Hart’s new book is retrospective of political career

By Ernest Luning

DENVER — The Colorado politician who has come closest to being elected president reflects on his nearly four decades in public life in a recently published memoir and discussed his story last week at a downtown bookstore.

The book-signing Sept. 21 at the LoDo Tattered Cover — preceded by nearly an hour of reminiscence and analysis of history, politics and current events — was like a gathering of old friends, reflected former two-term senator and two-time presidential candidate Gary Hart. Among the good-sized crowd were longtime political cohorts, including former Lt. Gov. Mark Hogan and long-serving former Denver legislator Wayne Knox.

Former Sen. Gary Hart Hart talks about his new memoir at the Tattered Cover in Denver’s Lower Downtown.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Hart signs a copy of his new memoir for Wayne Knox, a Denver Democrat who had the distinction of being the longest-serving state representative in Colorado history.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
A longtime Hart supporter shows off a souvenir from the campaign trail, a “Hart Attack” cap.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

In addition, more than a few in the audience later told Hart they’d been inspired to become politically active by his 1984 presidential run, when the dashing young senator came close to denying former Vice President Walter Mondale the nomination.

The Thunder and the Sunshine: Four Seasons in a Burnished Life, published by Fulcrum Publishing, landed in bookstores a few weeks ago. A prolific author of political tomes, biographies and even a handful of thrillers, Hart has made several Colorado appearances promoting the book.

The book’s chapters cover four periods in Hart’s public career, starting with his stint as campaign manager for the ill-fated 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern. He skips past his own run for the Senate and lands feet first with an appointment to a committee investigating the dark deeds of the CIA.

“That, as much as anything else, changed my life,” Hart said. At a young age, along side legends of the Senate, Hart said, “I saw the dark side of American, not just of politics, but the dark side of American foreign policy, in the middle of the Cold War. And it wasn’t pretty — it was very, very ugly.” Hart recounted several gripping tales from the time, including the unsolved violent deaths of two leading mobsters subsequent to their testimony before the committee.

The book jumps ahead to Hart’s presidential campaigns — though, critics point out, there’s nary a mention of the scandal that derailed his second run in 1988, when Hart was for a while considered the frontrunner for the nomination. It concludes with a recounting of the elder statesman’s foreign policy exploits after leaving the Senate, including a discussion of the alarm bells sounded by Hart and others on the eve of the 9/11 attacks.

“It’s an accounting, as much as anything else, to the people of Colorado, who twice gave me the opportunity to serve my country,” Hart said, explaining why he wrote the book.

The memoir’s sections are bracketed by Hart’s musings on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses — not, Hart says, because he identifies with the wandering hero of ancient myth, but because he identifies with the poem’s sentiments. The poem asks — and Hart joins in the conversation exploring the question — what happens after the return home, after the heroic voyage seems to be at an end.