REVIEWSrnSadly for Adlairnby William MurchisonrnThe Stevensons: A Biography of anrnAmerican Familyrnby Jean H. BakerrnNew York: VV.W. Norton;rn577 pp., $30.00rn^^ A /Tadly for Adlai,” proclaimed therniV-lcampaign buttons in 1952.rnBut Adlai Ewing Stevenson II wasn’t thernkind of politician who aroused madrnaffections, or, for that matter, hostilities.rnHe was a Stevenson. Passion isn’t thernStevenson thing; service is—service conductedrnwith objectivity and a certainrnfidelity to the public weal. Jean Baker,rnprofessor of history at Goucher Collegernin Towson, Maryland, performs servicernhigher than she may have imaginedrnwhen she undertook this detailed examinationrnof a major American politicalrnfamily. She produces tears of nostalgiarnand little quivers of affection for a timernwhen dignity and politics lived peaceablyrnbeneath the same roof. To read this bookrnis to realize anew how noxious and disgustingrnthe political profession has become.rnIn Adlai Stevenson there was so littlernof raw ambition that it shocks. True, hernconfessed himself the victim of “a badrncase of hereditary politics,” but this wasrnonly around the time he was consideringrna race for the governorship of Illinois, atrnthe age of 47. Earlier, he had contemplatedrna race for the U.S. Senate, butrnlacked the drive to undertake it. Therernwas always a tentativeness to the way thernStevensons sought political office. Thernfirst Adlai Ewing Stevenson—grandfatherrnof the 20th-century presidentialrncandidate—was surprised, the authorrnwrites, to achieve national prominence.rnHe lacked strong belief in his ownrnabilities, notwithstanding the moderaternsuccesses he enjoyed. “Perpetually available,rnirresistibly likable,” the ex-congressmanrnbecame Grover Cleveland’s runningrnmate in 1892 on the strength of hisrnparty loyalty, his Southern connections,rnand his pro-silver convictions. SupremernCourt Justice David Davis, who knewrnhim well, once endorsed him as a manrn”of large liberal and conservative views.”rnAdlai II, on whom this large book justifiablyrncenters, was himself a man ofrnmixed convictions. He worked in thernNew Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Administration,rnbut without the reformingrnpassion that drove so many New Dealers.rnA lawyer, socialite, and club man, hernliked the idea of drifting back and forthrnbetween public and private affairs. Hernwas the poorest excuse for an ideologuernthe Democrats have turned up in a half arncentury. His motive was to serve: to providernhonest, public-spirited leadership.rnAll right, so you might not want to followrnwhere he led, but at least no interior visionrndrove him stumbling, shouting,rnback-stabbing through the politicalrnthickets.rnThe Democrats gave him their presidentialrnnomination in 1952 despite hisrnunwillingness to ask for it. He “enteredrnthe campaign,” Baker says, “with hisrnbenighted nineteenth-century notionrnintact that men must be chosen for office,rnnot seek it.” The eloquence of hisrnspeeches falls charmingly on the ear inrnthis, the year of that’s-what-it’s-all-aboutrnoratory. Here is one sample: “The roadrnwe travel is long, but at the end lies therngrail of peace. And in the valley of peacernwe see the faint outlines of a new world;rnfertile and strong.” He was forever editingrnhis “secular sermons.” “His texts,”rnobserves Baker, “were the Bible, the PresbyterianrnPrayer Book, a Unitarian languagernabsorbed in his childhood, and thernevocative quotations gathered by friendsrnand staff scribbled in a black notebook.rnHis theme became a self-defined searchrnfor morality that he encouraged otherrnAmericans to join.” Tact was never hisrnlong suit. He informed the AmericanrnLegion that he would “resist pressuresrnfrom veterans… if I think their demandsrnare excessive.”rnOf course he lost. And may well haverndeserved to. But the way he lost continuedrnto entrance true Stevensonians, likernEleanor Roosevelt. They nominatedrnhim again in 1956, with worse successrnthan the time before. He was as eloquentrnas ever. “He observed more thanrnhe explained or solved.” He paid scantrnattention to blacks, women, and thernpoor. Eisenhower and Nixon ate him forrnlunch.rnThat was essentially it for Adlai IIrn(though he served in the Kennedy administrationrnas United Nations ambassador:rna more consequential job thanrnit has since become). Neither JackrnKennedy nor Lyndon Johnson—hard,rnpractical, modern men—had much usernfor Stevenson and his flights of eloquence.rnProbably he would have madernan average President at best. On the otherrnhand, against the lurid backdrop ofrnthe 90’s, his civility and intelligence, notrnto say his sense of public spirit, make arnlarger impression than was the case whenrnsuch characteristics were more widelyrntaken for granted. Nor is this to overlookrnthe discreet adultery that consoled himrnduring an unhappy marriage which endedrnin divorce. At least he didn’t sendrnstate troopers on amatory errands.rnCuriously, Baker’s extensively researched,rnwell-written book, though theoreticallvrnconcerned with politics, isn’trnvery revelatory about politics—the gamernor the causes that inspire the game. Socialrnhistory is the professor’s bag. Therernis no large viewpoint here—almost nornsense of the gigantic political forces atrnplay during Stevenson’s heyday, such asrnNew Deal radicalism, the unions, Goldwaterism,rnblack-white tensions. At thernsame time, Baker bids us notice how thernyoung Stevensons’ set in I920’s Chicagorndisported themselves. Interesting, butrnnot quite to the point.rnBaker also has a fussy penchant forrnbringing up the maleness and whitenessrnof political audiences in an age whenrnfemales and nonwhites barely figured inrnpolitics. Architecture too is a problem,rngiven the author’s mission. The concludingrnchapters, dealing with Adlai Ill’srnlusterless senatorial career, are sadly anticlimactic.rnIt’s a good book anyway, even a necessaryrnone. We need these periodic remindersrnthat things, politically speaking,rndon’t have to be as they are. If you neverrndreamed you could pine for AdlairnStevenson—why, you may just have misjudged.rnWilliam Murchison is a nationallyrnsyndicated columnist for the DallasrnN’lorning News.rn26/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn