"The Irishman is great art . . . but it is not, as we know, great history . . . Frank Sheeran . . . surely didn’t kill Hoffa . . . But who pulled the trigger? . . . For some of the real story, and for a great American tale in itself, you want to go to Jack Goldsmith’s book, In Hoffa’s Shadow.” —Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal
"In Hoffa’s Shadow is compulsively readable, deeply affecting, and truly groundbreaking in its re-examination of the Hoffa case . . . a monumental achievement." —James Rosen, The Wall Street Journal
As a young man, Jack Goldsmith revered his stepfather, longtime Jimmy Hoffa associate Chuckie O’Brien. But as he grew older and pursued a career in law and government, he came to doubt and distance himself from the man long suspected by the FBI of perpetrating Hoffa’s disappearance on behalf of the mob. It was only years later, when Goldsmith was serving as assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and questioning its misuse of surveillance and other powers, that he began to reconsider his stepfather, and to understand Hoffa’s true legacy.
In Hoffa’s Shadow tells the moving story of how Goldsmith reunited with the stepfather he’d disowned and then set out to unravel one of the twentieth century’s most persistent mysteries and Chuckie’s role in it. Along the way, Goldsmith explores Hoffa’s rise and fall and why the golden age of blue-collar America came to an end, while also casting new light on the century-old surveillance state, the architects of Hoffa’s disappearance, and the heartrending complexities of love and loyalty.
In this intriguing account, Goldsmith (Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11) probes the circumstances surrounding the fate of powerful union leader Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and is presumed to have been killed by the Mafia. Goldsmith is best known for being an assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel during the second Bush administration, and for dissenting from some of the approaches of the war on terror, including warrantless surveillance. But most readers will be surprised to learn that Goldsmith's stepfather was Chuckie O'Brien, a Teamsters official who was Hoffa's "most intimate aide for more than two decades," and who was widely believed to have driven Hoffa from a Detroit parking lot to his fatal rendezvous and has been implicated in the plot against Hoffa. As a teenager, Goldsmith regarded O'Brien as "a great father, despite his lack of education," but a lengthy period of estrangement followed during which Goldsmith legally changed his last name from O'Brien. Ultimately, Goldsmith reconciled with O'Brien and worked with him, unsuccessfully, after Goldsmith left the government to teach at Harvard Law, to try to get him publicly exonerated of any role in Hoffa's disappearance. Goldsmith's linking of the investigative tactics used against Hoffa in the early 1960s and those deployed after 9/11 in the "war on terror" exposed him to the potential for abuses in government surveillance. It's that concern that gives this impassioned account resonance beyond exploring a notorious unsolved case.
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