Hugh Hewitt Review

Hugh Hewitt generously reviews In Hoffa’s Shadow in his Washington Post column.  A long excerpt:

There’s a new book out this week about [Chuckie O’Brien], and it is the unlikeliest riveting read of the year: “In Hoffa’s Shadow” by Jack Goldsmith. …

Chuckie O’Brien was a surrogate son to Hoffa for decades. Until he wasn’t. Then he became a prime suspect in the disappearance of the square-jawed, always combative but in the year of his disappearance dethroned union leader. That path, from penniless street kid to the pinnacle of American labor then to prison and a never-written ending, became a subject of Goldsmith’s book.

Why is this large figure in American labor history of such interest to the Harvard don? Did the professor’s studies of criminal procedure as it relates to his national security state specialty take him down an interesting and, these days, abandoned road?

Turns out Chuckie O’Brien is Goldsmith’s stepfather. Turns out that Jack Goldsmith was once Jack O’Brien until, as an adult, Goldsmith shed the name of his stepfather. …

I was prepared to be informed by Goldsmith. He’s always worth reading on any topic on which he opines. But I wasn’t prepared to be transfixed by a D.C. “backstory” unlike any out there. Goldsmith’s journey from adoring stepson to embarrassed college and law student to striving young lawyer to mature adult aware of Chuckie’s very good and very compromised parts is part of this tale, and Goldsmith candidly tells it without overweighting its importance to the larger narrative about Hoffa. …

Though Hoffa was undeniably and thoroughly corrupt, in varied, deep and powerful ways, he was also very much a tribune of organized labor. Still, he was comfortable dealing with organized crime when it helped his union, and his side deals — Goldsmith recounts Hoffa’s pivotal role in financing early Las Vegas — enriched him in ways that remain shocking.

But his ruthlessness was matched by Kennedy’s, and once in prison and out of power, Hoffa grew bitter. Through Chuckie O’Brien’s and Goldsmith’s eyes, there’s an opportunity for some empathy and a lot of astonishment. … And though Hoffa did not go gently into the night, his abrupt and final exit is as dark as any tragedy.

And then Goldsmith’s personal history came to be intertwined with the United States’ history post-9/11. It’s hard to overstate how unlikely this story is, and similarly difficult to overestimate my certainty that readers from all backgrounds and across entire political and economic spectra won’t be able to put it down.