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The Man in the Arena: The Life and Times of U.S. Senator Gale McGee.

The Man in the Arena: The Life and Times of U.S. Senator Gale McGee. By Roger McDaniel. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2018. Pp. xvi, 381. $36.95.)

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saint Patrick's Day in 1915, Gale William McGee went on to enjoy a storied career as a charismatic professor of history at the University of Wyoming and was then elected as one of Wyoming's U.S. Senators in 1958. A Democrat, he served three terms before losing to Republican Malcolm Wallop in 1976. A gifted orator and head of the university's debate club, McGee believed that knowing something about America's place in the world was important to understanding the threat of both Soviet and Chinese communism. An archetypical Cold War liberal, he supported progressive legislation at home and backed a strong military presence abroad, in order to thwart communist expansion. That posture left him as one of the few supporters of the intervention in Vietnam long after the cause in Big Muddy had been lost and there were riots in American cities.

Author Roger McDaniel recounts McGee's extensive experience in the conduct of foreign policy before he joined the Senate. McGee took leave from the University of Wyoming when the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., offered the young history professor a visiting fellowship in 1952-1953. At Council gatherings, his occasional associates included President Eisenhower and various Secretaries of State--Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk, and John Foster Dulles. McGee's inquiries included Southeast Asia, China, and the Soviet Union, areas of the world he discussed with others visiting the Council. After returning to the University of Wyoming, he began accepting speaking invitations from across the country. Most notably, he traveled to the Soviet Union in 1956, the first of many trips abroad to "trouble spots" in Vietnam, Africa, and South America. His wife, Loraine, who carefully watched for his periodic bouts with diabetic attacks, always accompanied him.

McGee's growing reputation in foreign affairs was a bit unusual for one with degrees from Nebraska Wesleyan and the University of Colorado. His quest to earn a Ph.D. in history took him to the University of Chicago, where he disavowed an earlier flirtation with isolationism and developed a worldview reflecting his studies in French and British colonialism and contemporary diplomatic issues. On the Vietnam question, the author provides insights that McGee did not share--Ho Chi Minh was, first and foremost, a Vietnamese nationalist, struggling initially against French colonialism and subsequently against the American intervention in South Vietnam. McGee and the hawks in the Defense establishment, however, viewed Ho as a revolutionary set on toppling another domino in an effort to extend global communism.

In addition to McGee's Senate career, the author covers his years as Ambassador to the Organization of American States under Jimmy Carter's administration. There are a few minor quibbles, such as his error that Stokely Carmichael, and not Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panther Party. That said, McDaniel's rich and engaging biography covers significant American issues from the Second World War through the 1980s.

Oregon State University, Emeritus

William G. Robbins

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Title Annotation:THE AMERICAS
Author:Robbins, William G.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2019
Words:520
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