- Advise and Consent
name = Advise and Consent
image_caption = Early edition cover
language = English
genre = Political novel
publisher = Doubleday
release_date = July 11, 1959
media_type = Print (
Hardcover& Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette)
pages = 616 pages
isbn = ISBN 0-385-05419-X (hardcover edition) & ISBN 0-380-01007-0 (paperback edition)
A Shade of Difference
"Advise and Consent" is a 1959 political novel written by
Allen Drurywhich explores the reactions of those in and around the United States Senateto the controversial nomination of Robert Leffingwell, a former Communist Partymember, to be United States Secretary of State. The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fictionin 1960, [http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners: Fiction (1948-present) - Pulitzer.org] Retrieved October 1, 2008.] and was followed by " A Shade of Difference" in 1962 and four subsequent sequels.
The novel's title comes from the
United States Constitution's Article II, Sec. 2, cl. 2, which provides that the President of the United States "shall nominate, and by and with the "Advice and Consent" of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consults, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States...."
The story is loosely based on the
Alger Hissand David Lilienthalcontroversies, and, according to [http://www.eba-net.org/docs/EBANewsletter_Fall2005.pdf comments] by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ( FERC) Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher, on the Leland Oldsnomination battle.
Allen Drury was staunchly anti-Communist, and greatly disdainful of most of the news media of his day, which, in his opinion, favoured political appeasement over military confrontation of the U.S.S.R. The Leffingwell nomination and the revelations of a Communist past are from the
Alger Hissaffair of the late 1940s. The Soviet moon landing ahead of the U.S. draws on the culture shock that stupefied the U.S. when the U.S.S.R. launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnikon October4, 1957. Brigham Anderson's homosexual love affair, its exposure, and his suicide, was taken from a nasty political episode. Senator Styles Bridgesthreatened to expose a homosexual scandal in Senator Lester Hunt's family. Senator Hunt, from Wyoming, killed himself, showing Drury how rough politics could be. (Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives)
The story details how a U.S. President (unnamed, but much like Franklin Roosevelt and a fictional contemporary of the Eisenhower era) decides to name a new Secretary of State in attempting rapprochement with the U.S.S.R. His nominee is Robert Leffingwell, the darling of the liberal media, establishment and academia. However, Leffingwell is viewed as an appeaser to the Soviet Union by many of the more conservative senators who must vote on his nomination, while others have serious doubts about his character due to past performances before Senatorial committees. Shepherding the nomination through the Senate is Majority Leader Robert Munson of Michigan, who is trying to ensure that the President's nominee is confirmed while also massaging the egos of his fellow senators, both in the majority and the minority.
Drury never uses the words "Democrat" or "Republican" in any novel, but given that the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate for all but four years of the 1940s, the 1950s, and through the 1960s and the 1970s, it can be assumed that Drury means "Democrat" when he writes "Majority" and "Republican" when he writes "Minority".
Leffingwell's nomination proceeds smoothly, despite tough questioning from hawks such as South Carolina's senior Senator Seabright (Seab) Cooley, when the Foreign Relations sub-committee handling the nomination summons a minor bureaucrat named Herbert Gelman to testify. Under oath, Gelman says that he and Leffingwell were in a Communist cell when in college. The cell was four men, one of whom is dead, Leffingwell, Gelman, and someone named James Morton. Leffingwell cross-examines Gelman, demonstrating that he (Leffingwell) had gone out of his way to help Gelman obtain federal employment after Gelman had suffered a nervous breakdown. The sub-committee deems Gelman's testimony far-fetched, and the chairman, Senator Brigham Anderson of Utah, is about to send the nomination to the full Foreign Relations Committee when a member of the President's sub-cabinet calls Senator Anderson to tell him that he once was known as "James Morton". Anderson holds open his sub-committee hearings, an action which enrages the President. The President orders Munson to buy off Anderson, or to possibly find something to make him get out of the way. Munson replies that he can't conceive of anything that the President could use to threaten Anderson.
As it turns out, Anderson does have something to hide. While he was in Hawaii on R&R late in
World War II, Senator Anderson had a month-long love affair with another man. The novel never uses the word "homosexual," but it is clearly obvious that Senator Anderson has been struggling with accepting his homosexual orientation throughout his life, despite having a wife and child and being a Mormon. The only evidence of the affair is a picture of the two men together, taken in Hawaii, which Anderson's maid gives to him along with other items she had cleaned out of the attic. The picture is in a sealed and forgotten envelope, and no one, not even Anderson's wife Mabel, has any idea about his past homosexual liaison, although Mabel has on occasion complained tearfully that she does not feel loved in their marriage. While driving to the Capitol, he picks up Associate Supreme Court Justice Tommy Davis, who solidly supports Leffingwell's nomination and gently chides Anderson about his opposition to Leffingwell. As Anderson drops Davis off at the Supreme Court, the envelope with the picture falls from the car. Davis finds and opens it, revealing the weapon needed to ensure that Anderson permits Leffingwell's nomination to proceed. However, Davis lacks the fortitude to use the picture, so instead passes it over to the Majority Leader. At first, Munson rejects the picture, bitterly castigating Justice Davis for even suggesting blackmail of a Senator who is trying to do his job, but in the end, Munson lets his loyalty to the President override his sense of decency, and he keeps the photograph.
The following evening, all of the principal characters attend the White House Correspondents' dinner, where the President, departing from tradition, tells the reporters that he "will" have news for them that evening. He firmly tells them that he stands one hundred per cent behind his Secretary of State nominee. He leaves the dinner and invites his bumbling Vice President, Harley Hudson, former Michigan Governor (in the movie version of "Advise and Consent", Hudson is identified as a governor of Delaware), back to the White House for a nightcap. Senators Munson and Anderson also are invited, and the President finally discovers what information Anderson has about Leffingwell. Amazingly, the President decides that the best course of action is to get James Morton out of town while the nomination proceeds. Anderson vehemently objects, stating that the honorable thing to do at that point is to withdraw the nomination. The President appears to agree with that sentiment, but, as Anderson and Vice President Hudson leave the White House, the President orders Senator Munson to remain with him.
During the Correspondents' dinner, Justice Davis passed a note to the President, informing him the Majority Leader has "a picture of Brig that you ought to see". Munson reluctantly gives the picture to the President, who in turn gives it to Senator Fred van Ackerman of Wyoming, head of the Committee On Making Further Efforts for a Russian Truce (COMFORT), and who bitterly despises Anderson because of the senatorial respect and prestige he enjoys.
Van Ackerman leaks the photograph to some newspaper columnists, and alludes to it in a speech at a nationally-televised COMFORT rally. Confronted by his wife, Anderson admits his homosexual past. Mabel reacts badly to the revelation, leaving Anderson feeling more alone than ever. Making his situation worse, Anderson receives a phone call that night from the man with whom he had the affair, who admits that he sold his story to someone because he needed the money.
The next morning, the editor of the "Washington Post" visits Anderson with a copy of a column implying that Anderson had a homosexual love affair while in the U.S. Army. The editor tears up the column in front of Anderson, saying that the newspaper won't publish it, nor will any other Washington newspaper (there were three Washington DC dailies in the 1950s). But, the editor adds, sooner or later some small-town newspaper will run the column, prompting the wire services to pick it up, and then the "Post" and the others will be forced to either run the story or simply carry the wire service story uncommented. That afternoon, feeling trapped and alone, Anderson decides there is only one way to maintain his honor and dignity; he pens a letter to his best friend and mentor, Senator Orrin Knox of Illinois, explaining everything that has happened, returns to his office in the Senate Office Building and shoots himself in the head.
Anderson's suicide and aftermath
Senator Anderson's death turns the majority of the Senate against the President and the Majority Leader. Senator Knox becomes the "de facto" leader of the opposition, and vows to defeat the Leffingwell nomination. The Senate unanimously censures Van Ackerman for contributing to Senator Anderson's death; after the vote, Van Ackerman leaves town for an "extended vacation", his standing in the Senate all but gone.
Senator Munson, feeling responsible for events, makes a speech linking Senator Anderson's death to the Leffingwell nomination and resigns as majority leader. Later, he is re-elected to the post, but declares that any promises made to him to support the nomination are null and void. The President summons Knox, a two-time presidential candidate, to the White House and promises to back him for the party's nomination next year if he will allow the Leffingwell nomination to go through. Knox dares him to put this promise in writing; to his shock, the President does just that. The President also tells Knox that the Soviets have just launched a manned mission to the Moon and that he will need a good Secretary of State to deal with the Soviets after their technological triumph. Knox takes the note and discusses it with his colleague senators, but ultimately decides to abide by his principles and oppose the Leffingwell nomination. Before the Senate votes on Leffingwell, the Soviet moon-mission cosmonauts address the world via radio, stating that the Soviets now have a permanent station on the moon, and stand ready to repel all capitalist imperialist invaders. The Soviet Premier then invites (almost commands, in fact) the President to come to Geneva, Switzerland for a summit meeting. The U.S. launches its own moon mission and the President addresses the nation and the world, telling them that no one owns the moon, and that despite his misgivings, he will go to meet the Soviet leader in Geneva. The Senate votes on the Leffingwell nomination, which is defeated by a vote of 74-24. Shortly after the vote, the President dies of a heart attack; Vice President Harley Hudson becomes President of the United States.
President Hudson addresses a joint session of Congress after the late President's funeral, saying he will not be a candidate for his party's nomination next year, that he will honor the late President's promise to go to Geneva, and that he will nominate Orrin Knox as Secretary of State. "Advise and Consent" ends with Knox's speedy confirmation as Secretary of State, and President Hudson's departure to Switzerland for the political summit meeting.
Literary significance and reception
"Saturday Review" said of "Advise and Consent" in August 1959 that "It may be a long time before a better one comes along."cite web | url = http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3495021.html | title = Allen Drury and the Washington Novel | first = Roger | last = Kaplan | work =
Policy Review|date = October/November 1999 | publisher = Hoover Institutionat Stanford University] Roger Kaplan of " Policy Review" wrote in 1999 that the novel "in many ways invented a genre in fiction ... the use of a racy intrigue, if possible involving both sex and foreign policy, is what characterizes the contemporary form. Forty years on, "Advise and Consent" is the only book of this genre that a literary-minded person really ought to read."
The novel was adapted into the 1962 film "Advise and Consent", directed by
Otto Premingerand starring Henry Fonda. Preminger was nominated for a Palme d'Orat the Cannes Film Festival, and Burgess Meredithwon the National Board of Reviewaward for Best Supporting Actor for his role. Charles Laughtonwas also nominated for a British Academy Film Award for Best Foreign Actor.
Politics in fiction
* [http://home.earthlink.net/~dbratman/drury.html Analysis of the fictional Senate in "Advise and Consent"] , including an addendum summarizing the plots of Drury's five sequels to the novel.
* [http://www.pprize.com/BookDetail.php?bk=42 Photos of the first edition of "Advise and Consent"]
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