so many important people in various occupations are dyslexic, as was Nelson Rockefeller as told in this book The length of this book was tough for me and took me a long time to get through But it was well worth it to see into Nelson Rockefeller s life and its many facets.To my old mind, the Rockefellers and the Kennedys bring to mind the same mindset of wealth and ambition In Nelson Rockefeller s case, he was an almost President, while one Kennedy was President and one Kennedy was an almost President.As Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller was ahead of his time in upgrading education standards and wanting health insurance for all Being elected 4 times, he must have done something right.Having been called the champ who never made it, alluding of course to his failed Presidential runs, he was also called the Republican Hubert Humphrey His life was full and he was exactly the man he wanted to be.It s a very good read


  7. Aaron Million Aaron Million says:

    Richard Norton Smith has written an outstanding biography of a very complex man Nelson Rockefeller, born to enormous wealth and privilege, struggled to escape from the suffocating atmosphere placed on he and his brothers by his emotionally stunted father John Jr Suffering from a severe case of dyslexia, Rockefeller instead relied on his buoyant personality and incredible wealth to help him navigate life Elected four times as Governor of New York, and appointed Vice President under Gerald Fo Richard Norton Smith has written an outstanding biography of a very complex man Nelson Rockefeller, born to enormous wealth and privilege, struggled to escape from the suffocating atmosphere placed on he and his brothers by his emotionally stunted father John Jr Suffering from a severe case of dyslexia, Rockefeller instead relied on his buoyant personality and incredible wealth to help him navigate life Elected four times as Governor of New York, and appointed Vice President under Gerald Ford, the highest office in the land eluded his grasp Although, as Smith shows, Rockefeller was at times seemingly ambivalent about chasing the office, either through his actions or his words Throw in a very messy personal life, and you have someone who, despite all of the privilege and pampering that he had, still never quite seemed to get what he wanted out of life Smith s writing style is, in my opinion, worthy of being included in the top ranks of biographers people such as Ron Chernow and David McCullough Not as intense as Robert Caro, but perhaps a tadscholarly than McCullough, Smith writes objectively and dispassionately His goal here is give the reader all of the essentials on Rockefeller, provide perceptive analysis along the way without getting in the way of the storyline, and let the reader form their own final judgment on Rockefeller Smith seamlessly transitions from policy discussions to detailing Rockefeller s constant philandering and marital discord He does not beat Rockefeller over the head for his many flaws nor does he skimp on the positive aspects of his behavior Rockefeller had many sides to him he could be both petty and kind, cruel and generous, disarming yet distant, arrogant yet down to earth I thought that Smith made sure to interweave both Rockefeller s professional and personal lives showing what he was facing on multiple fronts at any one time Rockefeller had a quixotic quest for the presidency He wanted it in 1960, but stubbed his toe by declaring that he was not going to run, then deciding to run, then dropping out in favor of Richard Nixon Despite Rockefeller later saying that this year was his best chance to win the Republican nomination, I really do not see how that could be Nixon was the sitting Vice President and had been for eight years To wrest the nomination from him seems almost unthinkable, despite a clearly reluctant President Dwight Eisenhower Also, even though this does not become clear until 1964, the Republican Party was moving fundamentally to the right While the Eastern Establishment did not particularly like Nixon, they could tolerate him as he appealed to the growing conservative wing of the party In contrast, the muchliberal Rockefeller inspired deep distrust and resentment amongst the people who, only four years later, vociferously supported Senator Barry Goldwater for president, and mercilessly booed Rockefeller while he was attempting to give a speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco In fact, that moment is actually what Smith opens the book with as a Prologue, immediately drawing the reader into Rockefeller s world The vast majority of the book profiles Rockefeller s four term Governorship of New York There is a lot of policy discussion, but Smith never gets carried away with intricate details Fortunately, he sprinkles in colorful anecdotes many done via footnotes at the bottom of pages that help to keep the narrative moving He also charts Rockefeller s slow movement towards being less liberal than when he was younger It is a bit of a misnomer to state that Rockefeller became conservative, because even at the end of of his tenure, he was still muchliberal than many in the Republican party would have liked him to be Oddly, he resigned at the end of 1973, one full year shy of completing his fourth term Various explanations were given at the time, but like so many other things in Rockefeller s life, Smith can only provide some educated guesses on his motives for doing so Rockefeller became the nation s second unelected Vice President in December 1974, following his confirmation hearings after being appointed by Gerald Ford in the wake of the Watergate mess This was a thankless job for Rockefeller, one that he felt obligated to take but in reality had no desire to hold Accustomed to wielding power, he found himself continually under fire from Donald Rumsfeld and other Ford loyalists who never trusted him Less than a year into his shortened vice presidency, Ford asked him to withdraw from running with him on the 1976 ticket That had to have hurt I know Rockefeller hadmoney than almost any other human being will ever have, but as Smith shows throughout this book, money does not solve all of life s problems and it does not guarantee a smooth passage through life Diminished in stature, aging, and with almost no constitutional authority, Rockefeller plodded through the final year plus left in the term, knowing that he was powerless to shape events Smith finishes with a somewhat sad chapter covering the final two years of Rockefeller s life Now done with politics for good and fighting with his family about the direction of the Rockefeller Center and finances, Rockefeller aged quickly and his health began to deteriorate His death from a massive heart attack in 1979 is shrouded in mystery It is strangely compelling to consider which of the many different versions to believe, but Smith does not engage in unnecessary speculation and drama Why this book did not win any awards is beyond me, as it is an outstanding work by one of the top political historians of our time This is one of the best biographies that I have ever read Grade A


  8. Amy Amy says:

    First, I have included this in my Special Needs category because Rockefeller was Dyslexic and his notes reflect this the author has not changed these, at all.This was a very interesting biography, but it was extremely difficult to separate the personal from the political as they were often intertwined The story starts from before Rockefeller s birth and goes to just beyond his death.Some interesting things that I learned Personal Perspective Rockefeller s father, John D Rockefeller, Jr aka First, I have included this in my Special Needs category because Rockefeller was Dyslexic and his notes reflect this the author has not changed these, at all.This was a very interesting biography, but it was extremely difficult to separate the personal from the political as they were often intertwined The story starts from before Rockefeller s birth and goes to just beyond his death.Some interesting things that I learned Personal Perspective Rockefeller s father, John D Rockefeller, Jr aka Junior, divided the world into two classes of people leaners and holders up Fearing that his children would be spoiled by money, Junior devised a system of rewards wherein cash was doled out to the most charitable or dutiful of his offspring If you rebelled like his daughter, Babs , you basically got nothing Many people believe that Happy was his wife, and she was, but she wasn t his FIRST wife Rockefeller was married to Tod short for Todhunter her middle name for over 30 years before officially finally giving her up for his mistress, Happy By the way, Happy had worked for Rockefeller Rocky before becoming romantically involved with him Rockefeller wasn t the only one with a spouse and children 5 Happy was also married and had four children when their affair began The price of her divorce was no less than the custody of her four children, the youngest of who was four There was also a question about the paternity of this youngest child you ll have to read the book to learnNelson liked women he liked to surround himself with women As with Happy, if he really liked a woman, he would have her moved from one position within his organization to a place much closer to his office Happy was not the first nor would she be the last.Going back to Tod, when he was first describing her attributes to his beloved mother, Abby, I wondered if he was selecting a horse Also I wasn t sure if he was trying to persuade his mother or himself that this was a good match If you weren t sure, yourself, you were after reading about Tod having to tell Nelson he would have to stop his flirting with other women after they were married Red Flag FLASHING I figure this marriage was doomed from the beginning I m just amazed Tod held on as long as she did After all, she, too, was from an influential family.Under New York s divorce laws, unchanged since the 18th century, the only justification for dissolving a marital union was adultery This compelled Tod to assert her claim of extreme mental cruelty in Reno, NV, but first she had to establish legal residence by spending at least six weeks, there.The sudden death of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Nelson s mother made a HUGE impact on Nelson s life.Also, later, when his father passed, his death effectively removed any restraints on Nelson s political or personal life.It is Nelson s grandfather, John D Rockefeller that is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, in Cleveland across from President Garfield s tomb A brief description of the funeral burial can be found on p126.Business Political Perspectives Throughout the World today the rights of the individual or corporation to possess property are being challenged if we wish to continue our present system of individual initiative and private ownership, management must conduct its affairs with a sense of moral and social responsibility in such a way as to contribute to the general welfare of society Nelson A Rockefeller, remarks to the 1937 annual meeting, Standard Oil of New Jersey The same can be said, today.Rockefeller was sometimes shrewd or keen in his business dealings He learned a lot by doing and once he learned something, he not only retained the information, but he made sure to put it into regular practice One principle that he learned was, Human dignity, respect, is farimportant than a lot of economic prerequisites Rockefeller had a quick wit, which sometimes served him well, and at other times, got him into trouble p481 When he decided to run for office, he went after the governorship of New York He spent 15 years in office 1959 1973 , before eventually becoming Vice President appointed and then vetted by Congress under Gerald Ford It was during his time as governor that he had his affair with Happy Some say this, along with his divorce from Tod, doomed his presidential aspirations Rockefeller always aspired to become president For various and sundry reasons you ll have to read the book to learnhe was unsuccessful in this goal.Some of the information surrounding Rockefeller and his candidacy for governor reminded me of Donald Trump and his quest for the presidency Rockefeller s advisors said most politicians have to be built up Nelson had to be brought down to the level of the common man.However, as governor of New York, a lot happened under his watch As a matter of fact, when he was running for re election in 1966, he had already done so much for New York that it was tough to pinpoint EXACTLY what he had done Some things that took place during his governorship the New York City Garbage Strike, the Attica Prison Riot In this case, I think like many politicians Rockefeller liked the power, but he didn t want to be the one to pull the trigger Here, he had to pull the trigger make the call He also was responsible for the South Mall aka Empire State Plaza, the Urban Development Corporation, doing things for SUNY, and the World Trade Center Rockefeller saved the World Trade Center from fiscal disaster by making the State of New York the principal tenant of the 110 story South Tower.As he was departing as governor, Rockefeller invoked a round of holiday season commutations One of these was 52 year old Edward Young, an Attica inmate who had testified to impressive effect before the McKay Commission Again, you ll have to read the book to read the history about the Attica Prison Riot and learn why I thought Rockefeller pardoning anyone from this event was a huge act of kindness.Rockefeller s political relationship with George Romney Mitt s father was most interesting.The other names that came up in this political era were equally intriguing The impact these men made in later decades Regan, Rumsfeld, Cheney, George H.W Bush, and Edward Mezvinsky further research on my part confirmed that this is as I thought Chelsea Clinton s father in law The most surprising name that I ran across Pat Buchanan was a young speechwriter for Richard Nixon Upon Martin Luther King, Jr s assassination, Rockefeller stated, The true memorial to Martin Luther King cannot be made of stone It must be made of action From here, Rockefeller dispatched two gentlemen, backed by Rockefeller s checkbook, to go to Atlanta, to help Coretta King make funeral arrangements for her husband Much of this information was not released until after Rockefeller s death Amazingly, he did not want what he was doing to be used to benefit anyone s political agenda AfterIn the end, I was amazed by how quickly Rockefeller went from vibrant politician to old man Rockefeller He was a powerful and dynamic person while at the height of his life, but when this finished, so was he There were questions surrounding his death He did die at the home of his latest mistress Happy always believed it was because he did not want to die in front of her and their children She believes based on Rockefeller s actions that day that he died in much the same was as his mother I believe the testimony of those around him is what caused questions to be asked in the first place Fascinating


  9. Marshall Marshall says:

    This is an exhaustive look at the political career of one of the 20th century s also rans Nelson Rockefeller made three half hearted attempts at the presidency between 1960 1968 as he watched his party gradually give up its status as the party of Lincoln for the party of Strom Thurmond Rockefeller managed to acquire a progressive legacy, while at the same time earning the ire of the members of his party who thought it to better dead than red America clearly was not ready for a president who This is an exhaustive look at the political career of one of the 20th century s also rans Nelson Rockefeller made three half hearted attempts at the presidency between 1960 1968 as he watched his party gradually give up its status as the party of Lincoln for the party of Strom Thurmond Rockefeller managed to acquire a progressive legacy, while at the same time earning the ire of the members of his party who thought it to better dead than red America clearly was not ready for a president who bought Picassos and it may never be Rockefeller grew up in a life as rarefied as any in America His father gave a sense of public obligation and his mother an aesthetic curiosity that endured for the rest of his life Rockefeller was involved in venture capitalism in Latin America, artistic controversies at Rockefeller Center, enacting the Good Neighbor Policy as a member of FDR s State Department, and public welfare under Eisenhower before serving as governor of New York and Republican Party power broker for four terms.Rockefeller s vision for the Republican Party, with its emphasis on civil rights was out of step with the direction of the party and while the author of this biography tends to place the blame on Rockefeller s divorce and remarriage life events that did not harm the career of his rival for the presidency Ronald Reagan , one has to wonder just how valid this really was It is one of the great unfortunate events of 20th century politics that members of the establishment, such as Rockefeller made only half hearted efforts to halt Goldwater s nomination in 1964, and Nixon s in 1968 Both events in retrospect signaled the end of the Republican Party s respectability Smith s narrative of Rockefeller s first three terms are devoted to revenue to pay for state programs and Rockefeller s attempts to remake the state with an emphasis on higher education, transpiration, public works, and ecology For the most part, these efforts were largely successful I think Smith might have devotedeffort to the removal of Robert Moses, who had been a force in state politics since the time of Governor Al Smith.Rockefeller s fourth term as governor was probably his worst period in public life, both in terms of legacy and actions It was the time of the lengthy mandatory sentences for drugs which to be fair were passed in the midst of frustrating rises in crime and Attica Rockefeller s two year tenure as Vice President was every bit as unpleasant as could be imagined with the extra added irritant of having to deal with Donald Rumsfield on a regular basis Public service rarely has extracted greater penalties or costs This is a highly detailed, dense, revealing and definitive book on Rockefeller and I think Richard Norton Smith does a fine job exploring his strengths and weaknesses


  10. Janet Janet says:

    Wow What an incredible work on an incredible man I highly recommend this book to every student of American history, politics and anyone interested in how life should be lived He was a man with feet of clay, to be sure, but he was certainly a visionary with a view of how life should be for all Americans.It was my privilege to hear Dr Smith speak about his subject and his book late last year He truly respects the Governor and understands him It was my privilege to grow up in a state shaped b Wow What an incredible work on an incredible man I highly recommend this book to every student of American history, politics and anyone interested in how life should be lived He was a man with feet of clay, to be sure, but he was certainly a visionary with a view of how life should be for all Americans.It was my privilege to hear Dr Smith speak about his subject and his book late last year He truly respects the Governor and understands him It was my privilege to grow up in a state shaped by his vision I now truly appreciate him I mourne for what might have been if he had been backed by his party More fool they


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10 thoughts on “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller

  1. Steven Z. Steven Z. says:

    Today the term Rockefeller Republican is still considered a negative characterization to most members of the Republican Party The term stands for moderate republicanism that calls for fiscal prudence, but also a social conscience In the current political environment when a large number of Republicans are calling for the disassembling of major components of the federal government and are trying to limit people s voting rights the ideas of Nelson Rockefeller fall on deaf ears For the former f Today the term Rockefeller Republican is still considered a negative characterization to most members of the Republican Party The term stands for moderate republicanism that calls for fiscal prudence, but also a social conscience In the current political environment when a large number of Republicans are calling for the disassembling of major components of the federal government and are trying to limit people s voting rights the ideas of Nelson Rockefeller fall on deaf ears For the former four time governor of New York bipartisanship and an all inclusive party were a major part of his political agenda for most of his time in office As most of the Rockefeller platform is unacceptable today, it suffered a similar fate in 1964 as Barry Goldwater became the Republican standard bearer against Lyndon Johnson Many would argue that the hatred for Rockefeller Republicanism by Goldwater voters was the precursor of today s Tea Party If so a number of important questions must be asked First, how did Rockefeller s brand of moderate Republicanism come to the fore Second, why was it so successful in New York and rejected nationwide Lastly, why did it provoke such an extreme reaction in 1964 that continues to this day In his new book, IN HIS OWN TERMS, a major new biography of Nelson Rockefeller, Richard North Smith attempts to answer these and other questions as he explores a career that included the governorship of New York, the Vice Presidency, coordinator of Inter American affairs under Franklin Roosevelt, and one of the most generous and widely renown philanthropists of his era.The portrait that Smith presents is a complex one Rockefeller comes across as an ideological follower of Franklin D Roosevelt s New Deal for a major part of his political career Later he would adopt aconservative political agenda as he continued to seek the presidency on at least three separate occasions He comes across as a generous individual who uses his wealth to reward and assist others, but at the same time he could be a stubborn vindictive person who set out to get even with those who disagreed with him Domestically, Rockefeller pursued a liberal agenda, but in foreign policy he was a cold warrior, fearful of the communist threat he supported the Vietnam War for most of his political career On a personal level Smith describes a man who could be a caring father, but at the same time he appears as a serial philanderer His first marriage failed after thirty years, and after remarrying, he seemed to dote on the children of his second marriage angering those of his first The author explores in detail these aspects of the Rockefeller persona and career, and has written an almost encyclopedic biography of one of the most interesting political figures of the twentieth century.Smith describes his thirteen year odyssey in writing this biography Its coverage is impressive as he conducted numerous interviews and thoroughly mined the attendant secondary and primary sources The result is extensive coverage of his subject that brings the reader into the Rockefeller family dating back to its founder John D Rockefeller We witness the wealth that was available to Nelson Rockefeller and how he employed it to satisfy his almost obsessive need to acquire art, design and build numerous residences and public buildings, caring for his many associates and friends when they were in need, and of course, procure his own election as governor on four separate occasions Rockefeller was a serial believer in forming committees and or commissions made up of the leading experts on whatever topic was of interest to him Each role he was tasked, be it, as coordinator for Latin American affairs under FDR, an emissary for Richard Nixon to Latin America, a study to ascertain the best way to rebuild Albany, NY, develop a way to improve the welfare system in New York as well as well as nationally, along with numerous others, Rockefeller in most cases funded these activities with his own money and many of the solutions that emerged, i.e., revenue sharing and enhancing John F Kennedy s Alliance for Progress were adopted by different presidential administrations In a book of this length there are many themes and storylines One that seems to dominate is the evolution of Nelson Rockefeller from a liberal approach to social policy, whereby he was willing to push through increases in taxes, fees and other sources of revenue to implement them Rockefeller supported a myriad of social programs from improvements in Medicaid, purification of water resources, women s rights, the first state minimum wage law, to the implementation of civil rights legislation Rockefeller s approach to executive leadership and legislative tactics are reviewed as well as his philosophy of government What emerges is the type of governor that New York hadn t seen since FDR With the message of taking responsibility for developing problems for the future, he would tackle issues in the present so they would not become problems down the road The issue was his overly ambitious approach to executive leadership always risked alienating conservatives west of the Hudson River With a strategy that would evolve from a pay as you go philosophy that would bring revenues into line with expenditures, thereby eliminating costly borrowing and setting the stage for renewed economic growth, Rockefeller evolved into to a governor who blew up the state budget to meet the needs of his massive infrastructure and building expenses in addition to the budget shortfalls of New York City by borrowing and floating different bond proposals By the time Rockefeller reached the end of his third term in office and was elected to his fourth term he became increasingly fiscally conservative as he faced opposition from the state legislature and probably realized that the political current of the late sixties and early seventies would not help any presidential ambitions he might have if he did not change Another major storyline that dominated Rockefeller his entire life that permeates the book was his life long battle with dyslexia The governor was not aware that he suffered from this affliction, but whether he was attending the Lincoln School in New York, Dartmouth College, or just trying to keep up with the massive amount of reading that a state executive engaged in it was always a battle With his wealth as a cushion, Rockefeller was able to employ numerous individuals to assist in this process whether in preparation of legislation or developing auditory strategies to overcome his reading difficulties.There are a number of fascinating aspects to Smith s approach to his subject as he prepared expansive footnotes at the bottom of each page providing the reader with ancillary information that was not available in the text Rockefeller s private opinions of the likes of John Lindsay and Richard Nixon emerge in a very colorful fashion which made the mining of these footnotes quite entertaining Smith s discussion of deeply personal issues is not blanched over The breakup of Rockefeller s marriage to Mary Todhunter Clark Tod was detailed and very fair as was the coverage of his remarriage to Margaretta Happy Murphy The loss of his son Michael during an expedition to collect primitive art in a remote part of New Guinea shows a father who has to deal emotionally with a loss of a son The relationship of the Rockefeller brothers and their children receives a great deal of attention and produces many interesting insights into the dynamic of such a public family Importantly, Smith does not mince words or coverage in dealing with Rockefeller s numerous extracurricular activities with numerous women throughout his marriages In fact we witness a scandal at the site of Rockefeller s death as to how his body was treated by those who were with him and the medical papers that were prepared to spare the family any embarrassment.Aside from the personal aspects of the Rockefeller story, Smith devotes a great deal of effort in explaining what drove Rockefeller He was an avid and meticulous collector of modern and primitive art and he set as a goal the creation of a museum to house modern art that he would proudly help establish with the creation of the Museum of Modern Art MoMA The second area that fascinated Rockefeller was politics and how it could be used to help people and better his country, a career path that would dominate his life for over forty years The fact that Rockefeller realized that as a scion of wealth he did not have to worry about ordinary things, therefore he was motivated to pursue the extraordinary Rockefeller s battles to create MoMA were his trial by fire, a learning course in the art of political infighting This would also be the case in the creative process and building of Rockefeller Center as he would take lessons learned from these confrontations and apply them in the future in his fights with the legislature, opponents such as New York Mayors John Lindsay and Robert Wagner, as well as national political battles In dealing with transit and garbage strikes, prison issues including the riots and death at Attica, infrastructure and other building projects, Rockefeller s learning curve was applied to many crises Rockefeller s other area of interest was foreign policy, and Latin America in particular His approach to western hemispheric issues was ahead of his time It began as a strategy to block Nazi Germany s inroads in Mexico and South America He agreed with FDR that hemispheric solidarity was the key to changing the perception that the United States was seen as a colonizer in the region In 1942 Rockefeller unveiled his Basic Economy Program that called for improvement in the region s public health problems Rockefeller arranged training for hundreds of professional nurses to assist in creating medical clinics in outlying areas Further, he worked to export penicillin to offset disease in the region In four years, Rockefeller agents trainedthan ten thousand in service workers, nurses, doctors, midwives, sanitary engineers, and home demonstration agents 164 Rockefeller engaged in a fierce bureaucratic battle with Wild Bill Donavan, the head of the Office of Strategic Services at the end of the war over policy toward Latin America After the war facing the fight against communism, Rockefeller was a proponent of foreign aid to the region, but his approach was geared to offset the sensibilities of the countries receiving it to avoid the charactiture of Yankee Imperialism that OSS policy seemed to engender Rockefeller s sensitivity toward third world countries should not take away from his fervent anticommunism, particularly in dealing with Vietnam where he was a strong supporter of Lyndon Johnson and was able to develop a close working relationship with the president Smith does yeoman s work in describing Rockefeller s campaigns for governor and president In both areas Rockefeller s wealth and ability to obtain the necessary support for his candidacies was ever present The elective success he experienced in New York could not be replicated on the national stage as the Republican Party shifted to the right throughout the nineteen sixties His battle against Goldwater in 1964 made him an enemy to conservative republicans and his indecision in 1968 cost him any hope of wresting the republican nomination away from Richard Nixon, which also destroyed any candidacy for 1972 His hopes improved after he was chosen vice president by Gerald Ford following the resignation of Richard Nixon, but any hope of influencing the Ford presidency was offset by major disagreements with Ford s Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld who would block Rockefeller at every turn over policy and political decisions Any hope of higher office was dashed in 1976 as Rockefeller s support for civil rights and the Voting Rights Act made him a political liability with conservative republicans in the south and resulted in the candidacy of Robert Dole for Vice President on the 1976 Republican presidential ticket Overall, Nelson Rockefeller enjoyed an amazing life Art connoisseur, benefactor to countless individuals, a mostly progressive governor, and an influential and sometimes polarizing national figure for decades Richard Norton Smith gives attention to all these aspects of Rockefeller s life and has written an in depth and informative biography that I am certain will be the definitive work on an illustrious career for many years to come


  2. HBalikov HBalikov says:

    Nelson Rockefeller was an East Coast Republican when that term denoted a particular set of principles and actions He was a beneficiary of the Rockefeller fortune along with his siblings and he had a long life of public service.Richard Norton Smith examines the whole transit of Rockefeller s life in over 700 pages of a very detailed biography with an additional 100 pages of notes and indexing He writes with both grace and insight The rest of this review will just expand on those points Nelson Rockefeller was an East Coast Republican when that term denoted a particular set of principles and actions He was a beneficiary of the Rockefeller fortune along with his siblings and he had a long life of public service.Richard Norton Smith examines the whole transit of Rockefeller s life in over 700 pages of a very detailed biography with an additional 100 pages of notes and indexing He writes with both grace and insight The rest of this review will just expand on those points Those who currently remember the Rockefeller years probably isolate the following two political facts 1 He was elected governor of New York multiple times and,2 He ran for President of the USAthan once, unsuccessfully.Some may recall the short time he spent as Gerald Ford s Vice President As a politician, he was labeled both a moderate and a progressive and led the Republican wing often known as Rockefeller Republicans He claimed to have a Democratic heart with a Republican head It is clear that Nelson and most of his siblings felt a special obligation to give back to the citizens of the USA that many of the current 0.01% couldn t care less about See the recent obituary of his brother, David, is as enthusiastic as a hound getting a fresh scent as he takes us through Rockefeller s life And, this analogy may bethan apt because Smith was given access to material particularly Rockefeller s correspondence that had never before been examined We get this man s full enthusiastic life that including his love and collecting of art, his work in Latin America both with the family s business and later in the Roosevelt years with the government s business Aside In much of the 20th Century Latin America was either ignored or subject to many attempts by those in the USA s government to put dictators who favored the USA s economic interest in power Rockefeller was of another stripe very interested in the culture and the people of various countries and interested in encouraging democracy His efforts during World War II were very successful in persuading many South American countries to forsake their German trading partners He never got on particularly well with Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger but he worked hard to keep communications open Smith gives us the political play by play negotiations that eventually made Rockefeller Nixon s Latin American emissary It is interesting to speculate about a better fate for that region if there had been a Rockefeller presidency The New York City skyline and the state s infrastructure still reflect a very substantial contribution during his governorship of fifty years ago His administration established the first state minimum wage He encouraged affordable housing Yet, Smith also has to deal with Rockefeller s infidelities, his repudiation of his early spending policies when he ran for President or tried to be on Nixon s good side And, there is the whole mess of the Attica prison riots for which Rockefeller bears as much responsibility as did Henry II for the death of Thomas Becket The only place where I found that Smith did less than connect all the dots has to do with the financial crises of the 1970s in New York City Did the State s economic policies under Nelson Rockefeller have a share of the responsibility for what happened The book is always interesting, lively and well written and, just when you think you have got the essence of Nelson Rockefeller, Smith will add something to make you reconsider your conclusion If you are going to read a biography of Rockefeller, make it this one


  3. Jean Jean says:

    Richard Norton Smith is a well known historian and biographer He is known for his strenuously researched, fully contextualized, comprehensive biographies True to his reputation he has created an outstanding, comprehensive biography of Nelson A Rockefeller.Nelson Rockefeller was the grandson of John D Rockefeller and was born on his grandfather s birthday His father was John D Rockefeller Jr The author states that because NR did not have to make a living he chose to dedicate his life to pu Richard Norton Smith is a well known historian and biographer He is known for his strenuously researched, fully contextualized, comprehensive biographies True to his reputation he has created an outstanding, comprehensive biography of Nelson A Rockefeller.Nelson Rockefeller was the grandson of John D Rockefeller and was born on his grandfather s birthday His father was John D Rockefeller Jr The author states that because NR did not have to make a living he chose to dedicate his life to public service Smith spends about a third of the book on NR early life.Smith describes NR s first job in government in August 1940 when he was appointed Coordinator of Inter American Affairs by President Franklin Roosevelt He was charged with designing economic aid and cultural programs for Latin America He spent fifteen years in Washington as a special adviser, undersecretary and cabinet member for three successive presidents two of them democrats Smith states NR developed a reputation as a visionary connoisseur of innovative thinking In 1957 he became the Governor of New York While governor he expanded colleges, parks and state infrastructure Smith states NR blazed trails in funding the arts, protecting the consumer, restoring the environment and advancing transportation, human rights, highway safety and so on On the negative side Smith states that in his final years as governor he became a budgetary hawk, did a right ward shift on welfare, did a brutal suppression of the rebellion at Attica state prison in 1971 and created draconian drug laws in 1973.Smith does not wallow in salacious details nor does he close his eyes to Rockefeller s flagrant adultery and its personal and political consequences He pulls no punches in this biography Smith reports that as Rockefeller aged he became evenconfident in his superiority,self indulgent andoblivious to his marginalization within the Republican Party.Smith reveals NR had dyslexia therefore he called in authors, experts to explain their ideas to him instead of reading the reports Because of his wealth he was able to create a brain trust around himself to assist him and to inform him of the latest ideas, knowledge etc Nelson Rockefeller has been the subject of at least ten previous biographies but this one may turn out to be the most definitive one This book is 880 pages or 41 hours in the audio book format but I could hardly put it down it kept my attention throughout Smith spend 14 years doing meticulous research, this included not only the prior biographies but also interviews with early Rockefeller contemporaries and 60,000 pages of newly available oral histories and family archives as well as the newly released letters of NR s first wife Mary Rockefeller This biography is all that an unbiased biography should be I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible Paul Michael did a good job narrating the book


  4. Jim Cullison Jim Cullison says:

    This book should win the Pulitzer Prize for Biography It makes me want to go back in time and campaign for Nelson Rockefeller A magnificent read that is marvelously written.


  5. Marc Marc says:

    Nixon declared that there were only three men in America who understood the use of power I do, John Connally does And I guess Nelson does He was always in the wrong church, concluded Al Marshall He was always in the wrong pew.Richard Norton Smith is a well established presidential historian who worked for Bob Dole as a speech writer and wrote many books on politicians such as Herbert Hoover, Thomas Dewey and currently in the making Gerry Ford His biography of Nelson Rocke Nixon declared that there were only three men in America who understood the use of power I do, John Connally does And I guess Nelson does He was always in the wrong church, concluded Al Marshall He was always in the wrong pew.Richard Norton Smith is a well established presidential historian who worked for Bob Dole as a speech writer and wrote many books on politicians such as Herbert Hoover, Thomas Dewey and currently in the making Gerry Ford His biography of Nelson Rockefeller is highly readable For one, he begins the first chapter with the infamous showdown at the 1964 Republican Convention immersing the reading in the hot San Francisco summer There, Rocky embodied the liberal wing of the GOP fighting for its soul against the conservatives backing Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater while a twice defeated Richard Nixon sat quietly and held his cards until the next election.Reading about Rockefeller is reading about the failure and success of a republican equivalent of JFK The billionaire East Coast New Deal Republican wore many hats He was an art collector, a shareholder, FDR s man in South America during WWII speaking Spanish with ease , a 4 times elected governor of New York and unelected vice president The book is heavy on his south american time and governorship I found it well balanced between politics and policies Although I was a bit lost and bored in the arcane of budget fights in Albany His ill and short stint as Ford s VP is only briefly covered within 37 pages I was surprised because Smith used to be Director of the Ford Presidential Library and I thought he would haveto say about 74 to 77.The most interesting parts for me were passages relating his relationships with powerful men like Nixon, Kissinger, Goldwater, Rumsfeld, Robert Kennedy, mayor Lindsay, Robert Moses, LBJ and the likes.Long read but worth it if you like to read about the GOP


  6. natalie natalie says:

    Wow, this book was so interesting In all my readings, I find so many important people in various occupations are dyslexic, as was Nelson Rockefeller as told in this book The length of this book was tough for me and took me a long time to get through But it was well worth it to see into Nelson Rockefeller s life and its many facets.To my old mind, the Rockefellers and the Kennedys bring to mind the same mindset of wealth and ambition In Nelson Rockefeller s case, he was an almost President, Wow, this book was so interesting In all my readings, I find so many important people in various occupations are dyslexic, as was Nelson Rockefeller as told in this book The length of this book was tough for me and took me a long time to get through But it was well worth it to see into Nelson Rockefeller s life and its many facets.To my old mind, the Rockefellers and the Kennedys bring to mind the same mindset of wealth and ambition In Nelson Rockefeller s case, he was an almost President, while one Kennedy was President and one Kennedy was an almost President.As Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller was ahead of his time in upgrading education standards and wanting health insurance for all Being elected 4 times, he must have done something right.Having been called the champ who never made it, alluding of course to his failed Presidential runs, he was also called the Republican Hubert Humphrey His life was full and he was exactly the man he wanted to be.It s a very good read


  7. Aaron Million Aaron Million says:

    Richard Norton Smith has written an outstanding biography of a very complex man Nelson Rockefeller, born to enormous wealth and privilege, struggled to escape from the suffocating atmosphere placed on he and his brothers by his emotionally stunted father John Jr Suffering from a severe case of dyslexia, Rockefeller instead relied on his buoyant personality and incredible wealth to help him navigate life Elected four times as Governor of New York, and appointed Vice President under Gerald Fo Richard Norton Smith has written an outstanding biography of a very complex man Nelson Rockefeller, born to enormous wealth and privilege, struggled to escape from the suffocating atmosphere placed on he and his brothers by his emotionally stunted father John Jr Suffering from a severe case of dyslexia, Rockefeller instead relied on his buoyant personality and incredible wealth to help him navigate life Elected four times as Governor of New York, and appointed Vice President under Gerald Ford, the highest office in the land eluded his grasp Although, as Smith shows, Rockefeller was at times seemingly ambivalent about chasing the office, either through his actions or his words Throw in a very messy personal life, and you have someone who, despite all of the privilege and pampering that he had, still never quite seemed to get what he wanted out of life Smith s writing style is, in my opinion, worthy of being included in the top ranks of biographers people such as Ron Chernow and David McCullough Not as intense as Robert Caro, but perhaps a tadscholarly than McCullough, Smith writes objectively and dispassionately His goal here is give the reader all of the essentials on Rockefeller, provide perceptive analysis along the way without getting in the way of the storyline, and let the reader form their own final judgment on Rockefeller Smith seamlessly transitions from policy discussions to detailing Rockefeller s constant philandering and marital discord He does not beat Rockefeller over the head for his many flaws nor does he skimp on the positive aspects of his behavior Rockefeller had many sides to him he could be both petty and kind, cruel and generous, disarming yet distant, arrogant yet down to earth I thought that Smith made sure to interweave both Rockefeller s professional and personal lives showing what he was facing on multiple fronts at any one time Rockefeller had a quixotic quest for the presidency He wanted it in 1960, but stubbed his toe by declaring that he was not going to run, then deciding to run, then dropping out in favor of Richard Nixon Despite Rockefeller later saying that this year was his best chance to win the Republican nomination, I really do not see how that could be Nixon was the sitting Vice President and had been for eight years To wrest the nomination from him seems almost unthinkable, despite a clearly reluctant President Dwight Eisenhower Also, even though this does not become clear until 1964, the Republican Party was moving fundamentally to the right While the Eastern Establishment did not particularly like Nixon, they could tolerate him as he appealed to the growing conservative wing of the party In contrast, the muchliberal Rockefeller inspired deep distrust and resentment amongst the people who, only four years later, vociferously supported Senator Barry Goldwater for president, and mercilessly booed Rockefeller while he was attempting to give a speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco In fact, that moment is actually what Smith opens the book with as a Prologue, immediately drawing the reader into Rockefeller s world The vast majority of the book profiles Rockefeller s four term Governorship of New York There is a lot of policy discussion, but Smith never gets carried away with intricate details Fortunately, he sprinkles in colorful anecdotes many done via footnotes at the bottom of pages that help to keep the narrative moving He also charts Rockefeller s slow movement towards being less liberal than when he was younger It is a bit of a misnomer to state that Rockefeller became conservative, because even at the end of of his tenure, he was still muchliberal than many in the Republican party would have liked him to be Oddly, he resigned at the end of 1973, one full year shy of completing his fourth term Various explanations were given at the time, but like so many other things in Rockefeller s life, Smith can only provide some educated guesses on his motives for doing so Rockefeller became the nation s second unelected Vice President in December 1974, following his confirmation hearings after being appointed by Gerald Ford in the wake of the Watergate mess This was a thankless job for Rockefeller, one that he felt obligated to take but in reality had no desire to hold Accustomed to wielding power, he found himself continually under fire from Donald Rumsfeld and other Ford loyalists who never trusted him Less than a year into his shortened vice presidency, Ford asked him to withdraw from running with him on the 1976 ticket That had to have hurt I know Rockefeller hadmoney than almost any other human being will ever have, but as Smith shows throughout this book, money does not solve all of life s problems and it does not guarantee a smooth passage through life Diminished in stature, aging, and with almost no constitutional authority, Rockefeller plodded through the final year plus left in the term, knowing that he was powerless to shape events Smith finishes with a somewhat sad chapter covering the final two years of Rockefeller s life Now done with politics for good and fighting with his family about the direction of the Rockefeller Center and finances, Rockefeller aged quickly and his health began to deteriorate His death from a massive heart attack in 1979 is shrouded in mystery It is strangely compelling to consider which of the many different versions to believe, but Smith does not engage in unnecessary speculation and drama Why this book did not win any awards is beyond me, as it is an outstanding work by one of the top political historians of our time This is one of the best biographies that I have ever read Grade A


  8. Amy Amy says:

    First, I have included this in my Special Needs category because Rockefeller was Dyslexic and his notes reflect this the author has not changed these, at all.This was a very interesting biography, but it was extremely difficult to separate the personal from the political as they were often intertwined The story starts from before Rockefeller s birth and goes to just beyond his death.Some interesting things that I learned Personal Perspective Rockefeller s father, John D Rockefeller, Jr aka First, I have included this in my Special Needs category because Rockefeller was Dyslexic and his notes reflect this the author has not changed these, at all.This was a very interesting biography, but it was extremely difficult to separate the personal from the political as they were often intertwined The story starts from before Rockefeller s birth and goes to just beyond his death.Some interesting things that I learned Personal Perspective Rockefeller s father, John D Rockefeller, Jr aka Junior, divided the world into two classes of people leaners and holders up Fearing that his children would be spoiled by money, Junior devised a system of rewards wherein cash was doled out to the most charitable or dutiful of his offspring If you rebelled like his daughter, Babs , you basically got nothing Many people believe that Happy was his wife, and she was, but she wasn t his FIRST wife Rockefeller was married to Tod short for Todhunter her middle name for over 30 years before officially finally giving her up for his mistress, Happy By the way, Happy had worked for Rockefeller Rocky before becoming romantically involved with him Rockefeller wasn t the only one with a spouse and children 5 Happy was also married and had four children when their affair began The price of her divorce was no less than the custody of her four children, the youngest of who was four There was also a question about the paternity of this youngest child you ll have to read the book to learnNelson liked women he liked to surround himself with women As with Happy, if he really liked a woman, he would have her moved from one position within his organization to a place much closer to his office Happy was not the first nor would she be the last.Going back to Tod, when he was first describing her attributes to his beloved mother, Abby, I wondered if he was selecting a horse Also I wasn t sure if he was trying to persuade his mother or himself that this was a good match If you weren t sure, yourself, you were after reading about Tod having to tell Nelson he would have to stop his flirting with other women after they were married Red Flag FLASHING I figure this marriage was doomed from the beginning I m just amazed Tod held on as long as she did After all, she, too, was from an influential family.Under New York s divorce laws, unchanged since the 18th century, the only justification for dissolving a marital union was adultery This compelled Tod to assert her claim of extreme mental cruelty in Reno, NV, but first she had to establish legal residence by spending at least six weeks, there.The sudden death of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Nelson s mother made a HUGE impact on Nelson s life.Also, later, when his father passed, his death effectively removed any restraints on Nelson s political or personal life.It is Nelson s grandfather, John D Rockefeller that is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, in Cleveland across from President Garfield s tomb A brief description of the funeral burial can be found on p126.Business Political Perspectives Throughout the World today the rights of the individual or corporation to possess property are being challenged if we wish to continue our present system of individual initiative and private ownership, management must conduct its affairs with a sense of moral and social responsibility in such a way as to contribute to the general welfare of society Nelson A Rockefeller, remarks to the 1937 annual meeting, Standard Oil of New Jersey The same can be said, today.Rockefeller was sometimes shrewd or keen in his business dealings He learned a lot by doing and once he learned something, he not only retained the information, but he made sure to put it into regular practice One principle that he learned was, Human dignity, respect, is farimportant than a lot of economic prerequisites Rockefeller had a quick wit, which sometimes served him well, and at other times, got him into trouble p481 When he decided to run for office, he went after the governorship of New York He spent 15 years in office 1959 1973 , before eventually becoming Vice President appointed and then vetted by Congress under Gerald Ford It was during his time as governor that he had his affair with Happy Some say this, along with his divorce from Tod, doomed his presidential aspirations Rockefeller always aspired to become president For various and sundry reasons you ll have to read the book to learnhe was unsuccessful in this goal.Some of the information surrounding Rockefeller and his candidacy for governor reminded me of Donald Trump and his quest for the presidency Rockefeller s advisors said most politicians have to be built up Nelson had to be brought down to the level of the common man.However, as governor of New York, a lot happened under his watch As a matter of fact, when he was running for re election in 1966, he had already done so much for New York that it was tough to pinpoint EXACTLY what he had done Some things that took place during his governorship the New York City Garbage Strike, the Attica Prison Riot In this case, I think like many politicians Rockefeller liked the power, but he didn t want to be the one to pull the trigger Here, he had to pull the trigger make the call He also was responsible for the South Mall aka Empire State Plaza, the Urban Development Corporation, doing things for SUNY, and the World Trade Center Rockefeller saved the World Trade Center from fiscal disaster by making the State of New York the principal tenant of the 110 story South Tower.As he was departing as governor, Rockefeller invoked a round of holiday season commutations One of these was 52 year old Edward Young, an Attica inmate who had testified to impressive effect before the McKay Commission Again, you ll have to read the book to read the history about the Attica Prison Riot and learn why I thought Rockefeller pardoning anyone from this event was a huge act of kindness.Rockefeller s political relationship with George Romney Mitt s father was most interesting.The other names that came up in this political era were equally intriguing The impact these men made in later decades Regan, Rumsfeld, Cheney, George H.W Bush, and Edward Mezvinsky further research on my part confirmed that this is as I thought Chelsea Clinton s father in law The most surprising name that I ran across Pat Buchanan was a young speechwriter for Richard Nixon Upon Martin Luther King, Jr s assassination, Rockefeller stated, The true memorial to Martin Luther King cannot be made of stone It must be made of action From here, Rockefeller dispatched two gentlemen, backed by Rockefeller s checkbook, to go to Atlanta, to help Coretta King make funeral arrangements for her husband Much of this information was not released until after Rockefeller s death Amazingly, he did not want what he was doing to be used to benefit anyone s political agenda AfterIn the end, I was amazed by how quickly Rockefeller went from vibrant politician to old man Rockefeller He was a powerful and dynamic person while at the height of his life, but when this finished, so was he There were questions surrounding his death He did die at the home of his latest mistress Happy always believed it was because he did not want to die in front of her and their children She believes based on Rockefeller s actions that day that he died in much the same was as his mother I believe the testimony of those around him is what caused questions to be asked in the first place Fascinating


  9. Marshall Marshall says:

    This is an exhaustive look at the political career of one of the 20th century s also rans Nelson Rockefeller made three half hearted attempts at the presidency between 1960 1968 as he watched his party gradually give up its status as the party of Lincoln for the party of Strom Thurmond Rockefeller managed to acquire a progressive legacy, while at the same time earning the ire of the members of his party who thought it to better dead than red America clearly was not ready for a president who This is an exhaustive look at the political career of one of the 20th century s also rans Nelson Rockefeller made three half hearted attempts at the presidency between 1960 1968 as he watched his party gradually give up its status as the party of Lincoln for the party of Strom Thurmond Rockefeller managed to acquire a progressive legacy, while at the same time earning the ire of the members of his party who thought it to better dead than red America clearly was not ready for a president who bought Picassos and it may never be Rockefeller grew up in a life as rarefied as any in America His father gave a sense of public obligation and his mother an aesthetic curiosity that endured for the rest of his life Rockefeller was involved in venture capitalism in Latin America, artistic controversies at Rockefeller Center, enacting the Good Neighbor Policy as a member of FDR s State Department, and public welfare under Eisenhower before serving as governor of New York and Republican Party power broker for four terms.Rockefeller s vision for the Republican Party, with its emphasis on civil rights was out of step with the direction of the party and while the author of this biography tends to place the blame on Rockefeller s divorce and remarriage life events that did not harm the career of his rival for the presidency Ronald Reagan , one has to wonder just how valid this really was It is one of the great unfortunate events of 20th century politics that members of the establishment, such as Rockefeller made only half hearted efforts to halt Goldwater s nomination in 1964, and Nixon s in 1968 Both events in retrospect signaled the end of the Republican Party s respectability Smith s narrative of Rockefeller s first three terms are devoted to revenue to pay for state programs and Rockefeller s attempts to remake the state with an emphasis on higher education, transpiration, public works, and ecology For the most part, these efforts were largely successful I think Smith might have devotedeffort to the removal of Robert Moses, who had been a force in state politics since the time of Governor Al Smith.Rockefeller s fourth term as governor was probably his worst period in public life, both in terms of legacy and actions It was the time of the lengthy mandatory sentences for drugs which to be fair were passed in the midst of frustrating rises in crime and Attica Rockefeller s two year tenure as Vice President was every bit as unpleasant as could be imagined with the extra added irritant of having to deal with Donald Rumsfield on a regular basis Public service rarely has extracted greater penalties or costs This is a highly detailed, dense, revealing and definitive book on Rockefeller and I think Richard Norton Smith does a fine job exploring his strengths and weaknesses


  10. Janet Janet says:

    Wow What an incredible work on an incredible man I highly recommend this book to every student of American history, politics and anyone interested in how life should be lived He was a man with feet of clay, to be sure, but he was certainly a visionary with a view of how life should be for all Americans.It was my privilege to hear Dr Smith speak about his subject and his book late last year He truly respects the Governor and understands him It was my privilege to grow up in a state shaped b Wow What an incredible work on an incredible man I highly recommend this book to every student of American history, politics and anyone interested in how life should be lived He was a man with feet of clay, to be sure, but he was certainly a visionary with a view of how life should be for all Americans.It was my privilege to hear Dr Smith speak about his subject and his book late last year He truly respects the Governor and understands him It was my privilege to grow up in a state shaped by his vision I now truly appreciate him I mourne for what might have been if he had been backed by his party More fool they


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