What It Takes

For the past three weeks I’ve been reliving the 1988 Presidential campaign and working my way through the 1,000 pages of this book. Unbelievably good and highly recommended; learned about this one from Richard Norton Smith, on C-SPAN.
Random highlights:
* Junior (“W”) Bush was instrumental in turning the tide for his dad– insisting he take another look at those negative ads
* Dukakis was always “correct” – nothing morally astray about him. He’d never stoop to running a negative campaign, which in the end was what America wanted, the political bloodlust.
* Gary Hart was a front runner, and then, Monkey Business with Donna Rice. He drops out of the race. Months later, he gets back in. His second attempt vastly different– a team of 10 instead of hundreds, no money, just pushed onward by sheer will.
* Dick Gephardt seemed the blandest character given a lot of ink in the book. And in the Epilogue he rises to prominence as House Majority Leader. His Iowa team was in disarray, so he took the campaign on his back and won it.
* Jesse Jackson briefly makes an appearance in the book, most memorably after he wins Michigan and comes to console Gephardt, where Dick weeps in his arms for half a minute
* Al Gore’s appearance in the book was even briefer, one memorable scene where his hand is picked up and held aloft by the North Carolina Governor (Terry Sandford), and Gary Hart grabs Gore’s other hand to join in the spotlight but Gore drops Hart’s hand
* Joe Biden’s mess of trouble with plagarism, the Dukakis campaign handing over tapes of Biden played side by side with the British guy who originated the comments (“I come from a coal mining family” etc.). Dukakis throwing John Sasso off his campaign for the tape leakage. (“It’s not correct behavior.”)
* Gore was the one to bring up hints of Willy Horton, the parolee who raped on furlough, during a debate with Dukakis. Bush’s white men later took up the scent and hammered the point home during his 1:1 fight with Dukakis.
* Joe Biden leaves the campaign none too soon, and is sunken by an aneurysm in his brain, operated on in the nick of time to keep him alive.
* Bob Dole is one of the stars of this book– I have much respect for the old coot, pulling himself together after near paralysis, dozens of operations, learning to walk again, working so hard to get where he was.
* Kitty Dukakis’s tragedy of drug addiction and later alcoholism, from removal of the spotlight.
* Joe Biden, always addicted to the deal, showing up at midnight to tour some new house he wants by the light of his car headlights. The loss of his first wife, Neila, days after he wins the Delaware Senate seat for the first time.
* Dick Gephardt’s medical struggle with son Matt’s stomach tumor in the 1970s, his law firm puts Dick in charge of finding a new health insurance policy that covers catastrophic events, after the policy is signed other associates find that maternity coverage was axed from the plan to make room for Dick’s catastrophic insurance.

auth=Cramer, Richard Ben
sub=The Way to the White House