University of Vermont

Center for Research on Vermont

New book on Patrick Leahy -- A Life in Scenes

Patrick Leahy -- defending civil liberties

Sen. Patrick Leahy's 1974 election changed modern campaigns in Vermont. Patrick Leahy’s stunning underdog election to the Senate in 1974 is a story that has not been told in any real detail, but it is in essence the story of Vermont’s entry into the postmodern campaign era. Leahy prevails – in spite of the damning facts of being very young, very Catholic, and worst of all, a committed Democrat – because he and his team adopt a ground-breaking approach to media: Leahy’s battered sedan becomes an ersatz production studio, capable of producing radio, print, and documentary film, whether stopped or in motion on Vermont’s solitary country roads. The campaign illustrates the deft approach to a postmodern media that has defined Leahy’s 40+ years in the U.S. Senate.

In his new book, Senator Leahy: A Life in Scenes, English professor Phil Baruth explores the myriad ways in which Sen. Leahy took Vermont’s values and burgeoning political identity to the national stage. In particular, a line can be drawn between Leahy’s votes against the wars in Vietnam and in Iraq – in those instances, as in his attempts to defend civil liberties as the Patriot Act swept through Congress, Leahy has demonstrated that Vermonter’s values can not only shape history, but very often wind up on the right side of it, Baruth says.

Published by UPNE Press the book is available at bookstores everywhere.


Baruth is the author of four novels and more than a dozen published short stories, as well as screenplays, radio commentaries, and works of scholarship. His most recent novel, The Brothers Boswell, was included on the Washington Post list of "Best Books of 2009." It was also an Indie Next List Notable Book. His novel The X President was a New York Times Notable Book of 2003. It is a time-travel narrative focused on the presidency of Bill Clinton (although the novel refers to the character always as BC). In 1994 Baruth won the Black Warrior Review Annual Fiction Prize for his short story "Peaheart." Other stories have appeared in New England ReviewDenver QuarterlyCarolina Quarterly, and TriQuarterly. "Peaheart" and other stories are now collected in American Zombie Beauty (Wolfson Press 2015).